Florida comes to Ghana with an Israeli twist

Mon, 24 Dec 2012 Source: Hamilton, John

*12 years later, Florida comes to Ghana with an Israeli twist*

*by John Hamilton*

I would like to begin by offering thanks to the Ghanaian readers who offered such passionate comments to my articles during the Presidential campaign. Though I left Ghana shortly after Election Day, I fully enjoyed my experience observing and commenting on the vibrant Ghanaian political scene.

However, the aftermath of the election has been quite troubling and disconcerting. In fact, it has left a very ugly stain on what had previously been the white knight of African democracy. Many readers have wondered why I disappeared, but I have simply delayed commenting on the political crisis while waiting to see what might unfold. Now that we approach the end of the 21-day period during which the election can be challenged in court, I felt ready to weigh in.

Though it is a great relief to see that a peaceful climate prevails, which is a credit to Ghana, the allegations of fraud against the Electoral Commission (EC) and the police state tactics used by the NDC in response are, quite frankly, sickening. When looking at the electoral crisis, the first thing that naturally comes to mind is the hung American Presidential election of the year 2000 in the state of Florida, which left the entire nation, and in fact the entire world, on edge until George W. Bush was finally declared the winner on December 12 – a full 35 days after the election too, place.

But that, unfortunately, is where the similarities end. In the case of Ghana on December 7/8 of 2012, the EC rushed to declare John Mahama the winner, despite the complaints raised by the NPP. So the NPP will have to bring the case to court and rely upon the independence of Ghanaian institutions to essential unseat John Mahama after he will already have been inaugurated.

While this seems nearly impossible to imagine at first, the allegations levied against the EC are staggering. It seems as though there is major corruption inside the EC that enabled NDC agents to compromise EC personnel at the collation center level, so that they altered numbers from blue-sheets from the polling stations to raise John Mahama’s vote totals while simultaneously lowering those of Nana Akufo-Addo and the other candidates as well. We will not know for sure until the NPP case reaches court, probably sometime this week, but rumors suggest that not only did John Mahama not win one-touch, but that in fact Nana Akufo-Addo should have been declared a one-touch victor!

For starters, I will point out a few disturbing issues about the biometric voter register. Barely a month to the December 7 election, the Electoral Commission presented every political party a copy of the biometric register, where it stated that a total of 14,031,680 Ghanaians were eligible to vote in the elections. However, the number of registered voters as contained in the declared results by Dr Afari Gyan shows that the total number of registered voters adds up to 14,158,890 – an increase of 127,210 voters. Where did this increment come from?

Also, when Dr Afari Gyan declared the results of the election, he stated to the hearing of every Ghanaian, and this was live on TV, that the percentage turnout of the December poll was 79.43%. I will direct every Ghanaian to the website of the electoral commission which now indicates that the percentage turnout has increased to 80.15%.

However, there is another attribute to the case, which concerns the biometric process used for the first time in Ghana to verify voters. A new electoral law was passed, whose main attribute was the rule of NVNV – “No Verification, No Vote”. In fact, the breakdown of some verification machines on Friday, December 7 pushed voting into the following day.

However, later reports indicate that in certain NDC strongholds, biometric verification was not used and thus fraudulent repeat voting may have occurred, in addition to foreign, unregistered or underage people voting. Agents from certain polling stations have alleged that the EC plans to wipe clean the verification machines from certain districts, which is a treasonous act in Ghana, as the law states that evidence needs to be kept for one year.

But there is another disturbing angle to this story, which involves the Israeli firm called STL, who signed some sort of opaque “data services” contract with the EC that no one seems to understand fully. They boasted of a contract with the EC to electronically transmit results, but the EC Chairman, Mr. Afari Gyan, came out to deny. Why would the EC deny it when there's a contract to that effect? STL had their IT infrastructure in all the districts to transmit results to EC. They say they dismantled that infrastructure after the NPP besieged their offices, but we know that they still did it to allow NDC to be on top of the results. We also know that machines breaking down was even part of the rigging - a case in point is that all machines breaking down in the north working miraculously next day.

The question is: will STL do the dirty work of the EC – namely resetting verification machines for polling stations where verification was not used and inserting biometric data to tally with ballot papers cast?

I have to say, given the implications of a foreign company so blatantly interfering in the data transfer of elections, that one would have expected the media to pursue STL more vigorously. This is their first election – have they earned the public trust? How much corruption is involved with this most important business of the state? It is known that STL earned a major sea defence contract through another Israeli intermediary company.

If the STL does in fact go ahead with the plan to insert biometric data on machines that have none, then it is a major crime, and a treasonable one. The mere fact that such a debate is even possible is a huge letdown for people who held Ghana in high esteem, such as myself. It’s hard to accept that Africa’s “golden child” of democracy could have a supervisory agency like the EC so central in the allegations. The bottom line: elections could not be rigged without EC; and if they leaned on STL to do their dirty work, while cleaner companies with experience, like Smartmatic, were ignored, then the fraud was indeed coordinated, systematic, and deliberate.

The STL factor raises several questions:

· There are pink sheets with polling station agents indicating on them that the machine was not used, so how would the EC reconcile these human testimonies with their reset machines?

· Would that not call for an independent audit that would confirm the suspicion that there had been a grand conspiracy all along?

· Why did Safo Kantanka, Deputy Commissioner of the EC, direct regional electoral officers and the district returning officers to bring to Accra all biometric machines?

· Also, why did the EC send mixed messages in reply to the NPP warning against trying to contact its polling agents directly – Kantanka admitted that those contacts involve an NGO programme, but Afari Gyan said the said NGOs never reached out to him.

I look forward learning the answers to these questions when the case finally reaches the Supreme Court.

John Hamilton

Atlanta, GA

Columnist: Hamilton, John