Chief Justice should be fair; Political parties demand over EC investigations

BY: Kobby Asmah & Timothy Ngnenbe

Political parties in the country have observed that the current disagreement and seeming inactivity at the Electoral Commission (EC) could have dire consequences on the country’s electoral calendar and undermine its globally acclaimed  democratic credentials.

Adding their voices to the need for action to be expedited to resolve the current crisis facing the commission, the parties unanimously called on the Chief Justice to be diligent and fair in ongoing investigations of allegations made against the three top officials of the EC to ensure that any action that would be taken was in the national interest.

The parties are the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), as well as an independent presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, Mr Jacob Osei-Yeboah.

They spoke to the Daily Graphic in separate telephone interviews on Monday.

Efforts to reach some national executives of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) for their position on the issue were not successful, as their phones were off. It appears they were out campaigning towards the party’s national executive elections.

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Governance experts

The call by the political parties comes in the wake of a story carried by the Daily Graphic in the Monday, June 4, edition in which some governance experts questioned the readiness of the EC to successfully conduct the referendum on the creation of new regions, the district assembly elections and the 2020 general election.

According to the experts, the current impasse among the top three EC members was most unfortunate and a recipe for marred electoral processes.

Among other things, they advocated a review of the governing structure of the EC to ensure continuity in the implementation of policies and electoral processes in the future, should a similar situation occur.

Against that backdrop, representatives of the political parties asked for prompt action from the Judicial Committee investigating the three top officials of the commission to put the issues to rest.

They, however, expressed divergent views on the call for the restructuring of the EC to guard against the current situation of inactivity in the future.

Justice delayed

The National Chairman of the CPP, Prof. Edmund Delle, said immediate action should be taken to resolve the issue at the EC. saying: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“My hope is that justice and fairness should come to play in resolving the crisis at the EC and the government should not interfere in the work of the Judiciary Committee,” he stated.

He said as the Chairman and Leader of the CPP, he was so saddened by what was happening at the EC.

“If the EC, the very institution that is constitutionally mandated to help us organise free and fair elections is in disagreement, then it is a very serious and worrying trend,” he pointed out.

Prof. Delle said the EC should have been the last to find itself in such a mess, asking: “Once we lose confidence in our institutions of state, including the EC, the Judiciary, the EOCO, the BNI and the police, then where are we drifting or going as a nation?”

Ghana’s elections

The National Organiser of the NDC, Mr Kofi Adams, pointed out that the EC was very critical in the forward march of Ghana’s electoral process and so no effort should be spared to end the impasse.

He expressed regret that the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) had met only once since the 2016 elections but had not been able to meet again to address the inherent challenges of those elections.

According to him, there was the need for the EC to come clean if it could perform its normal activities while the Judiciary investigation was ongoing.

He said the political parties were looking forward to the smooth implementation of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAL), as well as the continuous registration of would-be voters, and that if all those processes were lagging behind, then there was cause for worry.

“As a political party, the NDC is very concerned about what is happening at the EC front,” Mr Adams stated.

Blame game

The National Chairman of the PNC, Mr Bernard Monah, blamed current happenings in the electoral body on political machinations by the ruling party.

“For me, current happenings at the EC ought to be put squarely at the doorstep of the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, because in opposition he demonstrated that he was not comfortable with Mrs Charlotte Osei being the Chairperson of the EC.

“That the President and his party are trying to remove the EC Chairperson through all means possible amounts to politicisation of the commission and this is a bad precedent set for other parties that win power in the future to also remove whoever may replace the current EC boss,” he said.

Political machinations

The Founder and Leader of the LPG, Mr Kofi Akpaloo, also observed that the crisis at the EC had political undertones targeted at getting Mrs Osei out of office.

He further attributed the impasse between Mrs Osei and her two deputies, Mr Amadu Sulley and Mrs Georgina Opoku-Amankwah, to a grand scheme to oust the EC Chairperson from office.

“Calls for the three of them to step down are out of place because Mrs Osei has demonstrated that she is a competent person who will work in the national interest. She showed that clearly in the 2016 elections, so those who are pushing for her removal should think about it again,” he said.

Heads must roll

The National Chairman of the PPP, Nii Allotey Brew Hammond, who also called for action to be expedited to resolve the crisis at the EC, had a contrary view regarding the fate of the three commission members, as he wanted all of them out of office.

“As a country, we need a cool EC to work with, but given the circumstances in which we find ourselves, the appropriate thing is for the three top commission members to be made to step aside, so that an interim team will take their place and kickstart key electoral processes, especially the implementation of the ROPAL for citizens in the Diaspora,” he stressed.

He also called for the chairmanship of the IPAC to be ceded to the political parties, saying that if that were the case, meetings could have been called to tackle certain issues in these trying times for the EC.

“As long as the central power of IPAC is still with the EC, we cannot take certain key decisions, so there ought to be a change in the structure of IPAC, such that the committee will be chaired by the biggest opposition party at any point in time,” he said.

The First National Vice-Chairperson of the GCPP, Mr John Ameka, said the inability to hold IPAC meetings because of the crisis at the EC was not good for electoral processes in the country.

He called on civil society organisations (CSOs), the National House of Chiefs and inter-faith organisations to take a keen interest in what was going on and play a part to resolve the issues at the EC.

“Asking the embattled officers of the EC to step down should not be the way to go because it will create more issues for us as a country,” he said.

Due diligence

Mr Osei-Yeboah, for his part, said current happenings at the EC were a ploy to frustrate the current chairperson, whom he described as the best bet for the country.

“We are not in a kangaroo country and so even if some people think the EC chairperson should be removed for whatever reason, there are processes and the law must apply,” he said.

He asked whoever was behind the current crisis at the EC to think about the country first, stressing that “investigations must be done diligently and action expedited, so that whatever the findings are, the law will apply”.