By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, December 18, 2015
Folks, the Chair of the Electoral Commission (Charlotte Osei) is reported to be "mad" (simply meaning very angry) when she appeared before Parliament because the budget for the EC has been drastically slashed by the Ministry of Finance.
As reported, she had told Parliament that she proposed a budgetary allocation of 1.2 billion Cedis for Election 2016, but the Ministry slashed it down to 800 million Cedis, leaving a shortfall of 400 million. She is unhappy that this reduced budget can't help the EC do its work as demanded.
Meantime, as a result of the reduction, polling stations will be reduced from 30,000 to 29,000. Parliament is yet to approve the budgetary allocation (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/EC-Boss-goes-mad-in-Parliament-over-budget-cut-401680).
The action by the Ministry of Finance is problematic, especially when placed against the assurances given by President Mahama that the EC will be resourced to do its work to the full. What caused the Ministry to cut the budget by a third? The usual excuse of pressure on the economy? Why the EC particularly, given the ongoing agitations to have it function effectively to ensure that nothing untoward comes from its quarters to taint Election 2016 and provoke political instability?
We recall the aggressive stance of the NPP and some of the mushroom parties that blamed the EC for the outcome of Election 2012 and the stentorian demands for the EC to do things so it can regain their trust and rebuild its image. All the noise being made point to one conclusion: that anything done to create the impression that the government isn't supporting the EC in terms of resources will embolden the NPP to rock the boat all the more.
What is it that the government cannot do to resource the EC adequately for it to perform its duties and shame its bitter critics? I urge the government to reconsider the Ministry of Finance's action and to mobilize funds and other material resources for the EC. Even if it means going for loans, it should do so. A well-resourced EC should be one step toward tackling the electioneering challenges.
It is interesting to note that the EC is thinking of innovations, for instance, recruiting Ghanaian lecturers as polling station agents or whatever (probably, acting on a suggestion by the Nigerian academic, Prof. Jega). Even though I have serious doubts about what exactly using those lecturers will bring to the table to make the outcome of the elections more credible and acceptable than previous ones, once the EC thinks it can use such academics, it should be supported, not frustrated.
I wonder, though, how someone like Dr. Richard Amoako-Baah of the KNUST (a known political gasbag singing the NPP's song cacophonously all this time) will add anything new to the process. Assuming that he serves as a polling station attendant or whatever, he will be more of a liability than the asset that the process will be looking for. And there are others supporting the NDC or the mushroom parties who will be eyed with suspicion.
But the truth is that the EC must be supported all-out to do its work. Then, when the elections are held and the results are announced, the sore losers will have no cause to reject anything or dash to the dark chambers of the Judiciary for redress at the expense of the country and ordinary citizens.
The government must shoulder the responsibilities; it must do all in its power to resource the EC so it doesn't create any doubt in the minds of its opponents that it is crippling the EC because it doesn't want it to do what it has to do for clean, free, and fair elections. The basis of the opponents' allegations on rigging should be eroded as the EC stands tall to do whatever it can to improve the electoral process for Election 2016. Then, there will be no justification for any rejection of the outcome of the polls or any recourse to election petition or hooliganism. I hope someone is listening.
I shall return…
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