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Ghana hosts first international electoral awards

BY: Edward Acquah
Mrs Jean Mensa, (2nd right) Chairperson, Electoral Commission Ghana, with the award winners in Electoral Conflict Management. Mr Wanyonyi Chebukati, (extreme left) Chairperson, Electoral Commission Kenya, Mr Noor Ali Jabarkhail (2nd left), Political Affairs Officer, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and Mr Hisham Kuhail (right), CEO, Central Elections Commission, Palestine. Picture: BENEDICT OBUOBI
Mrs Jean Mensa, (2nd right) Chairperson, Electoral Commission Ghana, with the award winners in Electoral Conflict Management. Mr Wanyonyi Chebukati, (extreme left) Chairperson, Electoral Commission Kenya, Mr Noor Ali Jabarkhail (2nd left), Political Affairs Officer, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, and Mr Hisham Kuhail (right), CEO, Central Elections Commission, Palestine. Picture: BENEDICT OBUOBI

History was made at the 17th edition of the International Electoral Awards 2019 which was held in Accra as Ghana became the first country to host the auspicious event in the sub-region.

Dubbed “Building innovative strategies for better Electoral Systems Globally”, the annual event is aimed at recognising and celebrating electoral stakeholders, including electoral commissioners and civil society actors, for their immense contribution towards building robust electoral systems and the consolidation of democracy across the globe.

This year’s event was organised by the International Centre for Parliamentary Studies (ICPS), in collaboration with the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), and sponsored by Smartmatic, a multinational technology firm.

It was a night of glitz and glamour as over 15 elections stakeholders from around the world, who had exhibited excellence in the delivery of their mandate within and outside their jurisdictions, mounted the stage to be honoured.

The awardees

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In all, 15 categories were rewarded. The Chief Executive Officer of the Elections Ontario in Canada, Mr Greg Essensa, was crowned the Electoral Commissioner of the Year after winning the Election Management Award.

The Elections Ontario emerged the Electoral Commission of the Year. It also won the Minority Participation, First Time Voter, and the Electoral Ergonomy Awards.

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The International Institutional Engagement Award was won by the Permanent Electoral Authority of Romania while the Electoral Conflict Management Award was jointly won by the Central Elections Commission in Palestine and the Wanyonyi Wafula Chebukati (IEBC) of Kenya.

The National Electoral Institute of Mexico won the Accessibility Award while the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan won the Gender Equality Award.

The Election Management and the Citizens Engagement Awards were won by the BiH Central Election Commission in Bosnia and the Central Electoral Commission of the Republic of Moldova respectively.

The ICPS presented a life-time achievement award to a former Chief Electoral Officer of Ontario, Mr John Hollins, for “exhibiting outstanding leadership throughout his tenure which transformed the electoral system of the country.”

The ceremony, which had been filled with ecstasy from the onset, was suddenly plunged into sorrow when the name Mr Christopher Msando, a Kenyan election official (in charge of Kenya’s computerised voting system), who was murdered in 2017, was mentioned as winner of the ICPS Extraordinary Research Led Electoral Management Award.

Receiving the award on behalf of her husband, Mrs Eva Buyu Msando, who was full of tears, expressed profound appreciation to the ICPS for “ensuring that the legacies of my husband lived on.”

Choosing Ghana

In an interview after the event, the Chairman of the ICPS, Mr Matt Gokhool, stated that the ICPS was “comfortable” in choosing Ghana for the event because it “has an incredible reputation not only in electoral affairs but also has a vast intellectual base that we can tap into.”

He described Ghana’s electoral system as credible and transparent and urged the Electoral Commission to continue to work hard to “maintain the mark of integrity” it has achieved over the years.

“As an international community, we are ready to support Ghana to further her democracy as far as elections are concerned,” he stated.

For her part, the Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa, expressed appreciation to the ICPS for choosing Ghana as its destination.

She said the move had provided opportunity for the Commission to network and brainstorm ways it would consolidate Ghana’s electoral process.