Building trust towards Election 2016

Tue, 15 Mar 2016 Source: Kobby Asmah

There is a lot of expectation as the country inches closer and closer to this year’s general election. Political activities are peaking by the day with the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the dominant opposition party, the New Patriotic Party, at the forefront. So far, there are 24 registered political parties, according to the Electoral Commission (EC) records and a few more others waiting to receive their final certificates to fully participate in the election.

However, one difficulty facing the country’s forward march to Election 2016 is how to build goodwill, trust and confidence in the election management process.

With the election fast approaching and the political temperature rising, there seems to be too much mistrust prevailing. Working to overcome such an albatross in the election management process is proving to be a herculean task.

Indeed, with about 220 days to the general election, some political parties and pressure groups on one side and the EC on the other are divided as to the way forward for a peaceful, free, fair and credible election.

There is so much hot air out there, particularly towards the EC. Every step of the EC to ensure a peaceful, free, fair and transparent election is met with doubt and mistrust.

As a result, some political parties knowingly or unknowingly are raising the political temperature by using inflammatory rhetorics and taunts to get the EC to step up its game plan.

No doubt the EC has a lot to do by way of letting all stakeholders know exactly what it is doing to manage Election 2016 fairly.

EC’s readiness questioned

Though it appears the election management body is confident of what it is doing, the rest of the country keeps asking too many questions so as to catch up and be on the same page with the EC.

The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) and the Institute of Economic Affairs have at separate times questioned the EC’s readiness for the November elections.

Some political parties have also questioned, among other issues, whether the EC has fully implemented the recommendations of the Justice VCRAC Crabbe panel which took submissions and proposals for and against a new voters register.

Though EC officials insist everything is on course for the crucial poll, there are still concerns about the voters register raised by stakeholders in the election.

And this must be of utmost concern to the commission going into the polls.

EC timetable for elections

There are many more programmes the EC is yet to roll out for the smooth conduct of the 2016 elections, including the Limited Registration exercise from April 18 -27, 2016 and exhibition of the voters roll in June 2016.

There is also the filing of nominations by political parties (for presidential/parliamentary nominees) from July 18-19 2016; transfer of votes is expected to end in September and the general election scheduled for November 7, 2016 with November 28, 2016 billed for a run-off in case there is a tie.

The EC’s 2016 activity calendar shows that the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) will meet a couple of times before election day to deliberate, and advise the commission on electoral matters.

Other major activities on the EC’s calendar include training of grass-roots registration officials, appointment and briefing of district registration review committees and national post-registration review meeting as well as printing of provisional voters registers.

The rest are recruitment of exhibition officials, building capacity of the media on electoral reporting, workshop on election security, application for early voting and printing of register for early voting, dialogue with presidential candidates, running mates and national executives of political parties, submission of final register to political parties, training of party

executives at national and regional levels, training of candidates’ agents and dialogue with parliamentary candidates.

Voter Education

More recently, the commission inaugurated its National Election Steering Committee, an information sharing group, but because stakeholders were not adequately briefed on its functions, it engendered a whole lot of brouhaha. Just last Saturday, the commission also rolled out a dummy pilot biometric registration of voters to test the upgraded Biometric Registration Kits (BVR Kits) for the upcoming limited voters’ registration and subsequent registration exercises. Once again, this dummy nationwide exercise was misconstrued because of inadequate voter education. There were also some bottlenecks associated with the three-tier process of registration.

This calls for the EC and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) to increase the pace and momentum of voter education in the country.

It is incumbent on the government to help in this national exercise by releasing the appropriate funds to enable the two institutions (EC and NCCE) to discharge their constitutional mandate to the satisfaction of all.

Role of political parties/stakeholders

Whilst efforts are being made by the NCCE and the EC to inject some level of trust into the election management system of the country, political party contenders must also avoid raising the political tension where there is none to raise.

Insults, fabrications and taunts as well as entrenched divisiveness along the lines of political parties will not help the nation to attain a peaceful and smooth election.

Let us begin the voter education now. It will serve a lot of good for the country going into Election 2016.

Free and fair polls after all is a shared responsibility and all stakeholders, including the security services and forces, governance institutions and civil society organisations must play their expected roles to attain set objectives.

Way forward

We are in an election year and definitely mistrust, suspicions and divisions must not be entertained. All stakeholders, including the political parties and the EC, must put their shoulders to the wheel to ensure a successful election.

The need for compromises is imperative if we are to build trust in the electoral management process.

Columnist: Kobby Asmah