General News of Fri, 9 May 20035

Electoral Commission Divided

For the many Ghanaians who think that the current inter and intra party struggles could spell the doom of multi party democracy in this country, the worst is yet to come. Network Herald (NH) investigations at the National Electoral Commission (NEC) suggest that the political wrangling and antagonism dividing the unity of the nation, pitching region against region, fuelling tribalism, disintegrating families as well as creating religious and political intolerance has hit the Commission with a potential of casting great doubt on the 2004 general elections.

The bottom line is that the six- commission members and their eight directors seem, to have thrown themselves into some sort of administrative cold war on suspicion of one group either siding with the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) or the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC). Worried workers who talked to the NH expressed the fear that administrative, technical and electoral decision are now being considered with strong political flavour which they say could seriously affect Elections 2004.

They were of the view that already preparations towards Elections 2004 are behind schedule and appealed to the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the Donor Committee to investigate the running perception to restore sanity at the Commission. The current situation has apparently seeped into public domain and heightened the political atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion among key stakeholders about the neutrality of the electoral officials.

On the spot investigations revealed that the Commission, which is supposed to meet at least once every month, has not met the past two years due mainly to the internal politicking. One source maintained that there is an intense power struggle between the two Deputy Commissioners, Deputy Chairman - Finance and Administration and Deputy Chairman-Operations as to who commands the most patronage on political and tribal lines.

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Presently, directors and other staffers have been caught up in the exchanges to the extent that transfers and even assigning of responsibilities especially during the recent by-elections were said to have been considered on affiliations and allegiances to Commissioners. They contended that Chairman Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan (pictured) attempted to save the situation when he swapped certain positions in March 2001 and also, re-direct the ambitious energies of some of his deputies who saw the change in government as an avenue to achieve higher heights if they maneuvre well enough to receive governmental recognition.

The Commission had explained that the swap was in line with measures to strengthen its administrative machinery and operations. Mr. David Azey Adeenze-Kangah, Deputy Chairman for operations changed positions with Mr. Kwadwo Sarfo-Kantanka, Deputy Chairman in charge of Finance and Administration. It was the first major change in the commission since its inauguration in July 1993. According to EC Sources, even though another member Professor Ernest Dumor worked hard behind the scenes, credit for his output went to others making him a little nervous.

Mr. Kangah, an Educationist, served as a member of the National Commission for Democracy (NCD) and the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC). Mr. Sarfo-Kantanka a barrister-at-law, was in private practice before his appointment as a commissioner. Other members of the commission are Ms Elizabeth Solomon a barrister at law, Mrs. Theresa Cole a former marketing enumerator of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Queen mother or Gyasewahema of Adonten, Aburi and Professor Ernest Dumor a former university lecturer. The Commission is yet to fill a vacancy created by the death of one member.

Some Political Commentators contend that the political wrangling is a violation the constitutional provision establishing the Commission, which entrenches its independence and autonomy from control or direction by any person or authority. The commissioners have a permanent tenure of office with the same conditions of service as justices of the superior courts.

Source: Network Herald

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