What are electoral reforms to the NPP? (Part II)

Sat, 21 Sep 2013 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Indeed, the NPP leaders are even contradicting themselves because when the EC began regional seminars after Election 2012 to appraise its performance, they were the first to protest, saying that such review efforts confirmed their allegations that the elections were fraught with malpractices. They condemned the EC and it ended the seminars abruptly. Of course, at that time, their petition was before the Supreme Court.

Then, after judgement had been given, when the EC sent out calls for proposals/suggestions toward electoral reforms, they jumped up again to use that move as a confirmation of their earlier allegations against the EC, claiming that the EC was culpable for all that happened at Election 2012 to deny Akufo-Addo the Presidency.

In fact, some of the NPP leaders even stated that the party would not cooperate with the EC because its calls for proposals toward electoral reforms vindicated them. They supported the call by their protégés in the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG) that Dr. Afari Gyan must resign.

That was not all. Akufo-Addo went further to say that that he doubted if the EC was the appropriate outfit to lead the way for electoral reforms because “an institution that needs to be reformed is not the same institution that must lead those reforms”. That was when he had met last Friday with members of the Peace Council and the Civil Forum Initiative.

That is where the NPP’s problem lies. Nowhere has it been stated by anybody (not even the 9-member Supreme Court panel that heard their petition) that the EC should be reformed. Suggestions have been made for electoral reforms, which the NPP people have mistaken for a reform of the EC. The two mean different things.

Electoral reforms have to do with the processes and procedures and practices for organizing, supervising, and controlling the elections. It is not institutional and can be done by no other institution but the one mandated by the constitution to take charge of election matters (which is the EC).

The reform of procedures and practices involves intangible aspects of the elections, including, for instance, the hiring of persons to serve as Presiding Officers, the caliber of people to be hired, the training to be given them, remuneration, evaluation of their performance, and many more. There are many other issues involved here, some of which have to do with the resources to be used for the elections, how these resources are to be procured, designated, and distributed, the rules and regulations on voting, etc.

What we have here is open-ended and can be added to as determined by the EC. Indeed, the EC has the option to discuss pertinent issues with stakeholders but it is not compelled to be at their beck-and-call. It has the unfettered responsibility for the elections at every stage. Its creation of the IPAC and recourse to it at times shouldn’t be mistaken for its subservience to the IPAC or any other institution (even including the political parties). That is why I see the NPP’s agitations as irritating insofar as they seek to hold the EC (especially its Chair) hostage.

On the other hand, reforming the EC is institutional and a major exercise. It involves tangibility because human beings will be shifted around and the physical structures housing the EC (whether at the national, regional, or district levels) touched too. It also will involve appointments and dismissals of persons designated as EC officials.

We note here that the constitution leaves no doubt anywhere on who should appoint the overall boss of the EC. In exercising this prerogative, the President has enough leeway to choose the person who can best handle the responsibilities of the office. I wish we could be told how former President Rawlings settled on Dr. Afari Gyan. But the truth is glaring for all to see except those who have purposed in their hearts not to do so.

Dr. Afari Gyan has been in office and put in power four different Presidents in this 4th Republic (Rawlings, Kufuor, Mills, and Mahama) through elections that didn’t provoke bloodshed. He supervised the 2000 elections that shifted the paradigm from the NDC to the Kufuor-led NPP, making history.

In 2004, he did same, even though this very Obetsebi-Lamptey took the wind out of his sale by announcing Kufuor as the winner. That particularly reprehensible act by Obetsebi-Lamptey was blessed by the NPP leaders and members; but the NDC complained and made moves to seek redress in court. Former President Rawlings had even insisted on street protests but the late Mills demurred to allow Kufuor the chance to rule the country on the basis of the elections.

Come 2008 and 2012, the NPP people won’t see anything good in Dr. Afari Gyan anymore because they lost the elections and instead of addressing their own inadequacies, decided to unleash their venom on the EC Chair. At this point in their agitations, we know where they are heading to. They will continue to misplace their priorities, forcing a river to flow upstream, and end up in a worse state.

The exercise that they have embarked upon is too huge for them to accomplish. The electoral reforms that Ghana needs will not be implemented successfully when tinged with the NPP’s biases and preferences. Electoral reforms happen on the basis of consensus, which is why the NPP people are advised not to colour everything with their bitter loss and one-sided perspectives.

As a human institution, the EC has its shortcomings and has to be supported to smooth the rough edges. It can’t do so when stampeded by the NPP. Reforming the EC is more arduous than meet the eyes of Obetsebi-Lamptey and his followers. It will involve constitutional amendments and not happen overnight. That is why I consider their venom-laced agitations as problematic.

Of course, the suggestion that the President consult with a wider constituency in the search for the EC Chair is harmless; but it has more to it than we may know now. It is an attempt to dictate to the President. Unless the constitution says otherwise, the President has the prerogative to perform the function of appointing the top-ranking officials of the EC. And it is the EC Chair who will also ensure that all personnel needed by the EC to perform its functions are recruited at the various levels.

Any outsider seeking to stamp authority on this arrangement will be muddying the waters for nothing. We recognize the fact that officials of the EC must be conscientious citizens not known for their political biases. But we also recognize the fact that these officials are not a-political. During general elections, they vote for candidates of their own liking, meaning that they make electoral/political decisions and choices to suit their aspirations on governance. Thus, any attempt to suggest that anybody appointed to the EC must be infallible is worse than ridiculous.

Dr. Afari Gyan is not an angel; but he is not the devil either. He is only human. If these NPP people are against him because they lost the elections through no fault of his, they can do as they like but won’t change the dynamics to suit their needs.

I end by questioning these NPP people why they didn’t ask for a recounting of the votes if they were sure that something irregular happened at the polls but rather chose pink sheets. And as Dr. Afari Gyan told them during the petition hearing, he is not a Presiding Officer to be blamed for the absence of signatures on the pink sheets.

So, can’t these NPP people be honest for once to take issues beyond the level of Dr. Afari Gyan or anybody else to replace him (as will be appointed by the President)?

In looking for means to reform our electoral process, we may have to look far afield to find out how mature democracies in the United States or Great Britain handle affairs, especially in terms of the body that organizes and supervises elections. I haven’t yet heard any complaint against any single person in charge of elections in those countries. How do they do it?

If we can learn useful lessons from there to apply to our Ghanaian situation, we will be smoothing the rough edges and saving the poor EC Chair from all the personal attacks that Dr. Afari Gyan is suffering at the hands of those who are aggrieved that he didn’t help them win the 2012 elections. Electoral reforms cannot be carried out on the basis of poisoned emotions but on that of sound reasoning and dispassionate appraisal of processes, procedures, and practices that guide general elections.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.