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The endless confusion over the selection of Electoral Commissioners: What is the best practice?

Jean Mensah 480x375 1.jpeg Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Jean Adukwei Mensa

Sat, 29 May 2021 Source: Kwaku Badu

I could not believe my ears listening to a tempestuous verbal exchange between the Electoral Commissioner, Mrs Jean Mensah and the General Secretary of NDC, Mr Asiedu Nketia in a leaked audio tape a couple of years ago.

You may believe it or not, in recent times, there have been countless attacks on the Chairperson of the Electoral Commissioner, Mrs Jean Mensah, whose managerial decisions are being opposed by the operatives of the opposition NDC.

It would thus appear that some political party elements have made up their mind not to accept an Electoral Commissioner appointed by the president of the day.

The excerpts of the squeamishly lurid leaked audio tape alleged to have emanated from the opposition NDC’s meeting a few years ago give credence to the critics claim that the NDC faithful aren’t ready to accept President Akufo-Addo’s appointed Electoral Commissioner.

In the said leaked tape, observers can hear vividly how the culprit is detailing his fiendish scheme to kidnap the perceived opponents and telling the audience, believed to be executives of the party to attack the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Jean Mensa and insult the then Peace Council Chairman, Professor Emmanuel Asante.

In any case, the 1992 Constitution of Ghana gives the sitting president an absolute authority to appoint the chairperson of the Electoral Commission.

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

The truth must however be told, It is somewhat oxymoronic for the sitting president to have a leading role in the appointment of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission to oversee the elections in which the appointing President would be partaking.

In fact, the said constitutional provision puts unnecessary pressure on the shoulders of the appointing president. How can the president please the unrepentant naysayers?

Of course, there are a few countries where the heads of state play an active role in the selection of the members of the Electoral Commission.

However, unlike Ghana’s mode of selection, in other jurisdictions, the legislature would have to confirm the head of state’s nomination for the appointment to take effect.

That being said, the 1992 Constitution has vested the powers in the sitting presidents to appoint the Members of the Electoral Commission. And, until such constitutional provision is reviewed, there is not much we can do as concerned citizens.

On a lighter note, as a die 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 gleam of suspicion in their minds over the referee. Would you?

Whatever the case, the onus will 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 stress that it only takes a principled and honest individual to resist temptations. I mean an individual who thinks reflectively over the consequences of dubious officiating, for in the event of a pitch invasion, the referee might not walk out safely from the ensuing confusion.

In the grand scheme of things, if we have chosen the path of democracy, we might as well be prepared to ingest the insipid pellets associated with it.

So going forward, we may well consider taking a cue from a number of jurisdictions whose methods of selecting their Electoral Commissioners appear more rational and democratic in my opinion.

In some democratic jurisdictions like 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, Article 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, Article 13 (2).

In Ethiopia, the members of the Board are appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives upon the Prime Minister’s recommendations. Before nominating the Board members who fulfil the criteria, the Prime Minister shall 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 are appointed by the House of Peoples’ Representatives from among the members, upon the Prime Minister’s recommendations. Source: Electoral Law as amended by Proclamation No. 532/2007, Articles 6 (1, 2, 7).

On the other hand, in the advanced democracies such as the 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, Article 437(c).

Finally, 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, Article 6 (3, 4).

I must confess that I am extremely impressed with Ethiopia and the francophone countries' respective methods of selecting the members of their Electoral Management Bodies. Indeed, their methods of selection appear more judicious and democratic, and, therefore, I will urge our parliament to take a critical look and act accordingly.

Columnist: Kwaku Badu