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Govt won’t use COVID-19 as excuse to extend mandate

BY: Emmanuel Bonney
Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah
Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah

The government is not contemplating to extend its term in office using the COVID-19 as an excuse not to hold a free and fair election, the Minister of Information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has said.

He said the government was of the view that instead of contemplating measures that were not envisaged in the constitution, “our best energies, innovation and creativity should be invested in exploring how a country like ours can have safe, free and fair elections.”

“The government does not contemplate any justifiable reason to seek to extend its first term constitutional mandate with the virus as an excuse (without a free and fair election),” he said at the Tuesday (May 12) press briefing in Accra.

Suggestion

He said this against the background of commentary suggesting that some possible governance arrangement could be appropriate should it become impossible to hold elections in December this year.

He said if countries such as South Korea held their election around April 15; Mali, March 29 and April 19, while Cote d’ Ivoire, Burundi and Serbia were exploring how to hold their elections, Ghana should also invest its energy in exploring how to do so successfully.

According to the information minister, the government had taken note of commentary suggesting that some possible governance arraigner could be possible should it become impossible to hold elections in December.

The Electoral Commission (EC) on March 25, 2020, postponed a planned voter's registration until further notice due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, adding that it was going to review the decision at the end of April or early May this year.

The commission had originally fixed April 18, 2020, for the commencement of the compilation of a new voters register.


New register

The EC has indicated that it would compile a new Biometric Voters Registration System (BVRS) for the conduct of this year’s election scheduled for December 7.

However, the decision to compile a new biometric voters register has generated some brouhaha, with the political parties divided over the move.

The Inter-Party Resistance Against a New Voters Register (IPRAN), which includes the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has kicked against the move. The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and 12 other political parties are strongly backing the compilation of the new register.

With the country’s case count of over 5,000, it is not clear whether or not the voters registration or the election itself would go ahead.

COVID-19 restrictions

Mr Oppong Nkrumah said while restrictions on mass gatherings and entry and exit into and out of the country had been maintained until May 31, “the government is engaging with stakeholders on what safety measures may be effective in a post-restriction era. This is with the objective of ensuring that some sense of normalcy can be achieved while at the same time protecting the population”.

He said it was important to think ahead now as the country maintained the current restrictions.