Prof Atsu Ayee of the Department of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Legon, is not convinced that the Electoral Commission (EC) has given cogent explanation for a new register.
With the 2020 polls barely seven months away, the EC is preparing to announce a new date for the compilation of a new electoral roll after an April schedule was scuttled by the Coronavirus disease and restrictions on movements.
The EC says the current register is bloated and not credible for the December parliamentary and presidential elections, but the decision to ditch the current voters’ register for a new one has forced at least 18 civil society groups to form a united front against the commission.
The coalition of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) under the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) are against the compilation of a new register from scratch on grounds that it is the National Identification Authority (NIA) – and not the EC – that must collect new data on citizens.
The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), a key stakeholder in the December 7 general elections, has also been fiercely contesting the EC’s plan to compile a new register, however, the Commission remains resolute about its decision.
The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and groups affiliated to it back the EC’s decision for a new electoral roll.
Speaking to GhanaWeb on the issue, Tuesday, Prof Ayee remarked that “The EC needs to produce more convincing reasons why a new register is needed. I am not too sure if the current register is bloated. Has there been a thorough audit of the register to see if it is bloated?”
The EC's decision to compile a new register, according to Prof Ayee, has heightened the political temperature and polarisation in the country, “which is needless and can be prevented if we do the right thing.”
If the EC must compile a new register, it must be a totally new one, but a limited registration to capture those who are of age but did not have the opportunity to do so, Prof Ayee added.
“We, as a country, have not taken opportunity of registering voters as and when they have reached the voting age. If we are doing this on a regular basis, there will not be the need for a completely new register.”
He said it was unfortunate that since Ghana returned to constitutional rule in 1993, a credible register for elections has always been the centre of controversy.
“This does not bode well for democratic consolidation. We must move away from compiling a new register in an election year. It gives room for mistrust, distrust and suspicion,” he stressed.
Think tank, IMANI Africa, is among the notable critics of EC’s decision on the electoral roll.
Mr Bright Simons, Vice President policy think tank, said in March that the new system was expensive and could reduce the quality of elections due to limited time.
Mr Simons said the Commission had limited time to go through technical processes such as system configuration and rigorous testing before it was deployed for the registration and elections.
IMANI Africa Founder, Franklin Cudjoe, is convinced the EC was just being belligerent in its approach to on the matter.
“As COVID is with us and indeed as COVID will be with us for some time, maybe it is prudent and it is one of the arguments we have made for some time that it is best for the EC to conduct a limited voter registration using the same verification machines or a few that will be purchased in addition to the already existing ones so that you cure the challenge of having mass registrations and all of that,” Mr Cudjoe told Accra-based Citi FM.
Recently, private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu, also urged the EC to shelve its decision on the voters' register and rather concentrate on conducting the limited registration exercise.
Speaking on UTV’s Critical Issues, the lawyer said the number of people who will take part in the limited registration exercise is smaller and can be managed than the numbers for a new voters' register.
"As for the election, we need to vote…but I am not in support of a new voters’ register but I'm all for a limited voters’ registration. We are not prepared for a new register; at this moment we need money and so they should manage the old register…we used the old register for the last election. We’ve spent a lot of money in this corona period,” he said.
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