The controversial Steering Committee set up by the Electoral Commission (EC) to assist it (Commission) to organise this year’s general election continues to receive public backlash.
The EC, without ‘proper consultation,’ set up the committee, which membership was later found to be mainly card-bearing members of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC); and that has once again raised questions about the EC’s neutrality ahead of the crucial elections in November.
Two prominent United States-based law professors – Stephen Kwaku Asare and Henry Kwasi Prempeh – have waded into the heated debate and questioned the legal basis for the setting up of the Steering Committee by the EC to manage the November general elections.
Prof. Asare said it would even be premature to discuss the membership of the committee if the EC was unable to explain the role it is supposed to play.
He posted on Facebook yesterday, “The problem with the EC’s Steering Committee is that nobody knows what it is supposed to do; nobody knows how its membership was chosen and how the members are paid, fired, replaced or even how long they are to serve; nobody knows how it is to operate and whether it can bind the EC.
“We are told and asked to accept that the 18-person committee is to help ensure the smooth running of the November 7 general election. The constitutional responsibility of the 7-person EC is to ensure the smooth running of elections. Is the committee supplanting the Commission? Can the EC even appoint such a Steering Committee, given that the EC is exercising delegated power?”
Prof Asare queried, “Assuming the committee is not supplanting the Commission, an obvious question is exactly how is the Committee going to do whatever it is supposed to do? Where is the regulation that describes the committee’s responsibility?”
He said for instance that “Depending on what the committee is tasked to do, it might be more helpful to allow the political parties and other groups, rather than the EC, to nominate its members. “Alternatively, a different mode of appointment may be better if the committee is to play a security, fundraising, legal, education, etc. function”
Prof Prempeh of Seton Hall University School of Law, Newark, New Jersey, said the problem created by the EC “goes beyond the individual membership or composition of this so-called election ‘Steering Committee.’
“There’s a more fundamental question of mandate: What is this 18-member body going to do exactly? Who created it? The EC chair, or by a resolution of the multi-member EC taken at a regular or special meeting of the Commission?”he also posted on Facebook yesterday.
He asked, “What is the relationship of this committee to the Commission as a collective body? Since we have never had or needed such a ‘steering committee’ in any of our past elections, why now? Who determined the composition and membership and by what criteria or process were the members selected?”
Prof Prempeh said multiple state actors “are inevitably involved in the smooth and peaceful conduct of an election,” adding, “so some inter-agency coordination is necessary.”
He added, “The question is what form such interagency coordination must take in order to ensure that the partisan detachment and independence of the EC as a constitutional body are not undermined or compromised or that the EC chair does not use some outside committee to sidestep the constitutionally-empowered Commission’s mandate.”
By William Yaw Owusu