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14.11.2008 Feature Article

EC alone can't do it

EC alone can't do it

Political parties should note that the success or failure of this year's presidential and parliamentary elections does not depend upon the Electoral Commission (EC), the media and the security agencies alone. (See the front page report of the Daily Graphic of Saturday, November 1, 2008).

Of course, it has to be admitted that the role of the EC will be very crucial in this year's election for very obvious reasons.

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission, and other members of the Commission, cannot contest elections unless they resign. However, like other Ghanaians, they are free to vote for
particular political parties or candidates.

Still, like a referee handling a game, a transparent display of unquestioned neutrality is essential. The latest suspicion, whether founded or baseless, that they are working on their own or in concert with the government to rig the elections could spark trouble.

We certainly do not want the Zimbabwe situation in which their Electoral Commission could not announce the true results because President Robert Mugabe had been clearly defeated.

We do not also want the kind of power sharing where the ruling party has been comprehensively defeated and yet does not want to get out of power. Moral question of neutrality apart, the EC must also bring to the elections as much technical perfection as is possible in a human endeavour.

First, we need a credible voters' register.

Without it, the elections will be flawed.

Second, all the required election equipment and materials must be ready and available on time at the various polling stations.

There should be no shortage of ballot papers, ballot boxes, indelible ink (genuine indelible ink that will not rub oft) challenge forms, vehicles to transport personnel, materials and equipment.

Third, the moral calibre and technical efficiency of the electoral officers whom the EC would appoint should also concern us.

No matter how well prepared the EC may be, it can be let down by ill-trained and ill-prepared persons who might compromise their neutrality and integrity and, in turn, compromise the legitimacy of the elections.

The EC alone cannot guarantee free, fair, transparent and credible elections. The media also has a big role to play.

There should be no problem with such national media as the Daily Graphic, the Ghanaian Times, The Mirror, The Spectator, Radio Ghana and GBC-TV when it comes to fairness and equitable coverage even though Mr John Mahama, the running mate of Professor John Atta Mills, recently accused the national media of not being level in their coverage of the political parties.

Mr Maharna expressed the view that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was getting more coverage than the other parties. The thing is that if there is any perceived unfairness, the national media can be compelled by judicial directives to ensure fair coverage.

The problem, however, lies with the private or independent media, which openly or secretly supports one political party or the other.

The blatant unfairness of some of them, the deliberate falsehood they peddle, the unethical editorialising and slanting in news presentation and their capacity for mischief cannot guarantee free, fair and credible elections.

Their political biases and. mercenary motives have brought some of these media hatred, ridicule and contempt if there should be pre- and post-election trouble, the trash some of them churn out could be a contributory cause.

Who can question the important role which our security agencies, notably the police, can play in ensuring peace in the whole country?
The police must be advised to shelf their personal or institutional biases as they carry out their duties before, during and after the elections.

Already, the Convention People's Party (CPP) has accused the police of unfair treatment of the wife of its flag bearer, Mrs Yvonne Nduom, by disrupting her campaign in the Volta Region.

True or false, the police should not be seen to give special, preferential treatment to any of the candidates, their vice presidential aspirants, their wives or followers.

Professor John Atta Mills may have been Vice President once, Nana Akufo Addo and Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom may have been ministers of state once, and Dr Edward Mahama may have vied for the presidency more than once; they are all currently private citizens and should be treated equally.

If the police have to make an arrest and prosecute any electoral offender, they should do so regardless of whether the accused belongs to the ruling party or to another party.

0thergroups whose impartiality and fairness are needed are our chiefs, our lawyers and our Judiciary. Chiefs should stop openly pronouncing support for one candidate in preference to another.

They should stop telling their people whom to vote for. And they should stop issuing banning orders that could prevent one candidate or another from campaigning in a particular chiefdom.

The respective roles of the Bench and the Bar can do good or cause harm. We should expect the possibility of electoral challenges that could end up in the law courts.

Such electoral challenges should be as expeditiously dealt with as possible. What is the use of a court victory to a plaintiff when the case is decided four or more years after the life of that Parliament has come to an end?

Ultimately, however, it is not even the EC, not the police, not the chiefs and not the Bench and the Bar that can help guarantee the holding of free, fair and credible elections. It is the political parties.

Party leaders and spokespersons should stop the verbal violence (openly insulting, innuendoes, accusations and counter- accusations, deliberate falsehoods) that translates into physical violence among the rank and file.

The leaders should teach their easily excitable followers that no part of Ghana is "a no-go area" for an individual candidate or party, whether at the national, regional, district, town or village, constituency or even at the polling station level.

The leaders should not seize a photo opportunity to eat and drink together, shake hands, exchange pleasantries and smile while, in secret, they encourage violent action among their followers.

All the precautions and prayers will come to nothing unless we have honest, sincere, credible and patriotic party leaders, who think more of their country than of themselves or their party.

MyjoyOnline, © 2008

This author has authored 338 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: myjoyonline

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