Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), a Northern-based non governmental organisation (NGO) has expressed worry about violation of electoral rules with impunity at the recent referendum held to create new regions.
“The atmosphere at the polling stations and the composure of the public officials, the Electoral Commission (EC), security and traditional authorities made it too scary for citizens to attempt opposing the process hence democracy was under attack”, it said.
It stated that if what was observed was replicated in the general election in 2020, Ghana’s credibility in the international world would be greatly affected.
The Executive Director of NORSAAC , Alhaji Alhassan Mohammed Awal, said that at a press conference held in Tamale to brief the media on the preliminary findings made by NORSAAC on the observation of the 2018 referendum on the creation of new regions in the north.
The observer team
A 15-member observer team was constituted by NORSAAC to undertake an observation exercise with accreditation from the EC.
The team visited 34 polling stations in seven districts across the two proposed regions being Savanna and North East regions.
The observer team expressed worry that electoral materials were handed to individuals without security escort while some electoral officials with electoral materials were also spotted by observers asking for direction to their assigned communities 15 minutes to official start of polls.
According to the team, there was deliberate setting up of the voting screens for bystanders to tell how citizens voted in almost all observed stations.
The team observed that polling stations sited in school premises posed a challenge to the disabled, including the aged while stations under trees were, however, friendly.
The observer team said from late afternoon towards the end of polls, there was widespread observation of voters’ name not being on the voters list yet were allowed to vote.
It was also observed that the electoral officers started manual verification for electorates without attempting electronic biometric verification, thus raising eligibility issues of the voter.
Voting procedures and neutrality of electoral officials
The team further observed that in about 90 per cent of the polling stations, the electoral officers were not only spotted campaigning for the “Yes” but were openly commanding people to go and vote for the yellow which represented ‘yes’.
The observer team cited an instance where a presiding officer in the Central Gonja district voted six times while giving out multiple ballot papers to voters in both the North East and the Savanna areas.
Campaigning in or around the polling stations
“It is shameful to report that Municipal and District Chief Executives (MDCEs) were spotted in ‘yes’ campaign attires and these officials were spotted actively campaigning at the polling stations urging the electoral officers to properly ensure that the people vote yes,” the observer team stated.
NORSAAC has, therefore, called for an investigation into the concerns raised in the report by the observer team.
It also called on the EC to address the abnormality to avoid the jeopardy of future elections in the country.