YoFAG has become aware of the seeming frosty relationship between the Electoral Commission of Ghana and the opposition National Democratic Congress over plans by the latter to replace the existing voters’ register with a new one. From an objective point of view, it is apparent that the posturing of the EC Commissioners and the inconsistencies in their policy proposals have, unfortunately, eroded confidence in the Election Management body and has thus, created irreparable credibility crisis for the EC that will impact the outcome of the election.
Whereas the independence of the EC is poignantly stated in the Constitution, 1992, the conduct of the EC Commissioner, Mrs Jean Mensah and her colleague Commissioners does not suggest that the EC is living up to its billing as an independent electoral constitutional body. For ease of emphasis, the EC under the aegis of Mrs Mensah appears to exist as an independent body in the constitution but in reality, has become a nonchalant election winning wing of the governing New Patriotic Party. In a country, and by extension, a continent, that election results are mostly disputed and the outcomes questioned on the basis of credibility and integrity of the electoral process, it is expected that EC Commissioners act in a manner that does not in anyway cast doubts on their integrity to be fair to all stakeholders. It is however worrying that this ingredient has fizzled into thin air so far the current EC Commissioner and her team are concerned.
It cannot be argued that in all democracies, the right to register and vote in all public elections and referenda is cardinal. The former Chief Justice of the Republic of Ghana, Mrs Georgina Theodora Wood, emphasized this point when she delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court in Abu Ramadan v Electoral Commission and Attorney General, as follows “if the right to vote is important in participatory democracy, the right to register is even more fundamental and critical. It is the golden key that opens the door to exercising the right to vote.” This dictum serves as a warning to the EC not to employ deliberate means to unjustifiably disenfranchise eligible voters as the right to be registered and vote is a preserve of citizens. Thus, to be denied the right to register and vote is to be denied one’s citizenship, a determination that does not rest with the EC.
It is the suspected attempts by the EC to suppress votes in strongholds of the biggest opposition that has landed the EC in its present credibility quagmire. The NDC may be justified in the concerns raised over the new voters register and it appears the EC’s own acts, particularly Mrs Mensah and Dr Asare, have given Ghanaians reasons to believe that it had plans to skew elections in favour of the governing Party. Since Jean Mensah and Dr Bossman Asare were appointed under questionable circumstances, they have vouched for the credibility of the current voters’ register until recent times when they both took miraculously and self destructive position on the register.
Indeed, the deputy EC Commissioner, Dr Bossman Asare, stated in an interview on Accra based Starr FM on December 16, 2019 that “the current register is credible,” but was quick to add that there was the need to improve it. Again on December 30, 2019, Dr Bossman Asare signed a press statement on behalf of the EC and said in parts that “we wish to assure the public that the Ayawaso West Wuogon register is clean. It reflects the total number of votes in the constituency. It is not bloated as claimed by the NDC”. This was in response to the NDC’s claim that the EC had bloated the register for the byelection. Take note that Dr Asare had once said the NDC was a danger to the country’s democracy. A supposed arbiter in an election cannot demonize one party and expect to be fair to it in any contest. This same Dr Asare openly supported the NPP’s call for a YES votes in a botched referendum on the election of MMDCEs at a time the NDC and other political Parties were against it. Clearly, his independence has been thrown to the dogs and cannot be trusted as a fair and independent minded person to deliver a free, fair, credible and roundly accepted electoral results.
It would be recalled that as a result of the EC’s own firm admission that the current register was fit for purpose and need not be discarded, it proceeded to use it to conduct the Ayawaso West Wuogon byelection that elected Madam Lydia Alhassan, the referendum that led to the creation of six additional regions and the District Assembly Elections that the EC itself gave it a clean bill of health. It must be noted that at a point when the EC used the current register for these elections, it never spoke about the need to compile a new register. All that the EC advocated for was the need to improve its systems ahead of the December 7 elections.
Even when the EC eventually announced its intention to compile a new register, it was categorical that it only intends to improve the current register by adding facial recognition features to reduce the rate of manual verification at the polling stations. At a news briefing on February 3, 2020, Dr Yaw Ofori Adjei, IT consultant to the EC, explained that the EC will use the existing data on voters during registration of voters onto the new voters’ register. “To be registered into the new register, existing voters need to only present their existing ID card to the registration officer. Existing voters would not be required to go through the same process as new voters. Their details will be retrieved from the existing database and their biometrics of new facial image and 10 fingerprints captured,” he stated.
Few months after the EC’s IT consultant made this statement, Mrs Jean Mensah, without recourse to the political Parties, triggered amendment of the existing law on the conduct of elections, CI 91, to make Ghana Card and passports the only primary identification documents to register for the new voters’ ID card. This suggest that the EC had moved away from its earlier position that “existing voters would not be required to go through the same process as new voters.” Prior to this, the EC had vehemently denied claims that it would use cards issued by the National Identification Authority as primary Identification document for the new register.
It is shocking that Mrs Mensah who submitted a proposal to the EC when she was Director of the Institute for Economic Affairs, to warn against the compilation of new register in election year, is today seeking to do the same thing she spoke against. In the said ‘warning note, Mrs Mensah said “Biometric Voter Registration, Exhibition of Voters’ Register, Review and Creation of additional forty-five constituencies and seats in Parliament, etc etc. Needless to say, these activities undoubtedly overstretched the capacity of the Electoral Commission to successfully undertake and accomplish all its pre-election programmes and still organize the 2012 General Elections successfully. But why should all these activities be undertaken at the time when key actors in our electoral process, particularly the Political Parties were very busy touring all parts of the country campaigning? Why should we sit down and wait till the eleventh hour? Things done in a rush are susceptible to costly mistakes. Indeed such crash activities are a recipe for distrust, tension and the raising of unnecessary alarms over issues that could ideally pass without many qualms from the key stakeholders”.
It must be noted that in the past, anytime the EC intended to amend its laws or undertake any major electoral reform, same was discussed extensively at Inter Party Advisory Committee level. It was the need to build consensus on issues of amendment that IPAC constituted a Legal Committee to assist the EC. Surprisingly, the current amendment the EC is seeking was never discussed at IPAC and IPAC’s Legal Committee was also not involved in the process of drafting the amendment. For the first time in the history of the Fourth Republic, Jean Mensah and her team took such a major decision without prior notice to the Political Parties. This explains why the constitutional instrument was laden with mistakes and had to suffer setbacks before it was finally laid.
It is however instructive to note that while Jean Mensah on February 3, 2020 made it known that the EC projects to register between 16 to 17 million voters, the NIA has managed to register only a little over 9 million people. Out of the 9 million people, about 2 million of them are persons below 18 years who are not eligible to register and vote. Again, out of this number, about 1 million of them have registered but have not been issued with cards. In other words, these 1 million people do not have the Ghana card and may have to rely on passports or guarantors in order to be registered as a voter. It is on record that only about 2 million Ghanaians have passports. And again, out of this number, about 70,000 are persons below 18 years. From all indications, it is absurd for the EC to limit proof of Identification to vote to only Ghana cards, passports and guarantors. What purpose will it serve Jean Mensah and her team if they disenfranchise people? Perhaps, the only rational for such an exercise in sophistry will be to keep those who appointed them in office beyond December 7.
The NIA and EC, unknown to them, vindicated the NDC’s position that it was scheming with the governing NPP to rig the December 7, 2020 election by stating that the operations of the NIA is supervised by the Minister of Monitoring and Evaluation, Dr Anthony Akoto Osei, who doubles as the NPP MP for Tafo. Why would Dr Akoto Osei, whose position is tied to the NPP’s stay in office even after December 7 election not micromanage the NIA in a way that will enhance the political fortunes of the NPP? That explanation, though factual, gave the EC and NIA away as a triangular election rigging machine as alleged by the NDC.
YoFAG is of the considered opinion that, giving the fact that Jean Mensah and her team have reduced public confidence in the EC and have caused the EC to lose credibility and objectivity, the surest way for any of the Political Parties to accept the outcome of the December 7 election will be for them to step aside for impartial, neutral and unbias People with unblemished integrity and credibility to be appointed to conduct the election. Anything short of this will lead to rejection of the outcome of the election and possible bloodbath on December 7.
YoFAG Communications Directorate
Efo Worlanyo Tsekpo
Amorse Blessing Amos