What did the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) seek to achieve?

Sun, 25 Oct 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Folks, the dust being raised by the NPP’s Akufo-Addo and his backers in pro-NPP segments of the Ghanaian citizenry is still high in the sky. Much of what has come from them verges on violence in Ghana if the EC doesn’t compile a completely new voters register for Election 2016. They are digging in, carrying their tantrums across the country’s borders to create the impression that by their estimation, Ghana is sitting on a time-bomb.

I want to tell them that Ghana is as peaceful as it needs to be and will continue to be so despite their scare-mongering escapades. If anything at all, they are rather sitting on the time-bomb that they have placed under their own butts. They are not experienced or attractive politicians to bank any hope on, which is the cause of their apprehension and uneasiness, if not political mischief altogether.

Why should they continue hollering all over the place, issuing vain threats against the EC, and refusing to listen to reason? Why won’t they allow the EC to complete its study of the numerous proposals and reports received from the various political parties and about 30 other stakeholders so it can determine how to tackle the challenges of the electoral process? Why are they not giving the EC the time it needs to put things together so rough edges can be smoothed? Why the hurry to have the EC do their bidding? Why should any other person or institution do anything that the EC is constitutionally mandated to do?

Folks, as if playing into the hands of the NPP, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) organized a forum for a debate “to address issues relating to the Voters' Register”. The NDC refused to participate in that debate, claiming that what the IEA was doing amounted to a usurpation of the EC’s role. In other words, what did the IEA seek to achieve through that debate? As would be expected, the Executive Director of the IEA (Mrs. Jean Mensa) condemned the NDC’s stance and was supported by the NPP’s ventriloquist in the media (Kweku Baako). None of my business.

Nonetheless, the debate went on between the NPP (represented by Prof. Mike Ocquaye) and a Political Science Lecturer at the University of Ghana (Dr. Ransford Gyampo). We know what each said. Prof. Ocquaye’s invitation to the international police organization (INTERPOL) to investigate the voters register (because its being bloated verges on criminality) came across as an utterance in desperation to be pooh-poohed.

Dr. Gyampo hit the nail hard to tell the NPP and its lackeys that all the noise they are making about the voters register is “baseless and hollow”.

In its own assessment of issues, the IEA issued a five-point resolution, the most important of which (to me) is quoted here:

“It was agreed that there are irregularities with the current Voters Register. All stakeholders must work towards a consensus position on addressing these irregularities. The two main schools of thought on how to resolve the problem of illegal entries in the Register are not mutually exclusive. This is because purging the Register will ultimately result in a new Register, while compiling a new Register will rely on some existing data from the old Register. What is critical is that the final output of this exercise must be a Voters Register with an acceptable margin of error”. (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2015/October-22nd/iea-calls-for-voters-register-with-acceptable-margin-of-error.php#sthash.WyfdQq0k.dpuf).

This aspect of the communique sums up everything coming from the IEA; but it is contentious. What does the IEA regard as an “acceptable margin of error”? Who/what determines that “margin of error” and who regards it as acceptable?

I see another ambivalence in the IEA’s stance: “It was agreed largely during the debate that the register in its current form was problematic but the Institute maintained the parties need to find a common ground… Purging the Register will ultimately result in a new Register, while compiling a new Register will rely on some existing data from the old Register".

What should be done in “purging” the register? A new exercise to re-register voters all over the country, which will lead to a new voters register to supplant the existing one? Or a renewal of the existing register in the periodic exercises that the EC has been carrying out over the years? And if compiling a new register “will rely on some existing data from the old Register”, which DATA particularly should be used? Who determines which DATA are appropriate for a new register or not?

Folks, do you see how the IEA is going where it shouldn’t? I have been wondering whether this IEA is serious at all beyond organizing the so-called Presidential Debate that produces nothing more than “rally ground talk” (Where is Justice Atuguba?).

As an institution primarily founded to deal with “economic” issues, what has been the IEA’s contribution so far? And why is it more fixated on “política” issues instead?

I think that the indecent haste with which the IEA has waded into the NPP’s campaign against the existing voters register needs serious attention. By so doing, the IEA isn’t adding value to itself; it is fast downgrading itself. I wonder if its “presidential Debate” for Election 2016 will even be honoured by those repudiating it at this juncture. Having turned its back to it, will the NDC and its Presidential Candidate participate in that event? I wonder!!

It is imperative for institutions such as the IEA to be careful how they take up responsibilities that have no direct benefit for our democracy, especially when their manouevres threaten the integrity of constitutional mandated institutions charged with specific functions. In this case, the IEA clearly over-stepped bounds and usurped the EC’s power over the electoral process. In the end, it comes across to me as irresponsible and irrelevant. It may not be respected that much if seen as doing the NPP’s bidding. Ghana’s democracy deserves better.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.