Polling Station Agents Cannot Be Blamed For Irregularities

When I first came out to say that Tsatsu Tsikata has been demystified at the Supreme Court hearing, I came under serious attack from some persons whose opinions are dissimilar to mine.

In any case, I was not in the least perturbed by the kind of insults heaped on me for no clearly elucidated reasons because I knew the final outcome of Tsatsu’s cross examination was eventually going to exculpate me.

This statement is not to justify my earlier claim that the mystery surrounding the so called “legal luminary” Tsatsu Tsikata has shattered beyond recovery but to highlight some very important issue which is gradually taking a centre stage is this court proceeding.

The issue in controversy is the role of Polling Station Agents and how their presence, absence, omission or commission affects the credibility and integrity of election results. With my preconceived mindset, let me first say that the direction of argument the court proceeding is taking does not seek to address the common ills of the outcome of the 2012 elections as it is being challenged in the Supreme Court but rather, shift the goal post to divert attention from the EC’s distinct and solitary role as the conductor of public elections.

That sacred role is not shared with anybody, organization and individuals and this explains why the EC is made constitutionally independent in the performance of their functions.

I am not the right person to speak for NPP (Petitioners) or the NDC and the EC (Respondents) as the case is ongoing. I can only speak for myself and the party I belong to, which is the Progressive People’s Party. Our position has been to undertake electoral reforms to abolish the polling agents and implement biometric/electronic voting to enhance the integrity of election results.

We find it absurd that the respondents’ counsel especially the NDC’s Tsatsu Tsikata is relying on the commission and/or omissions of polling agents to give blessings to the alleged irregularities, malpractices, statutory and constitutional violations. This is the case of focusing on minor bacteria instead of the main causative organisms. When the EC Lawyers together with the NDC lawyers were given the opportunity to cross examine and punch holes in the case presented by the petitioners (NPP) as part of the process, all they could do was to bring in the POLLING AGENTS employed by political parties and the role they played in the general elections.

It is now becoming glaringly clear that some people want to put the blame on the POLLING AGENTS, just to soothe their grief and explain their negligence. We can’t accept that! Each one of the Lawyers of the Respondents keeps mentioning POLLING AGENTS -POLLING AGENTS, as if they were the organizers of Ghana’s Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

Now the questions I pose are these; what level of relevance is polling agents to our electoral structure? Do they have the powers to declare results? Do their signatures validate or invalidate electoral results? Can they act in the absence of a Presiding Officer? Does the EC include Polling Agents in its budget?

If the EC and the NDC cannot give us a YES or a better response to these questions, why do they in a serious-deliberate-sarcastic way place so much emphasis or premium on Polling Agents and their role in elections? In my own words, I will say they are nothing to the process. In fact the EC and the laws make it clear that the absence or presence of polling agents cannot invalidate the work done by the Electoral Commission.

Again, whose money is used to fund the elections? Is it the tax payers’ or the Polling Agents’? Who manages the funds for elections? Who has the mandate of the people to organize free and fair elections? Is it the EC or the Polling Agents? The EC has no mettle to shack its responsibilities to Polling Agents in their defense to justify the anomalies and irregularities as a result of somebody’s carelessness and/or abetment.

All political parties look up to the Electoral Commission in terms of arbitration and giving Ghanaians a fair deal. And so the electoral commission cannot give us raw deal with these kinds of reasons.

According to C.I 75, Regulation 19(2), a candidate for presidential election MAY appoint one polling agent in every polling station nationwide. The key word is “MAY” and not “SHALL”. It is not mandatory. The argument about the role of polling agents has been overly stretched and it clearly seems to me that there’s a grand ploy to dent the substance of the case brought before the courts.

Counsel for President, Tony Lithur and Tsatsu Tsikata have tried as much as they could to do this, Counsel for EC, Mr. Quashie Idun also threaded the same path. But the scientific basis of this case is well established; if 1+1=2, it does not matter if PPP’s polling agents were there or not, you cannot tell us because of the absence of our polling agents for instance 1+1=40. Every vote must count.

I appreciate how difficult it is to defend a defenseless case. From what we have all been following on TV, it is quite obvious that the Respondents are trying to harvest a seed which is dead at the point of planting. Alternatively, considering the tension which is brewing, I humbly-harmlessly suggest that if Counsel for the Respondents do not have any cogent or solid defense to mount, then they should inform the judges so that the matter can be determined quickly.

Divine Nkrumah

Progressive People’s Party

National Youth Coordinator