Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei, says the commission intends to increase the number of polling stations in the country from the over 26,000 to 29,000 because centres that are far from the voters could deter them from exercising their franchise.
According to her, although the creation of polling stations could be contentious sometimes, the commission’s intention for the exercise was made clear late last year, and that it was part of efforts to bring voters close to polling centres and end their frustrations emanating from having to travel long distances to vote.
In a speech read on her behalf by the Ashanti Regional Deputy Director of the EC, Lawrence Sarpong, the chairperson said the commission had also decided to reduce the threshold of voters at a polling station from 1,000 to 800.
“This will also help reduce the long queues at centres that have more than 800 voters on the voter list. It will also help in counting and declaration at the polling stations and constituencies,” she explained.
She announced this at a day’s media convention for undisputed election 2016 in Kumasi under the theme: “Towards Free, Fair and Undisputed Elections – The Role of the Media”.
It was organised by the Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) and sponsored by the US Embassy.
Mrs. Charlotte Osei continued that the commission would soon take steps to ensure that a cleaner register is put in place for this year’s elections.
The EC boss disclosed that this was in response to concerns about the voter register, which she said the commission had not glossed over.
“The commission has set 28th April – 4th May, 2016 for limited registration exercise to register first timers after which attention will be focused on the cleaning of the existing register. When the time comes, we expect all stakeholders to support the process,” she said.
Mrs. Osei stated that the commission acknowledged the outcome of an unfair electoral process, intimating that “Elsewhere, people have fought and died because of disputes in their electoral out-comes. Thank God no such violence has happened in our elections since the inception of the Fourth Republic.”
That notwithstanding, the EC chairperson noted that the commission was mindful of the public discourse mired in apprehension and gave the assurance that it was prepared to deliver the seventh successful election under the Fourth Republic.
“The Commission will continue to dialogue with political parties in an attempt to build consensus on all contentious issues that come up in the runup to the November elections,” she stated.
Free And Fair Elections
For an election to be described as free, it should entail two things; the people must be free from intimidation and violent attacks, while the environment should also be free for a person to be able to register as a voter to form a political party, to stand for election and attend political meetings and rallies, to campaign, to decide who to vote for, among others, Mrs Osei explained.
Reforms After 2012 Elections
“As a young democracy, our legal framework will continue to see changes of improving on the electoral system,” she noted and continued that it was not surprising that following the 2012 presidential election petition, numerous calls for reform in the electoral process were made.
“A committee comprising representatives of the commission, political parties and civil society organisations was constituted to study the proposals for reforms and to make recommendations to the EC for adoption and implementation.
“The reforms have resulted in the preparation of a new constitutional instrument (CI 91) which will regulate the registration of voters, if passed by parliament,” Mrs Charlotte Osei averred.
GJA President, Affail Monney, entreated journalists to eternalize the code of ethics of the profession in order to pass the test of the 2016 elections that are packed with apprehension, desperation and acrimony. “We don’t want to have the Georgia experience where the opposition party refused to accept the outcome of the election because the media was against it,” he indicated, while calling for a fair, balanced reportage. In his view, delays in releasing certified results of votes breed the situation where media personnel announce uncertified results ahead of time.
Chairman of the National Media Commission, Kwesi Gyan-Apenteng, called on news anchors to refrain from embellishing straight news reports since such development tends to dilute the content of the information.
He also challenged journalists to educate themselves on the electoral processes and the total context of elections to be able to report accurately as they exercise their gate-keeping role.