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Opinions Mon, 3 Oct 2016

Election 2016: A compliment and a warning to Ghana

The Foundation for Security Development in Africa, which has had considerable experience in monitoring elections in Africa, says by international electoral standards, a country that is able to organize three consecutive elections successfully under multi-party democracy, may be described as a matured democracy.

The organization says Ghana which has to date successfully organized seven elections, therefore more than qualifies to be considered a matured democracy.

In one study on elections in Africa, respondents were asked whether amid the ever-present threat of election-related violence and wars in Africa, any countries on the continent have been able to reduce electoral violence. The majority answered “yes”, and Ghana’s was cited as an example. That is the good news from election observers.

The worrying news according to the Foundation for Security Development in Africa, is that some of those indicators and triggers that have led to violent elections in other African countries, have reared the heads in our electoral politics and pose a danger to peace and security.

FOSDA is therefore urging political parties in the country to guard against creating through their actions, the level of tension that impact negatively on peace and security before, during and after this year’s elections.

In 2004, the Ghana Center for Democratic Development and the Institute for Policy Alternatives selected nine at-risk constituencies and in 2008 the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) selected 25 at-risk constituencies.

In each case, the data obtained regarding rising tension and violent clashes was shared with stakeholders, such as the security services, the media, the National Peace Council, and other civil society organizations, for the purposes of intervening strategically to defuse emerging hostilities.

Available data show that these timely interventions helped to progressively reduce the number of violent incidents recorded before and during those elections in Ghana.

In 2012, a total of 65 constituencies were identified for close monitoring by CODEO. As with the previous monitoring, the goal was to intervene proactively in reducing the level of tension and resolve the conflicts before they could escalate into more serious incidents.

While the level of electoral violence in past elections in Ghana have not been so serious as to threaten the state, we cannot be complacent.

Unresolved complaints have been identified as some of the main triggers for electoral violence. Effective mechanisms must therefore be instituted for resolving them promptly.

Adequate training programmes should be embarked upon to increase the capacity of polling staff in the handling of election complaints on polling day, in order to resolve any complaints before they degenerate into violence.

Columnist: The General Telegraph