Dr George Akuffo Dampare — Inspector General of Police, Dr George Akuffo Dampare — Inspector General of Police
Dr George Akuffo Dampare — Inspector General of Police, Dr George Akuffo Dampare — Inspector General of Police

Election 2024: Trust in the Police, EC and the Courts

The country is seven months away from a crucial presidential and parliamentary election. Three institutions (the Police, Electoral Commission (EC) and Courts), in my view, have a central role in ensuring that the election is free, fair and peaceful.


For the Police, their role is security and law enforcement. For the Courts, it is being a fair and impartial arbiter of any election related disputes, including punishment for any violations of the law, while the Electoral Commission ensures that all the rules, systems and processes implemented produce an election that is in every aspect deemed free and fair by all. 

The importance of this cannot be overstated. Ghanaians have come to embrace their democracy and the importance of regular competitive elections. As per results from the Afrobarometer survey, the most recent round (2022) showed that - a) eight out of ten Ghanaians (83%) support the use of elections as the preferred way for choosing leaders and b) eighty-six percent (86%) believe that they are “completely free to choose who to vote for without feeling pressured.”

This is why I express concern that as the country heads into this election with these three institutions, which are critical to achieving a free, fair, and peaceful election outcome, facing major trust deficits.

Trust in the three institutions

The table below captures the extent to which Ghanaians say they trust each of the three institutions (somewhat/a lot) as per the Afrobarometer survey. 

There was a time when these institutions had greater levels of trust reposed in them by Ghanaians. Over time, that trust has significantly declined – the EC (-30); the Police (-21); and the Courts (-22). In the most recent survey year (2022), these institutions cannot count on the trust of more than four out of ten Ghanaians (40%). 

In such an environment of low trust, how do voters trust that the EC will be a fair referee? How do voters trust that the Police will enforce the law fairly and impartially? How do voters trust that The Courts will adjudicate any election related dispute fairly and impartially? How do voters trust that The Courts will ensure any offenders of the law are punished accordingly? 

The answer to all these questions is simply this - voters will find it difficult to give these institutions the benefit of the doubt on all election related matters.

The partisan nature of trust

The trust deficit is further complicated by our partisan attachments. The Afrobarometer survey asks respondents who answer “yes” to the question “do you feel close to any particular political party?” to indicate which party it is. The political parties indicated are used to identify partisans. The table below shows the level of trust (somewhat/a lot) that partisans of our duopoly (NDC-NPP) have in the three institutions under discussion.

Three points are worth noting from the table above. First, partisan gaps regarding trust in institutions is not a new phenomenon. Second, partisans tend to trust institutions better when their preferred political party is in power. Third, Ghana is heading into a crucial election where ruling party (NPP) partisans have more trust in these institutions, especially the EC, than partisans of the main opposition party (NDC).

The implications

There are two implications. First, the actions or inactions of these three institutions will be viewed with greater suspicion, given the overall low levels of trust. Second, the actions and inactions of these three institutions will result in one group of partisans satisfied and another group dissatisfied.

What should these institutions do? First, they must recognise the current state of trust in their respective institutions. Secondly, through their actions and inactions, they must demonstrate impartiality and fairness in the treatment of all stakeholders in this upcoming election. 
Ghana will have a free, fair and peaceful election. It is, therefore, incumbent on these three institutions to make that happen. 

NB: The writer is the Executive Director of Democracy Project.

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