The Electoral Commission (EC) appears to be unyielding regarding the setting up of the National Election Steering Committee, as it has asked the public to disregard media reports that the Commission had dropped plans to use the controversial committee for the November general election.
The setting up of the committee, which has been packed with mainly governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) party card-bearing members, sparked heated political debate and raised questions about the EC’s neutrality ahead of the crucial elections.
Even the NDC tried to distance itself from the committee described by the 2016 New Patriotic Party (NPP) Campaign Manager, Peter Mac Manu, as bogus.
At an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting on Friday, almost all the political party representatives said the EC could not even convince them about the rationale behind the formation of the committee and came out with the understanding that the Commission was going to abandon plans to use the committee for the elections.
The major parties – the ruling NDC and the opposition NPP – appeared to be satisfied with the decision to suspend the committee.
However, Acting Director of Public Affairs of the EC, Christian Owusu Parry, on Saturday strangely issued a statement insisting that the committee was still in place and said it was taking steps to address the concerns raised by the parties.
“The Electoral Commission’s attention has been drawn to reports in the media that the National Election Steering Committee has been suspended. The Commission wishes to inform the public that the reports are erroneous and should be disregarded.
“At the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting held yesterday, Friday, 19th February, 2016, the Commission assured the stakeholders, after persistent calls for the Commission to reconsider the setting up of the Committee, that it would meet and discuss the concerns raised and inform IPAC of its decision later. This should not be misconstrued as a suspension of the Committee. The Committee remains in place until a contrary decision is made,” the statement indicated.
In what looks like an unending saga, the political parties have expressed shock at the EC’s sudden U-turn.
National Organiser of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Desmond Twumasi, told Joy FM that his party was ‘dumbfounded’ by the turn of events.
“Indeed, yesterday (Friday), when we were at the IPAC meeting they (EC) did apologise for what they’ve done and that they were going back to the drawing board. We are surprised that they have come to tell us this story,” he said.
He said the Commission’s turnaround is a clear indication that the EC “themselves don’t seem to know what they are about to do.”
CPP Communications Director Abdul Kadri stated that the EC was yet to officially communicate to the party about the latest development.
In a related development, CENAB, a Ghanaian advocacy group affiliated to the NPP and based in the United Kingdom, has called on Ghanaians to put more pressure on the EC to dissolve what it called the ‘bogus’ 18-member election steering committee.
A news release issued in London and jointly signed by Peter Antwi-Boasiako, Adreba Abrefa Damoa and Kingsley Adumattah Agyapong said, “CENAB-UK believes the continual existence of the committee, suspended or not, will be inimical to Ghana’s electoral credibility and needs to be dissolved and the EC stopped from setting up any intermediary committees in the future.”
According to the group, the actions and inactions of the EC clearly showed that the Commission could plunge Ghana into chaos if not talked to. “There is even more to reveal, particularly the Electoral Commissioner’s determination to condone and connive in perpetrating electoral fraud in favour of the ruling party,” the group noted.
CENAB-UK wondered what criteria were used in selecting members of the committee when the electoral bill was currently being discussed in Parliament.
“Why has the EC not called for an open voluntary recruitment participation by reaching out to the various professional groups and organisations, such as university lecturers, lawyers, medical doctors, accountants, faith groups and organisations, etc, to form this steering committee, if at all it were necessary, but rather made choices of those particular institutions and personnel?”
By William Yaw Owusu