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Ghana must wake up and shake up the EC

Sun, 6 Apr 2014 Source: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

FITCH Rating’s latest report on Ghana lays particular emphasis on the importance of Ghana’s

democracy and stability to the country’s economic prospects. Whiles it gives a negative

outlook based on how the economy is being run, Fitch makes the point that Ghana’s credit

rating has not, however, fallen below ‘B’ because of the country’s “strong governance

record and recent democratic history,” and that, this is “reflected in Ghana’s ability to

attract foreign direct investment, which at 7% of GDP is well above that of Nigeria, Gabon,

Zambia, Kenya and Angola.”

Thus, even when an economy finds itself in a fragile and vulnerable state, the perceived

strength of the country’s governance structure may be good enough to serve as the obelisk

of faith for investors. Ghana’s ability, in 2013, to go through eight tentative months of an

unprecedented legal challenge to the December 2012 presidential election without violence

or any other notable act of disturbance to the status quo has not gone unnoticed by

investors looking for high returns in so-called high-risk economies.

But, after merely 21 years of undisturbed constitutional rule, Ghana’s 25.9 million people

and investors alike cannot take for granted the peace and stability of the West African

country with a GDP of $42.5 billion and growing. It calls for continuous investments in the

instruments of Ghana’s democracy and a perpetual state of qui vive. And those whose

responsibility it is to keep the nation on the qui vive are the people of Ghana.

That is why I wish to draw the attention of the Ghanaian public to the worrying ligamentous

laxity with which the nation’s election management body is proceeding with preparations

towards the 2016 elections. The Electoral Commision (EC) is behaving as if it came out of the

Supreme Court last year smelling like a rose. It is treating the reform process, which the

Supreme Court recommended it to undertake, like business as usual.

CURABLE CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE

There is a crisis of public confidence in the EC, its systems, its processes, and its personnel,

from the commissioners to its presiding officers. It is, thankfully, a curable crisis. But it

means the EC must respond and respond with the sincerity and seriousness the situation

demands. So far, there is little indication that the Commission intends to overhaul its

administrative capacity and integrity, both of which were embarrassingly exposed in the

course of the televised election petition. Curing this must not only be done but must be

seen to being done.

So far the signs are discouraging. For example, Ghana’s election management body has

chosen to ignore calls for a credible, independent audit of the discredited voters register,

even as calls for a new voters register gets louder. The audit will either support the case or

otherwise for the compilation of an entirely new register. This cavalier attitude suggests

that unless the Ghanaian public wake up now to wake the EC up to its responsibilities, the

nation will go into the next general elections, in 2016, with a thick and noxious cloud of suspicion in the firmament. There is a case for a new voters register to be compiled and that

matter must be addressed now.

At a consultative forum on the law which governed the 2012 polls - Public Elections

Regulations (CI 75) - held in Kumasi on April 2, 2014, the Chairman of the electoral body,

Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, announced that the Commission was preparing to carry out a limited

voter registration in June.

“We call it limited because it is not for everybody. Instead, it is aimed at bringing onto the

voter register two categories of Ghanaians: persons who had turned 18 years since the last

registration in 2012 and others who are older but for one reason or another could not

register, so that they can vote in this year’s District Assembly Elections and subsequent

elections,” he explained, adding, “The qualifications and registration procedures will be the

same as during the registration in 2012.”

DISCREDITED REGISTER

Does this mean the EC continues to rely on STL, the company which undertook that

discredited 2012 register and provided the biometric verification devices which were so

unreliable that voting went into an unprecedented day two, with all the associated

problems with alleged malpractices?

An admission by Dr Afari-Gyan on that same platform only served to highlight the inherent

deformity within the existing voter register, which he appears reluctant to tackle. He said

one major challenge that the EC was anticipating was “how to prevent people already on

the register from registering again.”

Thus, the limited registration will add to the existing register, but he is not confident that

the Commission is capable of avoiding multiple entries in the discredited register. By that,

what the EC boss has done is to confirm what millions of Ghanaians saw on their TV screens

and what Peter Mac Manu, a former national chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP),

said at an earlier consultative forum of the EC in Accra. Peter Mac Manu’s allegation that

the EC did not apply the Automatic Fingerprints Inspection System (AFIS), to delete multiple

names from the register, has gone unchallenged.

Evidence in court, which showed that the register used in 2012 contained multiple

registrations, wasn’t challenged. Dr Afari-Gyan’s own admission above only goes to buttress

the suspicion that de-duplication was either ineffectively done or not done at all in 2012.

This is unacceptable because Ghana, like several other countries in Africa and elsewhere,

was motivated to spend millions of dollars to compile a new voters register using biometrics

because it wanted to de-duplicate the register for credible elections.

Indeed, as the then Executive Director of the Danquah Institute, I had a meeting

(accompanied by two of my staff) with Dr Afari-Gyan and his two deputies at the time

(Messrs Kanga and Safo-Katanga) in his office in 2009, where we made the case for

biometric registration. He expressed his scepticism and said the de-duplication exercise was

so cumbersome that his colleagues in other countries simply created the public impression

that it was being done but, in essence, never bothered with it. De-duplication is the process of finding multiple occurrences of the same person in a register. We left that meeting with

the distressing impression that the commissioners of the electoral body did not put much

value in the de-duplication process of the register

International confidence in Ghana’s democracy may be strong and, certainly, stronger after

the disputed election. But, the confidence of the people of Ghana in the Electoral

Commission is palpably low.

The first and last paragraphs of a four-page report in the latest edition of the New African

magazine (‘Why Akufo-Addo Chose Caution, Not Confrontation’) highlight the mood of

Ghanaians, leading up to the 2016 general elections.

It begins: “The most puzzling question in Ghanaian politics - being asked today and likely to

be asked many years hence – is why after the meticulous effort the opposition New Patriotic

Party (NPP) made to prove to the Supreme Court of Ghana, in a petition, that the

presidential election of 7-8 December 2012 was riddled with irregularities and therefore

produced an invalid result, the party did not launch an appeal against the decision of the

Supreme Court to dismiss the petition. The Court’s decision was anything but clear.”

NO COURT

Today, Ghana’s main opposition has made it absolutely clear that it is no mood to go to

court. The cry is ‘No Court!’ In deed, a fact that has been lost on the public is that

immediately after the Supreme Court ruled by a kind of 5:4 majority on August 29, 2013

that President John Mahama was validly elected, the petitioners’ party, the NPP, withdrew

22 election petition cases challenging parliamentary elections from various courts across the

country. It may be useful to remember that for Kenyans, loss of confidence in the judiciary

over previous election petitions led to 1,300 dead and 600,000 others displaced from their

homes after the disputed 2007 polls.

The man who led the NPP in the 2012 elections had this to say when he declared on March

20, 2014, his intention to lead his party again in 2016: “I have no desire to lead the NPP into

another election petition in 2016. I certainly do not want to take election grievances to the

streets either. I prefer we begin today to do the things that would greatly diminish any

potential need to go to court. That means we want an election in which the results would be

beyond dispute and would be accepted by all. That means we must secure the reforms that

are necessary to enhance the integrity of the electoral system and the people who work for

the system, the electoral officers.”

Key on the reform agenda is a new, credible voters register. It will be costly, but the cost of

dislocating Ghana’s democracy would be costlier felt and even beyond the borders of

Africa’s shining star for democratic governance.

The case for a new, credible register appears impervious. Ghana’s total population, after the

2010 national census, was put at 24,965,816, going into the last election. The biometric

register for the 2012 polls contained 14,031,763 names. This translates into 56.2% of the

population, the highest ever percentage in the history of the 4th Republic. The EC boss had,

for the 2008 elections, remarked publicly that the voters’ list then, as a percentage of the national population, was “statistically unacceptable by world standards. If that is the case,

then it may mean that there is something wrong with our register.” But that 2008 voters

register, he was unhappy about, added up to 54.5% of the total population, compared to

the ‘new and improved’ 2012 register with 56.2% of the population.

Comparing Ghana’s voters register to other countries shows a vast variation that defies

statistical and demographical logic, especially in our region. Nigeria, which also compiled a

biometric voters register for their previous election, captured 41.7% (67.8 million) of its

162.5 million population. In 2012, the same year Ghana compiled its new voters register,

using biometric technology, Kenya also did the same, using biometrics. The stark statistical

difference between the registers of the two countries was most curious. Kenya, with a

population of 41,609,728, captured 14,362,189 eligible voters on its new register,

representing 34.5%. Ghana, with almost half the population of the East African country,

captured nearly the same number of people on its voters’ list.

In Zimbabwe, where there was evidence that the register was bloated, they did not capture

more than half of the entire population on the register. In 2013, out of a total population of

13,182,908, exactly 6,400,000 names were captured on the voters list. Even though, a look

at the census figures shows that a smaller figure of 5,696,780 people were of voting age and

ought to have been reflected on the voters list.

MODEL OF DEMOCRACY

The people of Ghana must not compromise in demanding, in their usual non-violent but

principled manner, all the necessary reforms that are required to bring back confidence in

the electoral system. If Ghana is to continue being the model of democracy in Africa then it

should not relent in doing what is necessary to be done to protect that status. This means

the people of Ghana feeling and believing that the democratic mandate to choose who

leads them is not compromised.

As the last paragraph of the report in the New African magazine puts it: “It is for the

Ghanaian electorate to decide whether it wants him in 2016. One can only hope that in

2016 the lessons of 2013 will have been learnt and that the Supreme Court will have no role

to play in deciding whether Akufo-Addo should be president or not!”

I will only add that, at the moment, the choice of who becomes president in 2016 is not as

important as putting in place the reforms that will ensure that the choice of the people is

respected when it comes to making that choice. To ensure efficient reforms, this is the time

for the people to demand action and the EC must listen and respond accordingly.

THE AUTHOR IS THE CEO OF GLOBAL DYNAMIX CONSULT, AN AFRICA-FOCUSED

CONSULTANCY FIRM BASED IN THE UK

VOTER POPULATION PEER COMPARISON

Country

Population Registered voters

% of registered voters to the

Country total population

Kenya

41,609,728 14,362,189 34.5%

Ghana

24,965,816 14,031,763 56.2%

Nigeria

162,470,737 67,764,327 41.7%

Senegal

12,767,556 5,302,349 41.5%

Tanzania

46,218,486 19,650,412 42.5%

TRENDS IN GHANA’S VOTER POPULATION AND TOTAL POPULATION

Ghana's Population Registered voters

% of registered voters to the

Year total population

1992 15,980,974 7,401,370 46.3%

1996 17,698,300 9,219,605 52.1%

2000 19,272,495 10,700,252 55.5%

2004 20,922,726 10,354,970 49.5%

2008 22,871,021 12,472,759 54.5%

2012 24,965,816 14,031,763 56.2%

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

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