Even with registration
4/16/2012 12:32:06 PM -
At what point in our history will the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) stop accusing each other of criminal acts involving our electoral system?
Do the two parties really seek state power to use it for the good of all the people, or to improve the socio-economic circumstances of a few of their members?
Why has the current biometric registration, a simple, civilized exercise, intended to eradicate or drastically reduce electoral malpractices, been turned into something else by the two parties?
Do not ask me for proof. It is the spokespersons or members of the two parties who have catalogued, and continue to catalogue, alleged atrocities perpetuated by both parties.
Even long before the exercise began, there were rumours that people could contract cancer by coming into contact with the registration machines.
It was said that Muslim women who wore the 'mayafi' or veil would have to leave the veils at home before going to the registration centre.
There were reported stories of people being told that if they had the current voting ID card, then there was no need to do the biometric registration. This was a clear contradiction of the information put out by the Electoral Commission that the current voter's ID card would no longer be valid.
There were rumours of plans by the NDC and the NPP to bus persons to register in certain areas, so as to boost the electoral fortunes of the parties, or of certain parliamentary candidates.
Even before the exercise started, there were rumours of people being beaten up or intimidated in various ways, because of their perceived affiliation to the NPP or NDC.
In all these reports or rumours, it was the NPP and the NDC accusing each other, with each party claiming to be the innocent victim of the other's acts of criminality.
Since the exercise began, there have been more reports of alleged criminal behaviour involving the two parties, if we are to believe the accusations and counter-accusations coming from the two parties.
As part of the arrangements for the exercise, the political parties registered with the Electoral Commission are to be represented at the registration centres.
The role of these party representatives is to help ensure a hitch-free exercise. For example, they are to help ensure those foreigners, minors, and those who had nothing to do with an electoral area by way of residence or origin, did not register.
The Electoral Commission has provided challenge forms for such an exercise in identification. Unfortunately, it would appear that the challenge forms might not be enough in a particular centre, or, even more seriously, the party representatives have chosen to ignore the form, and rather resorted to direct physical confrontation.
At least, there is one authenticated report of a little boy being shot at one of those registration centres. What was the gunman doing with a gun at a registration centre?
Was he a properly authorised security personnel? Was the gun properly registered? What has happened to the little boy? And what happened to that trigger-happy individual who reportedly went to the police station to report himself? Has he been formally arrested and charged?
It is reported that Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti Region, which also happens to be the stronghold of the NPP, has topped the atrocity list. Somehow, there have been no reports of criminal disruption of the registration exercise in the Volta Region. The Brong Ahafo Region and the Greater Accra Region have also had, and continue to have, their fair share of the registration violence.
There have been several reports of so-called 'macho' men who have developed their bodies at the expense of their brains, going about on licensed and unlicensed motorbikes and in four-wheeled vehicles, terrorising both the registration officials and those waiting in queues to register.
Authenticated reports have come of registration officials being unlawfully assaulted. In a number of cases, registration equipment and materials have been destroyed.
Again and again, reports have been received of members of the NPP and the NDC fighting and injuring one another.
It is obvious that it is not only the two parties, the NPP and the NDC, that hunger for power, but that certain individual parliamentary candidates have become so desperate that they will go to any length, including shedding blood, in order to achieve their aim.
Some of these candidates may be first-timers, or those who had unsuccessfully made previous bids to go to Parliament. Some of them will go to any length to disable other parties or their opponents, in order to have power.
After the last registration officials have packed their equipment to signal the official end of the exercise, the NPP and the NDC will tell us how the other party fomented all the atrocities and other criminal acts of allowing registration by foreigners and minors, bussing, and physically preventing registration on grounds of strange names being mentioned.
Registration is crucial, because, without it, no credible elections can be held. It is, therefore, to be expected that individuals and political parties should take keen interest in it.
However, what we have witnessed, continue to witness, and will witness until the exercise is over, makes some of us shiver at the thought of what could happen on Election Day. How safe will we be on Election Day?
The law exists, yes. The Ghana Police keeps assuring us of total protection, yes. Unfortunately, the record shows the total incapacitation of our Police Service when it comes to infractions of the law by members or supporters of whatever party may be in power at any one moment.
The police can confidently arrest a member of the party in opposition without shaking in their boots. On the other hand, the police will not move against an erring member of the party in power.
Even where the police have the nerve to arrest such a member, 'order from above' immediately frees the suspect. Again, the police cannot be everywhere at once. They can only do fire-fighting. In other words, they will go to a place after the damage has been done.
In any case, the Police Service itself has come under attack, rightly or wrongly, in the current registration exercise. They have been accused of indifference, partiality, interference, etc. Resignations of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Paul Tawiah Quaye, and other officers have been called for by both parties.
The Police Service itself has humiliated one of their own, Superintendent Kwasi Ofori of the Tafo-Pankrono Command in Kumasi, by publicly rebuking him over his reported placing of a bounty on the head of a suspected registration culprit.
Can we have free, fair, and peaceful elections this year?