Mode of selecting electoral commissioners gives room for undue influence

Sun, 29 May 2016 Source: Badu, K

“The President shall, acting on the advice of the Council of State, appoint the Chairman, Deputy Chairmen and the other members of the Commission.” Source: Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, art. 43 (2).

Indubitably, Ghana’s Constitution is a supreme document. Nevertheless, it is not without blemish, for it was framed by human beings, who, as a matter of fact, are not immune from making calamitous mistakes.

Of course, there are a few countries that the head of states play a part in the selection of the members of their Electoral Management Bodies. However, unlike Ghana’s mode of selection, in other jurisdictions the legislature mostly has to confirm the head of states nomination for the appointment to take effect.

Interestingly, Ghana’s mode of selection has some similarities with that of the United Kingdom. In the United Kingdom and the Northern Ireland, the Queen appoints Electoral Commissioners. “The Electoral Commissioners shall be appointed by Her Majesty (in accordance with section 3)." Source: Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, Art. 1). the difference here though, is Her Majesty the Queen has no political affiliation and therefore does not benefit directly from her appointee.

It is befuddling beyond human comprehension that Ghana’s written constitution allows the sitting President to have a leading role in the appointment of an Electoral Commissioner to oversee the elections in which the appointing President would be partaking. How bizarre?

Tell me, aren’t you straddle-minded over this weird arrangement? Would the appointing President appoint someone who has an allegiance to his opponents? In other words, would the President appoint an individual who probably does not have an inborn predilection for his party’s ideologies? Obviously, conventional wisdom would tell us that the appointing President will more likely appoint someone who sympathises with him. Of course, we can agree to disagree on my presumptuousness.

There is also a school of thought who argues that former President Rawlings appointed Dr Afari-Gyan and never favoured NDC presidential candidates. I am afraid, such view point is specious. First of all, it was President Rawlings who appointed Dr Gyan and not the NDC party as a whole. Moreover, President Rawlings never lost an election under Dr Gyan’s tenure as an Electoral Commissioner, NDC party rather lost elections under the flag-bearership of the late Mills. Verily, I have no reason to suggest that Dr Gyan favoured former President Rawlings. And, if, indeed, Dr Gyan was fair in his handling of the electoral processes, does it mean another appointed Electoral Commissioner will follow suit? Simply put, it is never right for the President to select a referee to officiate a match between his opponent and himself.

On a lighter note, as a dire hard supporter of Mighty Chelsea F/C, I will definitely welcome an opportunity for our chairman, Abramovich to have a greater say in selecting the referees for our crunch and decisive matches. How wonderful that would be. And if that was to be the case, I will never fault our opponents for having a glint of suspicion over the referee. Would you?

Having said that, the onus would be on the appointed referee to exhibit maturity and fairness, for all eyes will be on him/her. And, by the way, who said that the appointed referee does not have a preference? Suffice it to say, it only takes a principled and honest individual to resist temptations. I mean an individual who thinks reflectively over the ramifications of dubious officiating, for in the event of a pitch invasion, the referee might not walk out safely from the confused tumultuous mingling.

If we have chosen the path of democracy, we must as well be prepared to swallow the insipid pellets associated with it. So going forward, we must take a cue from a number of jurisdictions whose methods of selecting their Electoral Commissioners are more rational and democratic. In Burkina Faso for instance, 5 members are selected by the political party that has the majority in the National Assembly, 5 members are selected by the opposition parties and 5 members represent civil society organisations (3 members represent religious communities, 1 traditional authorities and the remaining 1 member represents human rights associations). Source: Electoral Code as amended in 2015, art. 5).

In Togo, 5 members are selected by the president, 10 by the opposition, 2 by the civil society and the remaining 2 members are selected by the government. Source: Electoral Code No. 2000-07 as amended by law No 2005-001).

In Guinea, ten members are appointed by the ruling political party, ten are nominated by the political parties of the opposition, three by the organizations of civil society, and the remaining two members are appointed by the administration. Source: Organic Law L/2012/016/CNT of 19 September 2012 on the composition, organization and functions of the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), art. 6).

In Benin, 1 member is nominated by the President of the Republic, 9 members are nominated by the National Assembly, taking into account its political configuration and 1 member is nominated by and from civil society organisations with at least five years of engagement in the field of governance and democracy. Source: Law n ° 2010-33 of 7 January 2011 setting general rules for the elections in the Republic of Benin, art. 13 (2).

In Ethiopia, members of the Board are appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives upon recommendation of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister shall, before nominating Board members who fulfil the criteria, ensure that there has been sufficient consultation forum for political organizations that have seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives to ascertain that the nominees are independent and impartial. The Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Board shall be appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives from among the members upon the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Source: Electoral Law as amended by Proclamation No. 532/2007, art. 6 (1, 2, 7).

In U.S, the Federal Election Commission is composed of the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Representatives or their designees, ex officio and without the right to vote, and 6 members appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. No more than 3 members of the Commission appointed under this paragraph may be affiliated with the same political party. Source: Federal Election Campaign Laws, Art. 437(c).

In Australia, the Chairperson and the non judicial appointee are appointed by the Governor General and shall hold office on a part time basis. The person appointed as Chairperson shall be a person whose name is included in a list of the names of 3 eligible Judges submitted to the Governor General by the Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Australia. Source: The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 as amended, art. 6 (3, 4).

I must admit, I am really impressed with Ethiopia and the francophone countries methods of selecting the members of their Electoral Management Bodies. Their methods of selection are more judicious and democratic and I will entreat our parliament to take a critical look and act accordingly.

K. Badu, UK.

Columnist: Badu, K