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13.11.2007 Politics

Financing domestic election observers

By Daily Express-Nii Kwaku Osabutey ANNY

Afari-Gyan says Electoral Commission is unable to undertake that exercise

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan says the Commission is in no position to financially support domestic election observers willing to assist in monitoring next year's presidential and parliamentary elections.

Addressing participants at a day's workshop on how to improve public confidence in the 2008 through domestic election observation, Dr. Afari-Gyan said such a task would be too dangerous to the electoral future of this country.

“This would certainly amount to conflict of interest,” he told the participants most of whom are from civil society groups. “I think we should be careful.”

He said the commission which relies on budgetary support from the central government would however be in a position to assist in the area of running training programmes for the groups willing to assist in the exercise.

The EC Chairman said the training of personnel from interested observer groups is not an obligation that the commission should undertake but they've always found it necessary to do that as part of strengthening the electoral process.

He said unlike civil society organisations who benefit from donor funding for their activities, the commission is unable to source such funding in its personal capacity.

Dr. Afari Gyan therefore urged all groups interested in observing the elections to put their resources together to help them undertake the exercise effectively.

John Larvie, a Senior Programmes Officer at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) supported the idea of a merger of the activities of all the observer groups as proposed by the EC chairman.

According to him, such collaboration would even enhance the final outcome of the electoral process.

“Several reports from different organisations give conflicting reports about the final outcome of election results and this does not help the process,” he told the dailyEXPRESS in an interview after the session.

Kwesi Jonah of the Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) however thinks that such a merger would not be feasible. He argues that all the organisations are chasing the same donor funds and would therefore not be willing to surrender their autonomy to an entirely new structure.

On the criteria for the recruitment of observers, the participants agreed that a thorough screening ought to be done in order to eliminate those with strong political leanings.

Dr. Afari-Gyan said “accreditation confers official recognition and gives the observer access to the polling station.”

Prof. Miranda Greenstreet of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) council was the chair for the programme. She said domestic observation in elections is very important in the periods before, during and after the elections.

She noted that, if well undertaken it will bring a lot of public confidence to the county's electoral process. They know the local terrain better and are able to make good or bad judgement depending upon the situation at the time.

Prof. Greenstreet said domestic observers should not allow personal sympathy to cloud their judgement during the exercise of their duties.

“This has the potential of destroying the outcome of the electoral process and the entire results, because it makes other parties not accept the process.”