Since the inception of the 4th Republic both the NDC and NPP have “narrowly” managed to ensure a stable political environment, allowed the growth of the mass media and perhaps smooth transition of power from one political camp to the other (at least we need to give them some credit for that), and most importantly how the two parties including the Electoral Commission have worked to improve upon our electoral process.
I am sure you will agree with me that, free, fair and peaceful elections is not hinged on just one person or political party or EC alone working to ensure peace but on a group of individuals and all the stake-holding mass with one goal of working to ensure a peaceful process before, during and after the elections.
It will take the collective effort and activity of an evil minority group or individual to mess up the “fine” process because of their ulterior and selfish motives. Post-election conflicts are more prevalent and deadly than pre-election violence which are sometimes curtailed or reduced to the barest minimum. But as it appears in the last couple of years pre-election conflicts and skirmishes are becoming the order of the day- and I am worried. Very worried and I will tell you why.
We shouldn’t be oblivious of the fact that the current composition of the Electoral Commission has credibility deficit and it will be crucial for the EC Chair, Jean Mensah and her deputies to purge themselves of any tag which suggest that they are becoming stooges of the current administration and both are colluding to the advantage of the NPP- and the position has been entrenched in the minds of many Ghanaians(especially NDC fanatics) because of the circumstances under which the commissioners were appointed into office.
We heard loud noises of protestation from the NDC camp. Since then NDC and its cohorts have made all efforts to discredit the commissioners; from boycotting the first IPAC meeting citing late invitation plus accusing them of allegedly bloating the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency electoral roll weeks before the now known historic by-election(We all know the aftermath of the by-election).
Now the latest in the series of the seemingly deep-seated acrimony between the two is the rumpus surrounding the compilation of a new voters register ahead of the 2020 elections. The EC, on the other hand, hasn’t been tactical in handling affairs so far. Both the EC and the NDC have legitimate reasons to do what they are doing but that is not the way to go.
The constitution has clothed the EC to unilaterally take certain decisions in relation to elections (read article 45) but there has been a tradition where the EC through IPAC consult with the political parties to take a firm stance on an issue. Afari Gyan did it so why can’t Madam Jean Mensah and her deputies emulate Dr. Afari Gyan? The EC is under the impression that the NDC is seeking to tarnish its image and so perhaps, they have resolved to be combative instead of being a mediator or a credible arbiter.
Monitoring the EC’s response to the NDC on issues that have occurred in the past, I see a certain posture and language pattern (a bit confrontational) that does not inspire confidence. For the EC to suggest that the NDC can “go to hell” and that they have the powers to do whatever they want to do is a recipe for disaster in the run-up to the 2020 election. I dare say it was a reckless way of communicating such a major decision to the parties and the communication in itself was quite fitful.
Compilation of an electoral roll is a critical process, so it will be prudent for the EC to go back to IPAC and properly communicate the decision to compile a new register to the parties –build a consensus on how to fashion out a proper regulation to govern the intended registration. And also massage the ego of the parties (especially the NDC for peace to prevail). But if the EC goes ahead to maintain its position, then it will firm people’s perception that there is an election-rigging motive and also perhaps external factors influencing the EC’s decision.
With the stakes high in 2020, the EC must refrain from activities and body language which has the tendencies to question its credibility to conduct a free and fair election. Former EC boss Madam Charlotte Osei at a point refused to listen to the voice of reason and became quite intransigent because she also took a certain posture against the NPP at the time. I will prevail on Madam Jean Mensah and Dr. Bossman Asare to learn from their predecessors and be tactical in handling the NDC.
The time has come for the EC to illuminate themselves from all the negative tags which seek to undermine the integrity of the institution. They must work to defuse the tension and mistrust. The confusion between the two paints a very horrid picture of our democracy. I see danger ahead should the EC fail to handle matters differently going forward.
And before I go, I think the time has come for Journalists to be participants of IPAC meetings. Their involvement will cure the varied narrations after an IPAC meeting. NPP and NDC sit in the same meeting but when they come out journalists are told of different things. Madam Jean Mensah must make this happen to help build our DEMOCRACY.
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