Electoral Commission needs cooperation to prove neutrality

BY: Kobby Asmah

Election management processes have never been easy in our part of the world where mistrust and suspicion are the order of the day in the body politics.

Since 1992, when the country decided to practice multi-party democracy, elections have not been won or lost without complaints and acrimony, especially from the losing political parties.

For losing the 1992 and 1996 elections, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) complained bitterly. It led to the writing of the “Stolen Verdict”, a book that catalogued all the alleged wrongs that were associated with the 1992 polls. Equally, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) also cried foul particularly in the 2004 election when it lost.

Similarly, the 2008, 2012 elections won by the NDC and the 2016 election won by the NPP were also not without complaints and acrimony. The NPP had to go to the Supreme Court in 2012 to seek a favourable verdict but it was turned down by the eminent Supreme Court justices.

For over 25 years under the Fourth Republican dispensation, Electoral Commissioners, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan who was appointed by the NDC, declared three electoral wins for the NDC and two for the NPP, while Mrs Charlotte Osei also appointed by the NDC declared a win for NPP.

The EC, over the period has, therefore, worked on elections in the country and is very much aware of its inherent challenges.

Nonetheless through out the period, the EC has kept its integrity quite intact and keeps proving to be a credible institution ready to discharge its duty of providing for a free and fair elections in the country.

2020 Election/Job to be done

But with the 2020 Election fast approaching, there is job to be done and the Electoral Commission (EC) which is mandated to ensure a free, fair and credible election management process to satisfy the broad section of the society, must create the conducive atmosphere for the process to roll out smoothly.

It is reassuring that the EC remains committed to delivering a transparent, credible and fair elections. At least so says Dr Eric Bossman Asare, the Deputy EC Commissioner, who has also indicated that the commission remains open to constructive criticisms and feedback that will advance the course of democracy in the country.

EC’s move under scrutiny

That notwithstanding, with less than 19 months to the 2020 presidential and parliamentary polls, the EC is under the microscope once again. Every step and move of the election management body is being keenly watched and scrutinised.

One political party that is not giving the EC a breather is the opposition NDC.

The recent back and forth between the commission and the NDC over the upcoming Limited Voter Registration exercise seems to have no end.

While the EC plans to undertake its Limited Voter Registration exercise only at their 260 district offices across the country, the NDC fears narrowing the exercise to just district offices will disenfranchise millions of Ghanaian voters because most of them may not be able to travel from their villages to the urban centres to register as first-time voters. A claim the EC rejects.

The two sides recently described each other as threats to Ghana’s democracy. Since then, the NDC and the EC are engaged in a war of words blaming each other for wrong posture.

Posture of EC/NDC

If there is anyone who is becoming a threat or a potential threat to the democracy in the country, then it should not come from the posturing of either the EC, the NDC or any of the stakeholders.

As the nation heads towards the 2020 polls, any rift or mistrust between the EC and any of its stakeholders, including the political parties, will be worrying and not bode well for the smooth management of the electoral process.

The accusations and counter accusations in the media space will not solve any concern or clear any ongoing misunderstanding.

At this stage, the EC must not entangle itself with distractions from the job of ensuring a credible and peaceful electoral process.

The EC must be mindful of how it manages its disagreements with the political parties as it could undermine the institution’s reputation.

It must try to listen or be seen to listen to the concerns of all stakeholders and act appropriately.

IPAC must work

A better way forward is for all stakeholders to use the platform of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meetings to discuss critical issues and try to manage concerns and misunderstandings.

If some political parties have a problem with the upcoming Limited Voters Registration Exercise, they should make their concerns known and addressed at IPAC meetings.

The contentions between the EC and the NDC over the handling of the Limited Voters Registration exercise can be managed better