Full text of CODEO Pre-Election Environment Observation Report for July, 2012

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By GNA

8/3/2012 5:34:16 PM -

Accra, Aug.3, GNA – The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) is pleased to release its Observation Report on the pro-election environment for the month of July. This is the second in the series of CODEO's monthly reports based on weekly reports filed by CODEO's 50 pre-election Field Observers (FOs) WHO HAVE BEEN DEPLOYED TO 100 DISTRICTS IN OVER 100 Constituencies throughout the country.

CODEO Field Observers (OFs) report that political activities at the local levels generally grinded to a halt when news about the death of the President, Professor J.E.A. Mills on Tusday, July 24, 2012, hit the various parts of the country. During the month of July, however, CODEO observed that until the ruling by the Human Rights Court in Accra on Friday, July 27, 2012, political parties were gearing up for by-elections in Wulensi and Kwabre West Constituencies.

Political parties were also gearing up to select candidates for the Electoral Commission (EC)'s proposed 45 new constituencies which are yet to be created. During the period, CODEO observers noted that some newly-registered voters were yet to be issued with their laminated Voter ID cards, even as the EC carried out residual Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) in Akuse in the Eastern Region amidst challenges and protests.

CODEO further observed that the media continued to be a major platform for political parties to discuss key national issues. Campaigning activities by presidential and parliamentary aspirants were generally characterised by calm and peaceful atmosphere while political parties incorporated peace messages into their campaign activities.

There was close collaboration between key local level election stakeholders on activities intended to promote a peaceful and credible general elections. The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) carried out civic education for first-time voters in some constituencies observed, while CODEO noted attempts by some community leaders to unduly influence and interfere with the exercise of the constitutional right to vote.

Prior to the ruling on Friday, July 27, 2012 by the Human rights Court in Accra in favour of a suit jointly filed by three political parties namely, National democratic Congress (NDC), New Patriotic Party (NPP), and the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) which sought to restrain the EC from holding by-elections in Wulensi and Kwabre West constituencies with the old voter register, frantic preparations were being made by various political parties, including some of those which filed the court case, towards their participation in the elections.

The Progressive People's Party (PPP) which did not join the court action for instance embarked on vigorous campaign activities in the two constituencies. The EC, on its part, had continued with preparations to hold the by-elections.

Ahead of an approval by Parliament following the submission of the EC's request for the creation of 45 new constituencies, political parties and some individuals were seen making open and, sometime subtle, preparations towards the selection of parliamentary candidates for the new constituencies.

In the Asante Akim North Constituency in the Ashanti Region, for example, CODEO observed that some party activists of the NDC and NPP were actively and openly campaigning and lobbying for parliamentary candidatures to contest an expected new constituency.

Some people who could not get their BVR ID cards due to inadequate laminates during the nationwide exercise are yet to receive their cards. Even though the EC's district office in the Ajumako-Enyan-Essiam Constituency in the Central Region gave out some laminated Voter ID Cards in Kokoben, there appears to be no clear plan for distributing the outstanding BVR cards.

This was the case in the Upper Denkyira East and Upper Denkyira West Constituencies where the district EC is hoping to give out the cards as and when the owners show up at their office, or give them out during the voter register exhibition exercise.

Turnout at the residual biometric registration exercise at Akuse was relatively low. The exercise was fraught with tension and was initially disrupted in a few of the registration centres by some people protesting against the exercise. Some of these people were later arrested by the Police and security for the area was beefed up. At the end of the exercise, about 2,782 people registered.

The EC carried out a late registration exercise for potential voters in Akuse in the Eastern Region since it could not do so during the main registration exercise. The delay resulted from a pending court case in the area. The exercise, which was organised following the judgment of the Supreme Court that placed Akuse in the Upper Manya Krobo District of the Eastern Region, took place in six registration centres.

The CODEO FO suspects that turn-out was not impressive because some residents from Akuse might have registered in nearby registration centres during the main registration exercise as they did not want to get disenfranchised in the face of uncertainties brought about by the then impending court case.

CODEO observed that the media continued to be a major platform where representatives of political parties discussed key national issues. Generally, CODEO'S FOs reported that media discussions especially on radio centred on the creation of new constituencies by the EC, judgment debts, and the death of the President. Generally, CODEO has observed a reduction in the use of insulting language, hate speech and incitement on the airwaves.

CODEO further observed that campaign activities by presidential and parliamentary candidates of some political parties especially the NPP and the NDC were generally peaceful. The various candidates took the opportunity to canvass the electorate for their votes in the December polls. The NPP's flag bearer Nana Akufo-Addo continued with his campaign tours in the Brong Ahafo and Central Regions.

In the Eastern Region, the NDC's parliamentary candidate for Abuakwa North Constituency, Hon Victor Smith who is also the Eastern Regional Minister, launched his campaign at Akyem Tafo, CODEO's FOs indicated that the language used during these campaign activities was generally temperate. No violent incident was also reported by CODEO FOs.

Campaign activities however virtually came to a halt in many parts of the country following the death of the President. For example, CODEO FO for Lower Manya Constituency in the Eastern Region reports that at a rally organised by the NPP parliamentary aspirant at Agomenya on Tuesday, July 24, people started leaving the rally ground as soon as news reached them that the President had passed on. The rally was thus brought to an abrupt closure.

Political parties have been urging their supporters to be peace-minded and are infusing peace messages into their campaign and general political activities. Some of these activities that CODEO FOs noted included intra-party sporting events and keep-fit exercises, campaign rallies and inauguration activities, among others.

In the Juaboso Constituency in the Western Region, the NPP Constituency Chairperson at a football gala organised by its youth wing urged party supporters especially the youth to seek peace during the elections.

At a clean-up exercise by the NPP Women's Wing in Seikwa in the Tain Constituency in the Brong Ahafo Region, the NPP's parliamentary candidate urged supporters to desist from words that do not promote peace.

At an NCCE organised peace march in the Atiwa Constituency in the Eastern Region, the NPP's sitting MP and the NDC's parliamentary candidate for the constituency jointly led a walk through some principal streets in the area.

CODEO also noted close collaboration between the NCCE, the EC and other civic groups such as religious bodies, traditional authorities, and political parties on the electoral process and the role of the electorate in promoting credible and peaceful elections.

In the Ashanti Region for example, the Regional and Municipal directors of the NDDC met the Bekwai Traditional Council to discuss how to conduct the general elections peacefully in the municipality. Similarly collaborative programmes with the EC and NCCE were held in Ellembelle Constituency in the Western Region, Nkoranza North and Dormaa West Constituencies in the Brong Ahafo Region and Kwahu South in the Eastern Region.

The NCCE continued with civi education activities in various districts and constituencies on the electoral process. For example, the Commission educated first-time registered student voters in some second cycle institutions in the Keta Constituency in the Volta Region and Jaman South Constituency in the Brong Ahafo Region on their rights and responsibilities and on the electoral process particularly with regard to the importance of the voter ID card, the exhibition of the voters' register, and election offences.

CODEO's FOs in the Brng ahaf Region reported the conduct of some persons that has the potential of interfering with the constitutional right to vote. In the Nkoranza North Constituency, for example, the CODEO FO reported that the Chief of Busunya, at a press conference organised by the youth from the area, indicated that if his community does not see any development ahead of the general elections, he will advise his subjects not to vote and the spirits of the gods and rivers in the area would be invoked upon subjects who go ahead to vote.

As indicated in the previous report for May/June, CODEO continues to monitor progress on Police action on some violent incidents recorded during the BVR exercise. Information gathered from the Police sources on the state of investigations and prosecution of some of these cases reveal a slow process of bringing perpetrators to account for their actions. Since the June 2012 report, and after almost four months since the incidents occurred, the Police are yet to complete investigations and prepare for prosecution of suspects.

For example, in the West Mamprusi District in the Northern Region, the Police have not been able to get a statement from a key personality who is also the NDC's parliamentary candidate for the area in an incident that took place at Arigu. As a result, the Police have not taken further action on the matter.

In the Odododiodio Constituency in the Greater Accra Region, the Police are yet to complete the process of investigations in a violent incident involving Ms Ursula Owusu, the NPP's parliamentary candidate for Ablekuma South Constituency in the same Region.

CODEO is also monitoring Police action on other BVR-related cases such as the incident in Ahenbronomu, Tafo-Pankrono in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region allegedly involving some macho men who caused destruction to registration materials and assaulted EC officials, as well as the incident in a registration centre in Sabieh in the Tain Constituency in which the NPP's parliamentary candidate for the area was allegedly involved.

CODEO commends key stakeholders such as civil society, the media, traditional authorities, religious bodies, political parties, the NCCE and the EC for their various efforts at promoting peace and ensuring that the outcomes of the general elections are credible.

Political parties for ceasing all campaign activities in respect of the sudden death of the President, Professor John Evans Atta Mills. On this note, CODEO takes this opportunity to express its condolences to the family of the late President, the NDC party which he led until his death, and the entire nation.

CODEO recommends that the EC should take appropriate steps to publicly inform those who are yet to receive their voter ID cars on when and where to pick up their cards. The EC may do this by liaising with the Information Services Department to announce the availability of the cards for collection by the registrants at designated EC collection centres. CODEO further recommends to the EC that it should endeavour to release voter ID cards of all registered voters before the Exhibition of the provisional BVR register.

The general public and especially people in positions of power such as traditional leaders should desist from unduly intimidating, influencing, or discouraging the electorates from voting on polling day. Actions of such persons may constitute an electoral offence under Section 35 of the Representation of the People Law 1992 (PNDCL 284) as amended.

Communities can legitimately express their discontent with lack of development in their community and call on duty bearers to fulfil their promises, but should desist from issuing threats and resorting to other undemocratic behaviour.

Political parties and other stakeholders should intensify efforts at promoting peace among their supporters.

CODEO continues to follow up on election-related violence incidents that occurred during the BVR exercise. It is imperative that the Police dedicated the necessary resources to support a speedy investigation of election-related violent cases if they (the Police) seek to send the right signal to the public.

GNA

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