The Chronicle Editorial: If you manipulate the EC in power, it may haunt you in opposition

Jean Mensa 7 Jean Mensa, Electoral Commission Chairperson

Wed, 22 Jan 2020 Source: The Chronicle

Article 46 of the 1992 constitution of Ghana provides that, "except as provided in this constitution or in any other law not inconsistent with this constitution, in the performance of its functions, the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction of control of any person or authority."

We at The Chronicle would not attempt to interpret the above provision of the constitution as it remains the obligation of the Judiciary. Except to say that, from a lay man's understanding of the Article, not even the President can direct the Electoral Commission (EC).

The framers of the 1992 Constitution created that provision for a purpose, and definitely not for the fun of it. Almost every election year since the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution, political parties have had issues with the election regulator, the EC. In these situations, the party in power is always seen supporting the EC, and the main opposition party is always against decisions of the commission.

Cast your mind back to the famous 'Stolen Verdict' to appreciate the point that opposition politicians have never trusted the EC. In fact, one of the conditions the then main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), gave before it participated in any future elections was the compilation of a new voters' roll and identity cards for voters.

This demand was made in 1993, after the party had lost to the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in an election which first brought former President Jerry John Rawlings to power constitutionally.

The NDC described the election, which was conducted by the then Interim National Electoral Commission as credible, free and fair. Parliament in the same year passed Act 451, which established the EC.

Among other functions,the EC was mandated to compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by Law. Fast Forward, at the end of the 2012 election, the NPP challenged the results in court, with the EC as respondent.

Ahead of the 2016 election, the NPP alleged that the voters' register was bloated with over 70,000 foreigners, thus pushing for a new voters' register. But the NDC, which was in power then, objected to the claim and supported the EC that the register was credible. The NPP at the time said the NDC was in bed with the EC to rig the 2016 elections.

Meanwhile, after taking over office in 2017, the NPP, based on a petition, removed the Mrs Charlotte Osei led commission and appointed a team led by Jean Mensah.

Ahead of this year's general elections, the EC has resolved to compile a new voters' register, which has met strong opposition from some 18 Civil Society Organisations, 8 opposition political parties, including the NDC, Parliament before going on its last recess, approved some GHC390 million for the EC to compile the register, though the NDC legislators boycotted the sitting that approved the amount.

The EC says it wants to add a facial recognition to the verification processes, and also procure new biometric equipment for the elections. But the NDC disagrees with the EC, and has led a campaign against the new register, by joining other opposition political parties to demonstrate in the Northern regional capital, Tamale, to register their displeasure.

It says the EC wants to rig the election for the NPP. According to the NDC, the EC could repair the old equipment and channeled the allocated amount into solving other pressing issues affecting the country.

In today's edition of The Chronicle, we have carried on our front page a justification by the EC in relation to the compilation of a new register.

Speaking to news men in Accra, the IT department of the EC provided data, which indicates that the country would save as much as $ 18 million or GHC 104,677,650.00 (using cedi-dollar rate of 5.7) if it goes ahead with the acquisition of the new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS).

The EC IT team told journalists that the total cost of maintaining the old Biometric System is $ 74,364,500 while the total cost for new BVMS system is estimated at $ 56,000,000. These include Biometric Voter Registration Kits (BVR) kits and the Biometric Verification Devices (BVD).

Notwithstanding, the NPP, like when the NDC was in power, has become the mouthpiece of the commission. They are now speaking the same words which the NDC spoke years back, that the EC is an independent body with constitutional mandates and must be allowed to do its work.

We at The Chronicle, without taking any stance, believe that perhaps, what these politicians do with the commission when in power, seems to haunt them in opposition. As the adage goes, "the evil that men do, lives after them."

Against this background, we want to suggest to politicians to wholeheartedly allow the commission to be really independent, as spelt out by the constitution. When this is done, the general public would then have massive confidence in the EC and support its decision in the interest of democracy.

The EC on the other hand should be bold and firm to prove to both sides of the political divide that it cannot be tossed about by politicians, who are hungry for power to satisfy their parochial interests, at the expense of the poor taxpayer, who queued in the scorching sun for hours to vote for them.

The Christian Council and other Religious bodies should swiftly intervene when politicians try to intimidate the EC, for if there are any unfortunate incidents arising from elections, it is their congregation which would suffer.

Source: The Chronicle
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