Parties trigger discussion on key electoral reforms
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), under the auspices of the Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP), has organised a two-day non-partisan post-election workshop towards electoral reforms in the country.
The workshop on the theme: ”Towards Transparent and Acceptable Elections in Ghana: A Review of Ghana’s Electoral System.,” has become nececessary following the outcome of the historic 2012 election petition trial.
The IEA-GPPP brings together the four main political parties with representation in Parliament – the National Democratic Congress, the New Patriotic Party, People’s National Convention and the Convention People’s Party – to brainstorm and to discuss national issues and challenges in an a-political manner and reach consensus on practical solutions on how to resolve them. The workshop was also attended by non-parliamentary parties including the Progressives People’s Party and the Great Consolidated Popular Party.
The workshop provided a platform for participants to constructively review the current electoral system and provide practical recommendations for reforms.
It is the objective of the workshop that outcomes and consensus reached would be adopted by the Electoral Commission as the contribution of the IEA-GPPP towards improving the integrity of Ghana’s electoral system. It is also expected that discussions will serve as a civil initiative that will trigger further discussions for electoral reforms.
In a welcome addresss, a Senior Fellow of IEA, Dr John Kwakye, commended the Electoral Commission for its role in election administration, since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1992.
He, notwithstanding, reiterated that the results of Ghana’s 2012 election were challenged on grounds of irregularities.
In the view of the IEA, he said, the election petition at Ghana’s Supreme Court exposed some monumental challenges of the nation’s electoral system that could not be glossed over, saying; ‘in their ruling, a number of the Justices of the Supreme Court recommended electoral reforms.’
This is not a time to apportion blame, he challenged the participants, and pointed out that ‘we are here to put aside our partisan colorations and to engage in constructive discussions.’
According to Dr Kwakye, the history of the Fourth Republic had showed that no political party could stay in power forever.
‘It is, therefore, imperative that we contribute our quota in dealing with the challenges of our electoral system, and to create the peaceful and enabling environment for all of us to thrive- whether in government or in opposition,’ he charged the particpants.
A retired deputy Commissioner of the Electoral Commissioner, Mr David Kanga, who chaired the proceedings on Saturday, said he was happy that the IEA and political parties were discussing needed electoral reforms early in the day and not to wait in an election year of 2016.
In the view of Mr Kanga, who has over 20 years of experience in election administration in Ghana, and is currently one of Ghana’s eminent statesmen serving as a member of the Council of State, comparative studies in Africa had showed that Ghana had a seasoned electoral process.
He, nevertheless, pointed out that what happened last year, as far as the election was concerned, was a ‘sad one’ and stressed that ‘this is the time to look at reforms more critically.’
He said reforms were not new to the country, since it had been going through electoral reforms since 1967.
Let us talk about the inherent challenges in our electoral process so that come 2016, we will have a much acceptable election, he told the particpants.
Mr Gabriel Pwamang, a private legal practitioner, presented a paper on ‘the Electoral Commission,’ ‘biometric voter registration,’ ‘voting and documents of the poll’ and ‘election security.’
He observed that in the lead up to the 2012 elections, the Electoral Commission engaged itself in so many activities of considerable constitutional and electoral significance that it overstretched its capacity to accomplish all and still organise the election successfully.
The Electoral Commission, in the view of Mr Pwamang, must avoid what he called ‘this crash time table in future.’
He argued that ‘to ensure that this does not happen in the future, timelines should be written into the regulations, indicating when there shall be the opening of voters’ register, period prior to elections when political parties would be given copies of the register etc.’
He suggested the need for a law to cap the number of constituencies, saying the 275 constituencies, in his personal view, was adequate to ensure the fair representation of all Ghanaians.
Mr Pwamang articulated that the EC should not appear so helpless and allow those responsible for breaches of electoral regulations, be they their permanent or temporary staff, to go scot-free.
‘Their negligence has cost the nation millions of cedis and they should be punished. In Liberia, Brazil and Nigeria, the authorities in charge of elections are given power to investigate instances of serious breaches of electoral laws and sanction perpetrators. I propose that the Electoral Commission Act be amended to give the EC enforcement powers to ensure that electoral laws are enforced and perpetrators punished,’ he suggested.
Registration of voters
On registration of voters, he described the biometric registration as a good system which should be continued and improved upon.
However, he said, though the system dealt with multiple registration and ghost names, it still had a challenge with registration of minors and strangers, disclosing that ‘it is reported that there were about 20,000 minors on the register for the 2012 elections.’
He called for the regulations to be amended to empower the EC to raise objections to the registration of obviously unqualified persons.
On biometric verification, he called for the amendment of CI.75 to provide for a window of opportunity for a qualified voter who cannot, due to no fault of his, be verified to enable him vote.
This may take the form of the presiding officer, as well as all candidates or their representatives signing a verification document to enable the voter to vote, he suggested to the particpants.
He also called for mandatory signatures of presiding officers and candidates or their representatives during elections.
Quoting Article 49(3) of the 1992 Constitution and Regulation 36 of CI.75 which provided that after the counting of the votes, the presiding officer and the candidates who are present or their representatives ‘Shall’ sign the declaration of poll to buttress his point.
Stringent electoral lawa
Mr Pwamang also called for stringent electoral laws and regulations to be made, arguing that ‘it is not angels who vote and also because angels do not contest elections.
‘While we cannot become angels all of a sudden, I am appealing to those of you gathered here to commit yourselves to personal reformation. If while we undertake the electoral reform, we also reform just a little bit, then the suggested reforms will guarantee credible and acceptable elections. You are the leaders of the society so the ball is in your court,” he told the particpants.
The Pink Sheet
He supported the suggestion by some of the Supreme Court judges in the election petition judgement that serial numbering of pink sheet should be a requirement of the regulations.
He said the sheet should also be made simpler by restricting it to the accounting of the number of ballots papers issued to a polling station, the number of valid votes, the number of spoilt ballots and the number of voters in the voters’ register of the polling station and proxy voters.
By Kobby Asmah/Daily Graphic/Ghana
Leave a comment. 0 comment so far.