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We must focus on the bigger issues (II)

Thu, 13 Aug 2015 Source: Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo

The need to change the current voters’ register is something that was properly recommended by the Supreme Court of Ghana in its ruling on the elections petition brought by Nana Akufo-Addo. But to concentrate too much on it could also thwart attention from other more important issues that bedevil our elections.

Of course, a good electoral register forms the basis for the credibility of any elections, but a good register does not necessarily connote a new register. If the present register is as bloated as it is alleged to be, a thorough auditing involving the verification of individuals within the register ought to be enough to make the register a good one.

If we open the register up to public scrutiny and develop a fool-proof method of purging it of the dead and including all the recently mature voters, that should elevate the quality of the register itself to be at par with all international standards. Thus the debate ought to focus more on how to improve upon the existing register in order to make it good and true. We do not need a new voters’ register, but a very good voters’ register.

Because it is possible to win a pyrrhic victory for a new register that gives us a sense of security when it solves no electoral problem. Remember that if the present register is fake, nothing prevents anybody from making a new one that will also be fake. How can we even trust any registration exercise organized under the watch of an NDC inspired politricks?

But a transparent process of verification and validation harnessing all the tools of proper auditing can purge any register of any fraudulent or dud names. And even if we get to this presumptive stage of a valid register of voters, it is only an infinitesimal portion of the paraphernalia of actions which we must take to ensure true, fair and just elections.

I have always posited that true elections can only come about as a result of the combined effort of the electoral authorities, all the political entities, security agencies, as well as the generality of the Ghanaian public. The electoral commission should be seen to be impartial by putting in place the requisite systems of administrative oversight. These include the biometric verification of voters, diligent process of computation and fool-proof certification of the number of votes, and the correct transmission of the results to the national electoral center.

The political parties also have the duty to train their agents and resource them to perform their duty in all diligence. They should develop an effective plan to intercept fraud and resolve issues by recourse to the proper law and procedure. Understandably, most of these political parties are handicapped by the lack of fiscal resources. This is why their focus should be to persuade government to support the political parties financially through parliamentary legislation.

This is because the sanctity of the electoral process is also a visceral issue of national security. If it is not possible for the parties to bring up to par their agents to secure the validity of the elections, that situation could create anger and frustration and lead to social upheavals.

Therefore I advocate that a substantial fraction of our resources should be devoted to the functioning of the political parties in training their personnel to safeguard the vote. This call for national resources to be devoted to the functioning of the political parties should trump the call to replace the register, for in the end, that cost could turn out to be more economical and efficient in securing and validating the popular vote.

A system of high security ought also to be marshaled by the government to protect the vote. The Bimbilla experience is sufficient warning that without adequate security, there can never be free elections. By now, every unit commander of every security agency should have a contingency plan to deal with the eventualities that come with elections in the country. That plan must be reviewed up the ranks of the security apparatus for practical validity and execution.

The civic education apparatus should also be put in place to begin educating the people about their role in the whole process. Augmented by the present proliferation of FM stations and newspapers, the Commission for Civic Education should have no problem informing people of what to do if they observe fraud or faults anywhere in the electoral process. So the media’s role in ensuring a free, open and transparent elections should be guaranteed and protected, and where necessary, annexed to the effort of the civic education process. An educated and informed people will then become the cornerstone of our democracy, to protect it, to defend it and to validate it.

The foregoing suggestions have nothing to do with any party emerging victorious in the 2016 elections because a free and fair election has nothing to do with a victory by a particular party, but with the aspirations of our democracy and the goals of our national security. That is why every citizen in Ghana must be a part of the broader scheme to guarantee the sanctity of the vote.

But focusing on the present problems within the NPP and resolving them trump anything anybody can do to bring about a victory for the party in particular. Neither a brand new register nor impartial electoral commission nor cooperation by the political entities nor an alert security agency nor the civic education of the general public will mean much for an NPP victory given the present wrangling within the party. Indiscipline has become rampant because everybody in leadership appears to be an island of its own.

There is no coherent policy of party messaging that will ensure that we all speak with the same mind and the same purpose. And those members flaunting their muscles in divisiveness are left to their devices without any protocol for internal sanctions. And this issue of indiscipline is the exact reason why the party might lose the elections. Unfortunately, time is running out to resolve any of the patent issues dragging us down.

Thus, the party’s fate in the coming elections has nothing to do with a new register; it is linked up with the national interest of a good register that has been properly audited to purge it of its bloated nature. If the electoral commission exhibits sufficient impartiality by establishing systems of transparency, the electoral validity could and should be obvious to all. And this system must be augmented by a thorough national education and subvention of party activities like the training of party agents, as well as impartial and effective security agents committed to the national welfare.

Coupled with a united NPP family devoid of internal rancor, these are the debates that we must by now be having; not one restricted to the compilation of a new register which could easily be again bloated by the NDC government and its apparatchiks.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo, Doctor of Jurisprudence, is a general legal practitioner in Austin, Texas, USA. You can email him at sarfoadjei@yahoo.com

Columnist: Dr. Samuel Adjei Sarfo