IEA calls review of EC's 'strong room' structure
The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Ghana, has urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to abolish its ‘strong room’ system, where representatives of the contesting political parties meet to verify election results.
Dr. Ransford Gyampo, a Research Fellow of the Governance Unit of the IEA, as part of the IEA’s Electoral Reform Project, said the idea of a ‘strong room’ with very huge security presence conjured negative and derogatory images that undermined transparency and electoral peace.
He said, some people perceived the ‘strong room’ as a place where election results from the regions were cooked or manipulated in favour of a political party and such perception undermined the credibility of the Election Management Body.
Over the years, the EC has designated a section in its headquarters as the “strong room” for the collation of votes.
It also serves as the operations room of the EC where provisional results are collated and certified to indicate who has won an election.
It is in the ‘strong room’ that representatives of the various political parties receive confirmation of results from their agents in the various voting centers before appending their signatures.
However, Dr. Gyampo argued that democracy and perception of opaqueness could not be bedfellows.
Therefore, it was in EC’s own interest to abolish its “strong room” to shield itself from unnecessary public attacks and to ensure increased transparency in the vote collation and authentication process.
“In place of a “strong room”, the IEA is calling for the establishment of a National Collation Centre, which would be open and accessible to as many members of the political parties, the media, Civil Society Organizations and Election Observers as possible, but under controlled security in order to enhance the transparency of the national collation exercise,” he said.
He said, a bigger venue that could accommodate about 500 people was what was being recommended and it should be possible for the work and activities being undertaken at the proposed National Collation Centre to be viewed live on the national television by Ghanaians.
According to Dr. Gyampo, the IEA believed that the conception of a ‘strong room’ with its rather derogatory connotation was completely out of place in the discourse on transparent elections.
“The National Collation Centre will not in any way compromise the autonomy and independence of the Electoral Commission, but it will rather boost its image as a more credible and transparent body as well as reduce the high perception of, and sometimes, incidence of electoral fraud that have characterised elections in Ghana and it is imperative that the EC begins discussions on all proposals for electoral reform now, “he said.