CHAIRMAN OF the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, has announced that he would not be the one to supervise the 2016 general elections because he would be due for retirement next year.
According to Dr Afari-Gyan, people who want him to bow out from the Commission should exercise patience as he would be 70 years old then.
“I’m retiring next year way before the next general elections will be organised,” he told participants at a consultative forum on Public Elections Regulations (C.I.75) in Kumasi, Ashanti Region, yesterday.
The EC boss was responding to a suggestion by a participant that he (Dr. Afari-Gyan) should seek early retirement before the 2016 general elections.
Rev. Fr. Patrick Osei-Poku, from the Catholic Secretariat of the Kumasi Archdiocese, had said that “for the admission of errors during the election petition and the mistrust” for the EC Chairman it was judicious for Dr. Afari-Gyan to seek early retirement.
Dr. Afari-Gyan, born June 18, 1945 at Anyimon in the Brong-Ahafo Region, was appointed Deputy Chairman of the Interim National Electoral Commission by the then PNDC government – which was ruling the country as a military junta – in 1992, with the hope of returning the country to civilian rule.
With the coming into force of the Fourth Republican Constitution, a new Electoral Commission was set up and Dr. Afari-Gyan became its first substantive Chairman and has remained in that position to date.
He stated that if he were to be there for the next general elections, he would effect changes to suggestions made by the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) that appeared impracticable and take responsibilities for them.
According to him, the EC, and he in particular, were blamed for various decisions and agreements reached by IPAC.
IPAC was set up in 1994 to improve the trust, confidence and working of the EC.
Dr. Afari-Gyan, however, announced that the Commission had plans to carry out a limited voter registration in June this year.
“We call it limited because it is not for everybody. Instead, it is aimed at bringing onto the voter register two categories of Ghanaians (persons who had turned 18 years since the last registration in 2012 and others who are older but for one reason or another could not register), so that they can vote in this year’s District Assembly Elections and subsequent elections,” he explained.
“The qualifications and registration procedures will be the same as during the registration in 2012,” Dr. Afari-Gyan disclosed, and added that one major challenge that the EC anticipated would be how to prevent people already on the register from registering again.
He said under the laws of the country, if a person’s name is on the biometric voters’ register used for the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections, it would be an offence to register again this year, pointing out that a culprit could go to prison for two years.
Low Voter Turnout
The EC chairman was worried about the low voter turnout during District Assembly Elections, describing it as regrettable since local government is self-government.
According to him, as compared with presidential and parliamentary elections, voter turnout in local government elections had been very low, and asserted that turnout had been below 40 percent most of the time.
While Dr. Afari-Gyan thinks the nation should take time to graduate the electoral system to an electronic voting because of inherent difficulties, Dr. Amoako Baah, Head of Political Science Department of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) believes otherwise.
In his view, the current electoral system, which has biometric registration with paper ballots, defeated the purpose of sanitizing the electoral process.
Dr. Afari-Gyan again said it was more difficult for the Commission to organise the District Assembly and Unit Committee elections than the presidential and parliamentary elections because of the numbers of candidates and sets of ballot papers to be printed.