Election violence: To vote or not?

BY: Doreen Hammond

Growing up in the 80s, I was denied the opportunity to vote even when I turned 18.

This was because Ghana was then under a military regime and elections were not on the political itinerary. Then came the 1992 Constitution which brought in its wake the holding of parliamentary, presidential and other elections every four years.

Since casting my first vote in 2000, I have grown to attach a certain religious importance to the voting process. I have deemed it as the oxygen that sustains our democracy.

At the least opportunity, I impress on others who may not be that much enthused to do same in order to nurture our democracy.

A typical example is my husband whom I virtually had to drag to the polling station during the last election.

He had lost hope in all politicians and would jokingly refer to Ama Ata Aidoo’s book, The Dilemma of a Ghost and ask: “shall I go to Cape Coast or to Elmina”? To wit, there was no better choice and that all politicians were the same. “They promise you heaven and give you hell,” he would add.

But let us face it, apart from being the most civilised way of doing away with a non-performing administration, elections also drum home to politicians, who may be thinking that they are next to God, that they owe their positions to the ordinary voter after all and must be accountable to him.

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Being aware of this, politicians are seen pounding fufu, preparing banku, braiding hair, attending every funeral and ‘outdooring’ and greeting everyone they meet with a smile. This they do only during campaigns all in their bid to entice or win the hearts of potential voters.

All these motivate the voter to deny himself of valuable sleep, travel to the polling station to queue in the scorching sun to cast his/her vote.

This, I have been doing over the years but I am afraid things are changing and I may also have to change.

A simple exercise of casting our votes is gradually becoming a duel. We see the increasing use of weapons, with people sustaining all manner of injuries as if the polling station is a battleground.

I remember during one election, Dr Sammy Ohene was assaulted and I have neither heard nor read any redress. The violence that characterised the by-election in 2009 at Chereponi in the Northern Region and in Talensi in 2015 in the Upper East Region is an example.

The latest is what happened during the by-election in the Ayawaso-West Wuogon Constituency on Thursday, January 31, 2019.

Security personnel dressed like American troops in desert storm inundated the polling stations firing shots and sending voters running helter-skelter in a mere by-election.

From the pictures I saw, some were injured while others received slaps.

After all, at the end of the day it is an individual whose circumstances would change.

A civil servant who used to walk with me would become an honourable and drive in a V8 but my circumstances would remain unchanged or become worse off.

I would still have to struggle to get potable water and the roads to my home would remain deplorable.

Apart from the safety of the voter, such violence does not do our image any good as a beacon of democracy.

If we are really voting for people to represent and serve us, what is such violence for? What is so much at stake as to cause such chaos?

We have come a long way in our democratic dispensation to be saddled with such occurrences.

Elections must be conducted in a free, fair and peaceful environment so that voters would not be intimidated and the people’s will will prevail.

I believe that there are many people who will not turn up at any polling station if they are not sure of their safety and for fear of intimidation.

Going forward, there is the need for the relevant authorities to take measures to stem such embarrassing situations at the polls or else some of us will advise ourselves.

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