I do see a confluence of scenarios that may arise in an event election 2020 cannot be run as scheduled. Let us first discuss these foundational issues.
1. The President by Article 66 (3) (a) will end his first term on the 6th of January, 2021 at 12am. NO extension of that mandate or whatsoever unless elections are held and his mandate renewed. Parliament CANNOT under Article 298 extend that mandate whatsoever under emergency situation.
This is explained further below.
2. Because the Vice Presidents tenure is contiguous with that of the President, his term ends with the President. So are his Ministers and other appointees except for CEOs of State Enterprises. 3. Parliament ought to be dissolve 3 months before a general elections but with exceptions provided for in Article 113.
4. Upon dissolution of Parliament, the term of office of the Speaker is ended with the life of Parliament at a particular time unless renewed by a subsequent Parliament or extended by the President but before the general elections.
5. By the provision of Article 57 (2), the Chief Justice will step in and act as President upon the expiration of the term of office of the President, Vice President and Speaker of Parliament.
SCENARIOS FOR ELECTIONS 2020: THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONUNDRUM
1. Can Article 298 provide an answer for Parliament to extend the term of office of the President beyond 6th January, 2021 at 12am?
1. In other words, can Parliament suo moto amend Article 66 (3) (a) to extend the tenure of the President?
2. In my candid opinion, the answer is NO. Because Article 290 (1), (2) and (3) under Chapter 25 have to be satisfied because Article 66 (3) (a) is entrenched and require not less than 8 months and a referendum to amend it. Time and the COVIDITY of the situation will not allow.
3. The Executive through the President can immediately before the dissolution of Parliament for the purposes of election 2020 declare a State of Emergency under Article 31 (1) to cloth himself with Emergency powers to enable him extend Parliament and the Executive stay in dealing with the Emergency. BUT we will need certainty and clarity of pronouncement from the Supreme Court if a proclamation contemplated under Article 31 can purport to extend the tenure of the two Arms of government so noted above.
4. Under Article 113, the President can recall Parliament after its dissolution BUT before 7th December, 2020 by reason of dealing with a state of public emergency. This means that, there must first be a declaration of that public emergency through the activation of Article 31(1).
5. Within 3 months of assumption of the role as President, the Chief Justice will have to cause a general elections to be organize by the Electoral Commission. The process of the election maybe determine by what I called 'FIAT OF NECESSITY' or Judicial Guidance. Further enlightenment will be needed on this by season learned minds.
CAN WE AVOID THIS ELECTION QUAGMIRE?
I say YES, and I do propose the following solution steps as a layman on elections matters. These are: 1. The EC should adopt a more open door and all-embracing policy and commence an immediate discussions with election stakeholders in arriving at alternative modalities for organizing election 2020 should the situation becomes dire.
2. The EC should abandon the plan(s) for a new Register. We surely are not in normal times and the COVIDITY of the situation will not allow.
3. EC should pick up the old register and subject it to a very thorough cleaning exercise using all detergents and disinfectants to make it reliable, acceptable and ready for use. This can be done by interfacing the EC data with other various data base and use innovative IT solutions to allow for virtual verifications and in some limited cases allow biometric verification for purposes of cleaning the register.
4. For BVDs and BVIs kids, please let us refurbish, retool and recalibrate what we have. We may not need them maybe, given the COVIDITY of the situation. Because their full use maybe hampered by COVID-19 Preventive Measures.
5. EC to begin building strong consensus and commitment of all political parties, CSOs inter alia through an objective criteria of engagement that assure openness, transparency, honesty and nationalistic discourse.
6. EC to present to Parliament within the space allowed by law an E.I providing simple, clear and all-embracing alternative ways of casting, tracking and counting ballots. Let's utilize the various technologies and engagement platforms already existing. It may look difficult but available technology can do the magic.
7. All Ghanaians particularly political actors should start to have genuine honest nationalistic conversation in dealing with election related issues as there emanate. Enough of the drama and toxic political jingoism.
8. The NCCE, National Peace Council and CSOs should strategise in their civic and elections education to ensure candour, issues based politics and non-violence through social distancing regime using technological domains.
9. Strong citizens’ responsibility is required in exploring and striving to participate in any of the available domain of casting one's ballot. Remember that, the right to vote implies a responsibility to make effort to vote.
TECHNOLOGY AND ELECTION 2020: WHAT IS WORKABLE
1. EC should immediately form an Election Technology Technical Advisory Committee (ETTAC) involving IT units of the various Political Parties and CSOs.
2. Explore the weaknesses and potentials of each engagement platform. Such as Texting/voice messaging, emailing, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. This may appear weird but there is an inherent opportunity we can exploit as a nation.
3. Select acceptable mixture of platforms and develop a robust back to back protection and encryption with fraud detection cookies. This should be so strong to prevent hacking, intrusion, virus attacks and creeping of worms.
4. Interface the systems so selected with the EC data base to establish qualified registered voter identity with accounts on the platforms so selected. Maybe, we can run a pilot to test the potency before rollout.
5. Also, in discussions with specific departments and agencies, the EC can create unique email addresses for staff and allied workers using their unique voter ID numbers. For instance, if GES has 600,000 staff with Controller, their data can be interfaced with the EC data base and unique email addresses created for them. The can use them in casting their votes.
6. Finalize and submit to all political parties a refined register within the time allowed by law.
7. Address all concerns of stakeholders as are being raised before, during and after the 2020 elections.
8. EC should skilfully build consensus on the process and outcomes to assure all stakeholders of transparency, openness and fairness.
9. We can proceed to hold election 2020 as scheduled using varied models, platforms and alternatives including the use of BVDs in limited circumstances but under strict COVID 19 protocols.
THINKING OF VOTE SORTING AND COUNTING?
Well, a simply algorithm built application can filter out individual candidates votes by polling station code and Voter ID number match with names and tally them up.
Does this look simply to you? The answer is not as simply as you see it. Because of the COVIDITY of Politics in this town. So toxic and Corroded like Corona.
Until we get stuck in a conundrum of coviding 2020 elections, let us all think and offer simple practical solutions to guide our forward March in advancing the frontiers of democracy in our beloved country Ghana.
Until then, let us all keep on keeping on with the WHO and government COVID-19 PREVENTIVE MEASURES.
May God Bless Our Homeland Ghana and make our Immune systems greater and stronger against COVID-19.
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