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High cost of elections worrying — EC Chair

BY: News Desk Report
Mrs Jean Mensa — Chairperson of the Electoral Commission
Mrs Jean Mensa — Chairperson of the Electoral Commission

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Mensa, has deplored the high cost of organising elections in the country.

She said the phenomenon, which had led to Ghana relying on its development partners to partly fund national elections, was counter-productive.

Speaking at the opening of the 17th International Electoral Affairs Symposium and International Electoral Awards  in Accra yesterday, Mrs Mensa called for measures to reduce the cost of conducting elections.

The two-day event, the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa, is being attended by over 100 election stakeholders from around the world.

It is being organised by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICTUS) based in London, in collaboration with the EC and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana).

Organised on the theme: “Building innovative strategies for better electoral systems globally”, the event is aimed at bringing together election practitioners, political parties, civil society actors, academics and other key actors within the electoral space to deliberate on pertinent election-related issues.

Figures

Providing figures to back her assertion at the international symposium, the EC Chairperson made a comparison among the recent elections in Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania.

In the 2016 general election in Ghana, she said, the cost was more than $12 per voter, compared to $9 in Nigeria in 2015 and $5 in Tanzania in 2015.

 “How can election monitoring bodies streamline their processes to reduce cost?” she asked.

Similar concerns

In August last year, a co-Founder of the Afrobarometer Network, Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, threw a challenge to the Jean Mensa-led EC to work at reducing the cost per voter in the 2020 elections by at least 50 per cent.

Speaking at the 14th "Kronti ne Akwamu" lecture series in Accra, the renowned political scientist and former Executive Director of the CDD raised concern about the high cost of elections in the country and expressed the hope that the cost could be drastically reduced if the EC implemented the right measures.

 “I daresay that one day it may literally be impossible for Ghana to hold elections and so I throw a challenge to the new leadership of the EC to reduce the cost of Ghana’s elections by about half in 2020. Uganda has it, Tanzania has done it and Ghana should be able to do it,” he stated.

Dependence

The EC boss was also not enthused about the fact that it had become a practice for the country to depend on developing partners to partly fund elections in Ghana.

She argued that that development threw the independence of elections into question.

“Our elections are fast becoming very expensive ventures and we constantly rely on our development partners to partly fund our elections, thereby compromising our independence,” she stated.

 To address the issue, she suggested workable measures that would minimise the dependency syndrome.

Importance of elections

While establishing the fact that the electoral system was the pillar on which democracy stood, Mrs Mensa emphasised the need for the electoral process to be jealously protected.

“It provides legitimacy for our leaders and democratic institutions and, therefore, needs not only to be maintained but, more importantly, fortified,” she said of the electoral system.

Mrs Mensa also touched on the need to strengthen electoral management bodies.

 That, she explained, would ensure that citizens gave maximum respect to the processes that elected their leaders as being free, credible and transparent.

While urging Ghanaians to have trust in the EC  to deliver free and fair elections in 2020, she also admonished political parties to actively get involved in the processes leading to elections.

 “It’s essential that political parties freely participate in the electoral process and it is crucial that the right of citizens to express their preference is protected and guaranteed,” she said.

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