Demystifying the EC’s operations | Ghana News Agency (GNA)

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A GNA feature by Yaw Ansah

Accra, Aug. 14,
GNA – Come December 2020, Ghanaian voters would be going to the polls to decide
who gets their mandate to lead – govern the nation for the next four years.

We are all too
aware, the heat – tension and acrimony associated with elections, especially in
countries where the political culture is low. It is on the basis of this that,
steps taken by the Electoral Commission (EC) to deepen its public engagement is
most refreshing.

The Commission
headed by Mrs. Jean Mensa, has had high-level stakeholder engagement with the
former Presidents, the Council of State, the security agencies, the media and
faith-based organizations.

These
interactions, without doubt are vital for trust and confidence-building.

It provides the
opportunity to gauge the concerns of all the key players and to work thoroughly
and with integrity to win the solid backing of everybody and by so doing,
remove any suspicion of political bias and vote rigging.

This EC’s drive
ties in with a key principle agreed on by African States under the African
Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which is, the holding
of regular, transparent, free and fair elections.

ACDEG is a set
of principles that spells out the norms, values and standards – universal
values of democracy and respect for human rights; rule of law premised on the
supremacy of the constitution and the democratic and credible elections. 

Three major
issues that came up during the EC’s conversation with stakeholders were: the
inclusion of critical stakeholders in the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC)
meetings, sanitizing the political parties and institutional reforms.

Raising the bar for Political Party
Registration 

Members of the
Council of State at their meeting with the EC were unequivocal in their
position that the Commission needed to explore ways of ensuring that only
vibrant political parties remained on the its register.

Many of the
political parties, they noted, existed only in name – they are dormant and have
no offices at the local level.

This situation,
the Council said, could not continue and asked that the Commission acted within
the confines of the law to strike out the inactive parties.

Nana Otuo
Siriboe II, Chairman of the Council, said: 
“There are regulations that govern political parties and if they are not
conforming to the rules, then, their license needs to be revoked”.

He added that
the bar for political party license acquisition should be raised to make sure
that only those, in for serious business, were registered.

“The laws make
it easy for people to acquire political party license, but if the process is
reviewed and made robust, only the qualified ones will get the license”, he
added. 

The Police
Administration, Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, the Christian Council, the Catholic
Bishops Conference, Office of the Chief Imam and the Pentecostal and
Charismatic Council, were all in total agreement that the political parties’
register should be overhauled – purge the inactive parties, to bring sanity.

Expanding the IPAC

The Commission,
based on lessons from the 1992 general elections, created the IPAC in March
1994, to bring together representatives of the political parties to meet with
Members of the EC to discuss and build consensus on electoral issues
periodically.

At IPAC
meetings, representatives of the international donor community, assisting the
electoral process, are invited to observe proceedings. All political parties’
represented by their designated officers, participate in these meetings, which
are not open to the general public or the media.

In recent
times, the two dominant political parties – the ruling New Patriotic Party
(NPP), and the largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress
(NDC), have been making contradictory statements in the media about decisions
taken at IPAC meetings, something, many consider tasteless and unhealthy for
the nation’s democratic growth.

It was
therefore not surprising that the leadership of the National Association of
Charismatic and Christian Churches (NACCC), suggested to the EC to organize
press briefings together with the leadership of the leading political parties
at the end of every IPAC meeting, on any decisions made.

Additionally,
they recommended the inclusion of critical stakeholders including the Peace Council,
chiefs, religious leaders and civil society organizations in the IPAC meetings.

Archbishop
Nicolas Duncan Williams believes this is the way forward to ensure trust, unity
and cultivate a healthy relationship among stakeholders towards election 2020
and beyond.

Institutional reforms at the Commission

While
applauding their predecessors for the good job done, the EC Chairperson,
acknowledges that there are institutional lapses, which would have to be
tackled.

That is why
over the last 10 months, Mrs. Mensa and her team, have focused priority on
establishing a good governance framework – engaged the services of a consultant
to conduct an institutional audit and make recommendations to streamline the
EC’s operations.

They have an
unconquerable resolve to reform the Commission through the institution of a
governance structure to make it more vibrant.

“The EC used to
be a very grey area where anybody could take advantage of the poor system.
Human Resource-wise, some people have not been promoted for over 10 years so we
have taken steps to make sure the career path is structured”, she says.

“We did not
have a scheme of service. Now we are doing a lot to motivate staff. Already
people have been promoted and we have instituted a staff meeting where people
can air their views on critical issues.” 

The former
Presidents, the Catholic Bishop Conference and the Council of State share the
same view that, without a well-structured institution, the EC could not
function effectively.

Former
Presidents John Jerry Rawlings, John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama
have welcomed the transformational approach of the EC Chair and urging her to
take decisive action and work diligently to sustain the country democracy on
the path on growth and peace.

The common refrain
has been: “We know you have high integrity and moral standards. We have seen
your work at the Institute of Economic Affairs and so we assure you of our
support and partnership”.

The Commission
is upbeat that with steps it is taking and the strong backing of everybody, a
more transparent, free, fair and credible election, the outcome of which, will
be accepted by the political parties and voters, is going to be delivered, come
2020.

The expectation
is that all key actors would accept to play by the rules of the game.

GNA

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