It is important that every country’s electoral commission is seen as free fair and credible an organisation in order to be trusted well enough to be able to organise effective elections. Ghana’s electoral commission has been a mixed bag in the fourth republic for the past 28 years, depending on which side you belong and at what time. The opposition sees the commission as not trustworthy yet the same party in power will do anything to support the same commission. What could the secret behind this be?
1. Is the commission hiding something from a part of the population? 2. Do they go into bed with every incumbent government to achieve a purpose? 3. If they do, what purpose would that be? 4. In this time where the economy is in crisis, are we as a country saying it is ok to spend millions of Cedis to compile a new register simply because we are in the eight-year from the last list?
These questions are being asked because the current situation in Ghana with the EC’s strong stand not to compromise on their decision on compiling a new register is a concern. Concerned because the timing seems off-limits. With elections, just 7month away, would it not be wise to rather clean the register with a limited registration exercise to add young people who have attained the voting age and also to remove deceased people from the list? How can a voter list which proved effective in the recent district level elections be suddenly not good enough? Remember this is the same voter’s list that brought the current government into power. Being part of the PPP party, I am aware that the EC provides copies to all parties prior to elections. If this same list was agreed upon as credible in 2016 and used for elections that managed to bring the NPP party from opposition into government then it can be said that it is credible enough. This is not the time to play party politics but rather a time to find an effective way of making the right calls to benefit society at large.
I am aware as per the 1992 constitution and the Electoral Commission Act 451 of 1993, the electoral commission must compile a new register every 8yrs to bring the list up to date with the current population growth and dynamics. The last full list compiled was in 2012 at a cost of GH?169,730,146.00 which was then updated in 2014/15 at the cost of GH?287,559,379. In 2016, there was another limited registration at the cost of GH?487,998,714. Four years down the line, we are ready to completely discard the last list and spend another GH?390,265.186.44 to complete a new list within a very limited time frame. Does a new voters list really require us to completely discard the existing and recently updated one? Can it not be a case of confirmation of the existing details of persons on the register as correct, coupled with adding on new voters who have attained the right to vote? If we follow the trend of updating the existing, we could save ourselves some costs as and make it credible at the same time. Unless the EC can confirm they have another agenda they are pushing, there is no reason why they must force their will on the nation at all cost bearing in mind the current COVID-19 situation at hand, financial state of the Ghanaian economy and the limited time left before the next general elections.
It is recommended that the electoral commission must make the voters list continuously open throughout the year within all civic centres across all 16 regions. These civic centres already work all year round, this service can be drafted in as an added responsibility just like the passport office did in the past. People can go to these centres throughout the year to add their names or verify themselves with an appropriate ID. Before every election, the list can then be closed sometime before the elections in order for final verification and approval by parties to be made. If we work on a method as recommended or similar, we can create something good out of the mess of counter accusations that we currently have. The EC must devise a way to make a new register continually reliable at the cheapest cost to the state. Now is not the time to be spending such a huge amount of resources we scarcely have.
As a country, we need to realise that every service we provide must be for the benefit of all civil society. Every action must be tailored according to the interest of the general population. Some of the laws on the land need to be amended to fit the trends of the time. In an instance like this where a great disruption has occurred due to the COVID-19, we should have the provision to be able to postpone and adjust appropriately. We must choose a productive system for running the civil service rather than an entrenched position without change. The current stance the EC has taken could have been avoided if the system were flexible enough. In all things, lets put Ghana first.
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