Guests, members of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen;
On behalf of the members of NPP UK, I would like to first welcome you all, and to especially thank you for taking the time to attend today’s International Press Conference, to highlight issues concerning Ghana’s voters register and calls for electoral reform.
We NPP UK, have called this Press Conference as part of our activities marking the 2nd Anniversary of what we call “Injustice Day” – 29 August, 2013 – the dark day in Ghana’s history when our Supreme Court passed judgement on the Election Petition brought before the Court by 3 leading members of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the then 2012 Presidential Candidate of NPP, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, his Running Mate, and Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, then National Party Chairman.
To many Ghanaians and independent observers, the infamous date, date, 29 August, has gone down in the annals of our history as the day the people of Ghana were denied justice; the day our Supreme Court - the highest court and ultimate custodian of the Constitution of Ghana - after an 8 month hearing of the historic petition, bent the arc of justice in the direction of injustice.
This day, 29 August, is imprinted in our long memories. It must be remembered by all who love our nation, all who want to see the deepening and flourishing of our nascent democracy, and all who want to see the Justice upheld in accordance with our Constitution, and in adherence to the principles of “Freedom and Justice”!
The 8-month long hearing, challenged the results of the 2012 elections. The hearing was on the matter of: 1. Over-voting; 2. Voting without biometric verification; 3. Absence of signature of presiding officer on pink sheets; 4. Duplicate serial numbers; and 5. Duplicate polling station codes, unknown polling stations, over and above the then 26,002 official polling stations.
The 9 impaneled member Supreme Court, on that day, in a split decision, ruled that the overall effect of the deliberations of the Judges was that the first respondent, the President, had been validly elected and the Petition was dismissed.
The NPP, as we all know, true to our credentials as the party that upholds democracy and the rule of law, showed exemplary leadership, in spite of public anger and disdain at the ruling, and duly accepted the decision, though we disagreed with the judgement of the Court.
The Supreme Court on that day, also made some recommendations to Ghana’s Electoral Commission on electoral reforms, to correct the rampant abuses and anomalies in the system, and restore the integrity of the voters register. Two years on, these have not been implemented.
For us in the NPP UK, it is our national duty to carry forth the fight to ensure we have a credible electoral system that will command the trust of our people, and by extension, their trust in the institutions that have been empowered under our constitution, to safeguard our democracy.
For us, and indeed for many Ghanaians, and stakeholders in our democratic system, therefore, it is imperative, vital and fundamental to the integrity of our democratic system that we have a valid, transparent voters register, that will largely guarantee free and fair elections - a voters register that the people of this nation can trust. This goes to the heart of our democracy.
Only a week ago, in Accra, the NPP presented its case for a new voters register to the Electoral Commission of Ghana, and also to the people of Ghana. We made it clear in that presentation that the voters register as it stands is “incurably flawed”, and cannot be relied on to for the forthcoming 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. There is incontrovertible evidence to suggest that the register as it stands is bloated for a variety of reasons:
Ghana’s population relative to registered voters
There was a huge disparity between the total number of registered voters, which stood at 13,628,817, following the last registration exercise, and the total gazetted by the EC which was 14,158,890! This difference of 530,073 - claimed to be made up of overseas voters - has not been fully accounted for, with only 705 accounted for since!
The then Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Afari-Djan, as well as no other than the current President, John Mahama, have both raised substantial doubts about the validity of the register, thus questioning its credibility, on the basis of sheer size and numbers of registered voters relative to our national population. The then EC Chairman raised doubt when he said that 13 million voters on the register in 2008 was statistically unacceptable by “world standards”- an admission that there are rules of thumb that will give off a sense of the accuracy of a voters register relative to a nation’s population.
He said at the time that - ”all of us as Ghanaians, if we think the figure is unrealistic, have a collective responsibility to try to clean the register”
The then Vice Presidential candidate of the NDC, John Mahama, that same year, in an interview, stated that with the current national population of 22 million, having almost 13 million people on the voters register is unheard of”
A sample of some African countries indicating % of voters on their register relative to the national population indicate that Kenya has 34.5%; Senegal 41.5%; Tanzania 42.5%; Nigeria 41.7%; and Ghana 56.2%!
We may indeed be outliers, but this anomaly, as supported by Dr Afari-Djan and President John Mahama, in a previous incarnation aside, warrants an investigation. There are several other pointers that should leave every objective observer completely baffled and aghast at what we have as our voters register today, as we prepare for yet another general election in 2016.
National Health Insurance Card
It is a matter of public record that people have used the NHIS card as a proof of identity to register as voters in Ghana and this too has contributed to us having a bloated register. In a recent Supreme Court ruling, it has been declared that the NHIS card cannot be used as a means of identifying persons as qualified voters in Ghana – ruling that “this is unconstitutional, void and of no effect”. It is clear that a broad section of Ghanaians used the NHIA card to register to vote in the 2012 elections. The Supreme Court has however declared all these registrations as void and of no effect. This means that the current voters register is compromised, tainted, and must be replaced given the sheer numbers of voters registered by the EC, only on the basis of their holding an NHIS card. This anomaly must be corrected to restore the integrity of the register.
Unusual increases in registration between 2008 and 2012
Furthermore, available data also shows unusual increases in the voters register in several constituencies between 2008 and 2012. In general, an increase in the voters register between two elections of a magnitude above 10-15% is deemed high, given population growth and migration trends. An increase of the voters register by 25% between two elections is abnormally high and there are also several instances of this across constituencies in Ghana. One cannot credibly explain for example how increases in the voters’ register of magnitudes exceeding 40% can take place. Again, these increases are indefensible. This statistical anomaly must be checked to remove any doubt as to the validity of the register as it stands.
Comparing voters register in other bordering countries with Ghana’s There is the case of the evidence supporting the fact that our register is hugely compromised with the register comprising persons who are citizens of neighbouring countries alone as presented by the NPP at our Press Conference in Accra last week. An investigation comparing the registers of Ghana and Togo, and covering only 10% of registered voters in Togo, has revealed a staggering 76,000+ of duplicate registrations! Potentially, projecting this figure across the entire register, and then factoring in such occurrences in other neighbouring states alone will deliver even far more significant an issue. It is the responsibility of all Ghanaians to ensure that all persons voting in Ghana have a right in law to vote in our elections. This is an urgent task the EC must address to restore the integrity of Ghana’s register.
Ladies and gentlemen, the evidence that has been provided is overwhelming. The case for a new register is therefore not negotiable. The current register is bloated. The current register is flawed. The current register is discredited.
It remains the duty of the Electoral Commission, to restore trust in our electoral system in accordance with their constitutional mandate, and to fully investigate these matters, correct the anomalies, implement a new register, and put the issue to rest in the minds of all Ghanaians as we approach election 2016.
We NPP UK therefore call on the Government of Ghana, the Electoral Commission, all political Parties, civil society, and all our international partners, to come together to and join the call for a new transparent and valid voters register for our elections in 2016.
We further call on our neighbouring countries, to work with Ghana to prosecute all offenders who engage in any acts that will compromise our voters register, or theirs for that matter.
We call for urgent action to implement a new register now, and for our stakeholders to come to the aid of Ghana once again and provide the resources we need to undertake this national exercise. It is our view that the new voters register should be in place by June 2016.
Further to the above, we members of NPP UK, in collaboration with NPP membership worldwide, hereby issue this petition soliciting the support of all stakeholders, our development partners, and the entire international community, in putting the necessary diplomatic and/or political and economic pressure/influence, on the newly appointed Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei, and the entire Electoral Commission of Ghana, to expeditiously undertake the following:
1. To take cognizance of the valid and peaceful calls by the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), other Political Parties, Civil Society in Ghana, and concerned citizens of Ghana, to scrap the current flawed and bloated voters register, and to begin the process of collating a new voters register NOW;
2. To learn lessons from the past, and seek to avoid unpredictable consequences in our otherwise peaceful country, by refereeing a credible and peaceful election in 2016 through the introduction of electoral reforms as recommended by the Supreme Court; and as suggested by the Inter-Party Advisory Committee [IPAC];
3. Where the EC has any resource constraints, to immediately and proactively approach the international community for the necessary assistance to help with covering the resourcing and cost of funding the new voter registration exercise. Funding cost should never be an excuse to establishing a trusty and credible electoral system that would strengthen our mushrooming democracy;
4. Demonstrate the independence of the Ghana Electoral Commission from government influence, by placing credibility at the heart of their operations, and to ignore the solitary and strident calls and opposition by the ruling party, the NDC, to the calls for a new voters register; and
5. To mark a new era of respect and cooperation between the EC, the Political Parties, and other stakeholders, as occasioned by the appointment of a new EC Commissioner, Mrs Charlotte Osei.
The reasons presented and the case made, means that there remains a window of opportunity for the new EC Chairman to act NOW, and to replace the register NOW. This will ensure that we restore the validity of the register, ensure trust in our electoral system and also use this unique opportunity to improve and to follow best practice, as has been recently implemented in the new voters register used for the Nigerian elections.
Members of the Press, invited Guests, ladies and gentlemen; the NPP has always led the calls for electoral reform in Ghana, and we will do so again. We want to see our democracy mature. We want to see our systems improved. The EC has in times past, adhered to calls for reform, calls for a new register, and calls to maintain the integrity of our elections process. It must again listen to the voice of the people.
This is a new era for the Electoral Commission following the recent appointment of the new EC Chairman Mrs Charlotte Osei. The Commission under her leadership, has a new mandate, and must use this to bury the ghosts of the past, and begin a new chapter. We will all collaborate in this national effort, and help to build our democracy on a strong and enduring footing. We therefore call on the new EC to use this new mandate, and lead the implementation of a new voters’ register, without fear or favour, to underline her credential for justice and fair play in Ghana’s electoral system. The people of Ghana and indeed our partners worldwide are watching.
Let us act with resolve NOW.
Michael Ansah Chairman, For and on behalf of NPP UK