One million "unaccounted" voters may hold the key

Feature Article of Friday, 12 April 2013

Columnist: Ohemeng, Yaw

to unravelling Election 2012

With the latest attempt by the EC to stall the NPP petition dismissed, all is set for the hearing of the substantive case from the 16th of April. The case of the petitioners’, represented by Dr Bawumiah’s affidavit, is clearly set out with objective ‘evidence’. I must admit that I am impressed by the diligence and the details that have gone into building their case. Whilst we are yet to see what the Respondents will bring to counter, it is my view that unless the Respondents can make similar analysis, or can demonstrate that the Petitioners’ analysis is flawed, it would be difficult for the SC Justices to ignore such violations, malpractices and irregularities. The only remaining question then would be to determine whether the scale was such as to impact the results, as declared.

The NDC initially greeted the NPP’s intention to contest the election results with scepticism, at times even charging that there was no evidence whatsoever. Since the NPP gave ‘further and better particulars’ the commentary has changed to one of defending the constitutional right of every Ghanaian to vote. Some have even gone to the extent of declaring C.I. 75 that guided the last elections, as having been illegal. The question to ask though is whether an illegal contract is enforceable. If C.I. 75 were to be declared contrary to the Constitution, and hence illegal, then the entire 2012 election was illegal and the results should not be allowed to stand. That would rather call for fresh elections and not the retention of the declared ‘winner’ of an illegal process. The Petitioners have grouped the violations, malpractices and irregularities into six categories: three of them clearly statutory violations, and three representing various other forms of malpractices and irregularities. According to them, they required the SC to uphold just one of these categories for the election results, as declared by the EC, to be called into question. The petitioners have also illustrated their claims with tables and the one that is really revealing is the table in paragraph 25 of the affidavit. This table seeks to compare the number of ballot papers issued at some polling stations (in each region) to the number of registered voters (per the electoral register the EC issued to the Petitioners’ party). On the face of it, the table shows the regions where the potential for electoral malpractices was ‘enhanced’ through the EC issuing more ballot papers than had, hither to 2012, been its policy. The table shows that the EC, at some selected polling stations in the Greater Accra region, the Western region as well as the Upper East and West regions, inexplicably acted contrary to its own set down policy of providing between 5% – 10% more ballot papers. Leading the pack is the Upper East region where 4.2 ballot papers, on the average, were issued to every registered voter at the affected polling stations. This is followed by the Greater Accra region where 3 ballot papers were issued at the affected polling stations to every registered voter. The next on this list is the Western region where each registered voter was issued with 2.5 ballot papers, followed closely by the Upper West region where each registered voter was issued with 2 ballot papers at the affected polling stations. This malpractice does not of itself suggest that unlawful acts were actually carried out. It, however, raises the suspicion that ballot box stuffing might have taken place at these polling stations, especially when this is set alongside the evidence of apparent over voting.

In June 2012 the EC Chairman informed Parliament that the EC had registered 13,628,817 voters at the end of the biometric registration exercise. Whilst he expected this number to increase after registering voters in Akuse, he was also expecting to expunge about 1 million names because they did not have valid codes. In November 2012, the Ghana News Agency, quoting Mr Safo Kantanka of the EC, wrote that about 20,000 names had been expunged from the register due to multiple registrations. Yet when the EC finally gave copies of the official register to the political parties, with less than three weeks to go to the polls, the total number of registered voters had soared to 14,031,680. One would have expected that with one million deletions due to lack of valid codes; and a further 20,000 expunged due to multiple registration; and with a relatively small number of voters to be added from Akuse and the registration of qualified Ghanaians who were either on or returning from overseas assignments, the voter population would have been around 13 million. But the official voters register gave a total number of around 14 million – a difference of 1 million! In fact this figure of 1 million has greater significance in trying to unravel what transpired during the December 2012 elections. Again from the table in paragraph 25 of the Petitioners’ affidavit, the total number of registered voters in the affected polling stations in the Greater Accra region (based on the Voters Register) was 1.4 million. However, the total number of registered voters at those polling stations (as recorded on the pink sheets) was 2.4 million – same difference of 1 million! The questions to ask then are whether any deliberate unlawful acts went on at these polling stations to subvert the will of the people; and whether the apparent ‘bloating’ of the register for these polling stations was to facilitate the procurement of this unlawful project.

The famous Dome Kwabenya incident is known to all. However, there was also a story carried by the Daily Guide newspaper on or around 13th December 2012 regarding the detention of an American-based Ghanaian by the BNI over the election weekend. The man is reported to have alleged that he chanced upon some security agents (including policemen and soldiers), on the second day of the elections, thumb-printing ballot papers in favour of John Mahama at a location near to the Gulf House on the George Bush Motorway. This story surprisingly has received little or no attention since then. But with the Petitioners’ analysis pointing to possible inflation of the number of voters at some polling stations in the Greater Accra region, should it now assume greater significance? Ultimately the EC has to answer the following two questions:

1. What happened to the 1 million voters that were going to be expunged from the register in June 2012 due to lack of valid codes? and

2. Why did the total number of registered voters recorded on the pink sheets for some polling stations in the Greater Accra region differ by 1 million from the actual (as given in the official register)?

The answers to these questions may hold the key to understanding what actually took place on the 7th and 8th of December 2012. It appears from the Petitioners’ analysis, though, that the search for these answers ought to start from the Greater Accra region.

Dr Yaw Ohemeng Manchester, UK