The National Democratic Congress (NDC) does not seek to change the functions of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) into a statutory body, the General Secretary of the party, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, has said.
Rather, he said, the party’s position was that the rules of engagement between the IPAC and the Electoral Commission (EC) should be more structured.
He explained that the NDC’s proposed legislation sought to guide the formulation of the IPAC and determine who attended its meetings and how inputs made at such meetings would be adopted as the final consensus of the committee to make it more effective.
Mr Nketiah was speaking with the Daily Graphic last Friday on some aspects of a statement issued by a former Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, which disagreed with a proposal by the NDC to make the IPAC a statutory body with its functions backed by law.
“Dr Afari-Gyan’s concern is the intrusion of the work of the EC, but the legislation we are looking at will not take away the independence of the EC. So he may be wrong in his fears if he thinks that the proposed legislation seeks to make IPAC’s decisions binding on the EC,” Mr Nketiah said.
Dr Afari-Gyan, in a statement to the Daily Graphic last week, said changing IPAC from a mechanism through which political parties offered suggestions to the EC to a body whose functions were backed by law would interfere with the independence of the EC, as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
“The Constitution clearly says that in doing its work, the EC should not take instructions from any person or body external to the commission. The IPAC is such a body. Accordingly, IPAC decisions cannot be binding on the EC. If they were, it would, in effect, amount to nothing less than meddling with the independence of the commission,” he had noted.
However, Mr Nketiah downplayed fears that the proposed legislation would intrude on the independence of the EC or make the decisions of the committee binding on the EC.
He said when the EC established the IPAC, it did so to tap into the input of external stakeholders to make its work more effective and acceptable in the eyes of the public.
‘’The EC itself established the IPAC and nobody imposed the IPAC on the EC. The Constitution recommends the input of external stakeholders to make the work of the EC successful because, at the end of the day, the larger population will be the judge of the EC’s work or determine if an election has been free and fair or not. The EC cannot assess itself; it is the people who will judge its work,” he said.
Mr Nketiah explained that the NDC was proposing the new legislation because it believed the composition and operations of the IPAC needed to be guided by a framework in which all stakeholders would operate.
He said the NDC’s disagreement with the current constitution of the IPAC was hinged on how stakeholder inputs were gathered and how the committee’s meetings were conducted before the last general election.
‘’When Dr Afari-Gyan was the Chairman of the EC, no issues or disagreement arose from the decisions taken by the IPAC because he gave every stakeholder the room to express their views and concerns, and even when some stakeholders did not agree with a decision, he explained till there was understanding.
“But now we have a new constituted commission that gathers its own inputs and decide who attends IPAC meetings. In some cases, stakeholders are divided into two groups and meetings are hosted separately by the EC, which puts its own report together and presents it as if it is the final input of all stakeholders,” he said.
Regarding what became of IPAC suggestions when the proposed legislation was in place, Mr Nketiah said they would remain suggestions and the EC would not be compelled to accept them should it decide to reject such suggestions.
“The EC can decide to accept IPAC suggestions or not, and in either case, it must provide reasons for its action, so it will not affect its independence. It can say IPAC has said this but we have decided to rather do this, and this is the reason,” he said.
Mr Nketiah recalled that although in 2012 all the stakeholders of the IPAC agreed on “no verification, no vote”, the EC was not compelled to accept it.
“Dr Afari-Gyan said it would infringe on international best practice of election conduct and the independence of the EC to ensure that all persons 18 years and above get to vote, and so the EC did not accept it,” he said.
He said the legislation would only tackle the NDC’s concern of how the final input of IPAC was gathered and presented as the consensus of the committee and how the committee was constituted.