Ahead of the 2016 crucial Ghana elections, the Echo newspaper has intercepted a correspondence between the British Prime Minister, through the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK, expressing concerns about an over bloated Ghana’s Electoral Register.
These letters have been written in response to a petition by some concerned Ghanaians in Britain who have expressed grave concerns about potential electoral violence in this year’s election.
The concerned Ghanaians had submitted a petition to the Prime Minister on 6th November 2015, after a peaceful demonstration at the forecourt of the seat of government, 10 Downing Street.
Mr. Cameron, the British Prime Minister, received the petition and directed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to respond to the petitioners and to state the official position of the British Government on the subject matter.
A letter conveying the British government’s response which the Echo has sighted is authored by Vicki Morley. The letter states: “Thank you for your letter of 6 November to the Prime Minister, regarding voter registration in the build-up to the December 2016 General and Presidential elections in Ghana. I am replying as the Foreign & Commonwealth Office Desk Officer for Ghana.”
The letter, signed by Ms Morley, is addressed to the coordinator of the concerned Ghanaians in the UK, Mr. Damoa. The letter suggests that, per the British government’s independent assessment, Ghana’s current Electoral Register is not fit for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. The letter states that the British government and Commonwealth Office [“We] are fully aware of the concerns regarding the electoral register. We note that the average population percentage in Ghana of those eligible to vote is approximately 52%, which is 10% higher than the continental average.”
The Echo newspaper's understanding of the British Government’s assessment is based on a voter population of 13,628,817.
This is the total number of registered voters recorded by Ghana’s electoral commission for 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The 10% equates to 1,362,882 which the British government claims is above continental average.
Currently there is a growing political temperature in Ghana, which is causing a good deal of worries for the International Community, and impacting negatively on investor confidence. It is reported that the temperature is inextricably linked with the posture of Ghana’s Electoral Commission whose approval rating has reduced from 75% to fewer than 45, after a protracted electoral dispute in 2012 according to a survey completed in 2014.
A deputy Chair of the Commission, Georgina Opoku Amankwaah, in August 2015, commented on the barometer report and described the situation as precarious.
Many Ghanaians who responded to the survey had anticipated that the register, which is fraught with widespread irregularities as exposed by an 8-month long election dispute at Ghana’s Supreme Court, would be ditched in favour of a new register, as part of the commission’s strategic efforts to amend their damaged image and credibility, and be able to claw back public confidence ahead of 2016 crucial elections.
However, albeit low public confidence, the newly appointed Chairperson of Commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, who, in mid-2015, took over from Dr. Afari Gyan, has made public pronouncements about her unwillingness to compile a new voter’s register. The relatively inexperienced Commissioner is quoted to have argued that compiling a new register will generate thirty thousand polling station conflicts without backing it with any evidence whatsoever of how these conflicts would arise.
Mrs Osei whose appointment generated a lot of controversy in Ghana because of her association with the incumbent President, is determined to assert her authority and safeguard the independence of the Electoral Commission, however, her leaning and comments have made opposition parties question her neutrality in accordance with Ghana’s constitution.
Her critics have accused her of overt biases, cover-ups and smoke-screen practices. She has been tagged as having an agenda to help the current President win the impending elections. An election pressure group, Let My Vote Count Alliance, is also calling for her, resignation based on how she has conducted the state of affairs since assuming the position of Electoral Commissioner.
The 42-year-old lawyer has recently come under a barrage of criticisms for quietly holding on to a position as Board Member of another institution, the Ghana Reinsurance Company Limited, for over 6 months, which breaches the Laws of Ghana. When challenged about this alleged breach of Ghana Laws by a private news station, Joy fm, Mrs. Osei, who is the former head of the National Commission on Civic Education (NCCE), challenged her critics to go to court if they suspect her of any wrongdoing.
The UK Prime Minister's letter concludes that the British Government “stands ready to assist the Electoral Commission in ensuring that concerns are addressed”. Vicki Morley, on behalf of the British government, was emphatic that the issue regarding the register is a matter that the Electoral Commission has to resolve ahead of the 2016 elections.