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11.04.2008 Politics

We need local monitors - Afari-Gyan

By Daily Graphic
We need local monitors - Afari-Gyan
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The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Mari-Gyan, has called for more domestic election observers to monitor the country's general elections.

He stated that domestic election observa¬tion had more advantages than international observation, in that domestic observation was less costly, as "more observers can be deployed for the same amount of money".

Besides, he said, domestic observation was suited for long-term observation of the electoral process, and that also domes¬tic observers had more intimate knowl¬edge of the local situation.

Dr Afari-Gyan was launching a book¬let, Framework for Domestic Election Observation, in Accra yesterday.

The booklet, written by the EC, with support from the Friedrich Ebert¬Stiftung (FES), is intended to assist domestic observation groups to conduct their work in a professional manner.

It defines election observation and election monitoring and gives an insight into what to observe, how the observer is required to gather and interpret facts, report writing and the requirements for accreditation.

Dr Afari-Gyan said as Ghana was growing in its demo¬cratic march, foreign observers had shifted their attention from the country to troubled spots on the continent.

Therefore, there was the need to train local election observers to be able to observe the elections professionally, he said.

He said election observers were supposed to gather facts, not opinions or allegations, and interpret the facts for the purpose of making informed judgements about elec¬tions.

He said the judgements should be based on whether or not, on the whole, the election went well, noting that mak¬ing such judgements "is not always easy".

"In all likelihood, an observer group will notice irregu¬larities of one kind or another in relation to an election. The group must then judiciously assess the ways in which the irregularities may have affected the eventual outcome of the election," he said.

Dr Afari-Gyan said the booklet was written in simple language for easy reading and that it was meant to assist domestic observers to conduct their observation profession¬ally and compete favourably with international observers.

"If the EC is expected to carry out its activities in a pro¬fessional manner, then it stands to reason that the observa¬tion of those activities must also be done in a professional manner," he stressed.

Dr Afari-Gyan charged the government, political par¬ties, the security agencies, the media, the electorate and election observers to collaborate, with the EC towards achieving free, fair and credible elections in December this year.

He reiterated the commitment of the commission to carry out its activities in a transparent manner and apply the electoral laws, rules and regulations "fairly and uni¬formly, without favour to a party or a candidate".
While tasking the government to provide the needed resources for elections and refrain from abusing its incum¬bency, the EC Chairman also asked political parties to carry out clean campaigns devoid of violence and intimidation.

He urged the electorate to register and vote once and not prevent anyone from voting and challenged the media to report political events accurately.

"The security agencies must adopt a stance of zero tol¬erance for election-related violence, irrespective of its source," Dr Afari-Gyan stated.

The Resident Director of the FES, Ms Kathrin Meissner, said Ghana had grown as a democracy and that interna¬tional observers might shift. their focus to the disputed areas on the continent.

She said the stakes were high for this year's elections and indicated that to ensure that the democratic process was respected, "it is important that thc elections are observed".

She said election observation was crucial to promoting peaceful elections, hence the commitment of her outfit to the introduction of the booklet.

The Chairman of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mr Larry Birni, who chaired the func¬tion, urged domestic election observers to read the booklet to be able to perform their task in a more efficient and cred¬ible manner.

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