Political parties contesting this year's general elections are urging three institutions — the Electoral Commission (EC), the media and the security agencies — to help create an atmosphere for free and fair elections in December by demonstrating fairness to all.
While committing themselves to ensuring peace wherever they found themselves on the political platform, they said the role of the three institutions was crucial and therefore urged them to eschew partiality and instead demonstrate absolute neutrality.
The parties, represented by either their presidential candidates or running mates, made the call at the Editors Forum in Accra, which was meant to provide a common platform for all the leaders of the parties to commit themselves to peace before, during and after the general elections.
In turns, each of them demonstrated their commitment to peace, but emphasised that it was also necessary for the youth, as well as the government, to ensure that they fully backed the democratic process by tolerating divergent views from all quarters.
Concerning their placement on the ballot paper, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, NPP Presidential Hopeful, who was asked to speak first, said his party, since its establishment, had demonstrated its love for peace and would continue to work towards that at all times.
He said his party's commitment to peace did not begin this year but in 1992, when, after losing the general election, which he described as largely flawed, the party chose to write a book, “The Stolen Verdict”, which he authored, as a way of expressing the party's resolve to maintaining peace in the country instead of resorting to violence.
Nana Akufo-Addo then turned his attention to the EC and entreated the commission to act with dispatch in responding to complaints from the political parties to maintain its integrity and credibility among voters.
He urged all media houses to show good judgement when reporting issues that may lead to violence and consequently appealed to the youth not to allow themselves to be used by any political party for any violent activity.
Mr John Mahama of the NDC said the forum was not organised for what he described as a superficial show but for people to frankly indicate and demonstrate their commitment to peace.
He said Ghana was at a critical stage of its existence and said, “We have successfully held four general elections in this country and we cannot afford to fail this fifth time to maintain the goodwill and international respect we have earned as a country”.
He, however, noted that peace could not come when there was a lot of hot air being blown into the system and called on all to truly demonstrate their commitment to peace through their actions and statements.
He underlined the role of the Electoral Commission as crucial, saying “the EC has a duty to organise elections in a manner that will not create room for any party to complain about its conduct.
Mr Mahama cited the incidents that characterised the limited registration of new voters, where minors were allegedly registered but the electoral officers and agents refused, for whatever reasons, to turn those minors away and noted that unless the polling assistants and the agents lived up to their responsibilities, there would be avenues for complaints that will not augur well for the democratic process and the peace the nation badly yearned for.
The Presidential candidate of the CPP, Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, said the “CPP will continue to engage in politics of ideas and offer our brand of government of inclusion using people; I am offering a soft heart to create a just and caring society and a leadership that will work with great sense of urgency to implement solutions so that our people can enjoy the benefits early”.
While others called on the EC to be steadfast and fair to all, he said the CPP would not do or say anything that would undermine the credibility of the EC because “if the commission loses its credibility, so will the credibility of the elections be lost; if we have anything important to say to them, we will say it to them directly and also during the Inter-party Advisory Committee meetings”.
“We all must acknowledge the fact that we have problems,” he said and noted that “it is important to face the fact that there are differences between the postures of the political parties on the matter of peace; there are differences between the Presidential candidates; there are differences in our backgrounds outside politics and in government”.
He mentioned the role of the media in ensuring peace and brought to the fore some of the reckless attributions and twists given to speeches made on the political platform.
He claimed that he had been a victim of such attributions and twists and indicated that that was not good for the peace of the nation.
The presidential candidate for DFP, Mr Ansah-Antwi, said political parties should demonstrate their unflinching commitment to the election process by signing a pact to abide by the result of the election as the first step to consolidating the gains made since the inception of multi-party democracy in 1993.
“It is only then that we can do away with elements whose unbridled quest for political power, no matter the cost to the general welfare of the people, would be kept in check,” he asserted.
He said the media's role had become more crucial than ever since democracy could not survive if the media, being the fourth estate of the realm, became aloof when openness and free expressions of thought were suppressed.
“The media cannot overlook the abuses of the liberties of the individual and the freedoms therein, which are vital for the growth and development of society,” he emphasised and affirmed his commitment to peace, noting that, “democracy thrives on openness and it is the media which can ensure this by exposing the failings of official holders and guiding them to their responsibilities”.
The RDP presidential candidate, Mr Kwabena Adjei, said it behoved the EC to give the election procedure the needed attention it deserved by not giving any preferential treatment to any political party.
“We are all calling for peace but none is calling for justice,” he stated, adding that the peace being called for was not just for the purposes of the elections but also period after them.
The function was chaired by His Eminence Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson, the Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, who expressed the hope that the symposium had created a symphony for peace in the country.
He urged all the candidates to ensure that they backed their words and pledges with deeds to make Ghana a country free of violence.
Story by Charles Benoni Okine