Voter Register Exhibition exercise has been undertaken since 1992 and the challenges being experienced today have always been experienced. Every time there is an exhibition, names get missing in a manner that portrays the Electoral Commission as staffed with people who are virtually non-receptive to learning. This is the truth in plain language.
Every Election Day, there will be a late start of polls somewhere. Every Election Day, there will be a shortage of polling materials and machine malfunction somewhere. Every exhibition process is characterised by missing names. Why? Don’t we learn? Can’t we improve upon what we do? Must we always explain the challenges instead of dealing with them?
Is it that the Commission has an incompetent tradition that shapes the conduct and performance of its staff and appointees? I ask this because some of the challenges of the Commission, including that of voter register exhibition, have been there from the days of Justice Josiah Ofori Boateng, the first chair of Ghana’s Election Management Body.
To my mind, a Commission that allows such repetitive challenges to saddle its work does a great disservice to its mandate and perpetuate the oppositional mistrust that greets its activities all the time.
The Commission must aim at achieving a level of maturity and professionalism, where these repetitive challenges would be reduced to the barest minimum.
My checks with some officials at the Commission show that apart from the current plague of relational incompetence of the EC in dealing with its stakeholders, especially, the opposition, the limited time frame within which to conduct the upcoming elections, and some level of incompetence or sabotage by some EC staff, have caused the embarrassment.
The Commission is very much aware of these and must forcefully explain to Ghanaians, as no one can understand and explain the issues better than they themselves. For now, their explanations have been economical, in my view.
The Commission must develop a relational competence in its dealing with political parties and must ring-fence itself from the partisan support of political parties in power. They have what it takes to defend themselves and hence must openly reject the partisan support of every ruling party.
Indeed, the party in government must also lift the bar of partisan politics a little, by allowing the EC to fight its own battles and critiquing the Commission when necessary.
For, it cannot be true that the EC is infallible to warrant praise-singing and support at all times. It must be added that once the ruling party continue to serve as the mouthpiece of the Commission, it will naturally be difficult for the opposition to trust the Commission.
In dealing with the opposition, the idea of relational competence will dictate that it may not always about be helpful for the Commission to only be interested in asserting its mandate.
A complex balance and synthesis must be found between mandate assertion, and consensual-conciliatory way of working with groups, without which, there will be no mandate to assert.
Sometimes, just a phone call to influential people in the opposition, to explain challenges and to show willingness to work together to address them, will douse tension and reduce mistrust.
But those who have problems with the EC now should also be measured in their outbursts and threats. This is because the history of the Fourth Republic show that their tone and language about the EC, will change when they win power, and suddenly, all the challenges of the EC identified by them, will vanish after the political kingdom has been given them.
In assuring the public that no registered voter who has an ID Card will be disenfranchised, the Commission must also work through its Eminent Advisory Body, to iron out its differences with the political parties, particularly, the opposition. The Commission must do this for its own institutional peace, as it conducts the remaining processes towards the upcoming elections.
Those hired staff of the Commission whose incompetence and, or sabotage brought this embarrassment, must be brought to book by the EC. Machines won’t work to perfection when there is sabotage, or not too qualified people operate them.
As for the timing, it is now too late. The EC must rush the processes and we must brace ourselves for the implications of such rush. That’s why the contrary view for a new voter register in the immediate period leading to our major election of 2020, shouldn’t have been brushed aside an initio.