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15.11.2008 Elections

Don't declare results, Bishops urge parties

A pastoral communiqué issued yesterday by Ghana's Catholic Bishops has cautioned political parties engaged in the December general election against announcing the election results ahead of the Electoral Commission (EC).

It said it was only the EC that had the mandate to announce the results of the elections.

"We, therefore, ask all political parties; indeed, everyone, to refrain from announcing any results before they are declared by the EC," it "entreated Ghanaians.”

The communiqué was issued at the end of the annual plenary assembly of the Catholics Bishops Conference held at Goaso in the Brong Ahafo Region.

It said for the attainment of peace before, during and after the elections, the role of the EC was supremely important, as it was the only body constitutionally mandated to organise and oversee elections.

It commended the EC for all the measures it had taken so far to ensure peaceful, free, fair, transparent and credible elections.

The communiqué expressed concern over some pronouncements and actions by highly placed Ghanaians which did not promote peace but rather created fear, rancour, mistrust, bitterness and resentment.

"The spate of recent political violence in parts of the country - Sankore, Suhum, Berekum, Bekwai and Gushiegu, to mention but a few leaves much to be desired," it noted.

It reminded Ghanaians that in every election there was bound to be only one winner and, therefore, exhorted winners to exercise restraint in celebrating their victory.

The communiqué urged victors to commit themselves to the common good and not the good of their party only and to take concrete steps to dispel the mentality of winner takes all.

It also urged losers to be gracious in accepting the outcome of the elections and, trusting in the country's growing democratic culture, collaborate with the winning party for the good of all Ghanaians.

It also urged media practitioners, both state and private, to aim at being fair, honest, objective and circumspect in their coverage and reportage.

"They should not assume that only their views represent the whole truth. Indeed, we advise all Ghanaians not to allow themselves to be misled by just any publication but to seek to know the truth and proclaim nothing but the truth," it admonished.

The communiqué advised media practitioners to be careful in reporting news items that could heighten tension among Ghanaians, stressing that what had happened in recent times in other countries - intolerance, violence, deceit and other such negativities - should not be allowed to happen in Ghana.

It also appealed to political parties to avoid the temptation of making promises that they knew they could not fulfill, since that amounted to deceit of the people of Ghana.

"We urge them to avoid expressions that threaten revenge and vendetta. It is in the interest of peace that we should adopt an attitude of forgiveness for the wrongs done us," it said, and reminded them of the admonition in Matthew 6:15, "But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions."

It called on party leaders, parliamentary and presidential candidates to conduct themselves honorably and to - respect their opponents, both in their utterances and actions.

It also urged the political parties not to deploy so-called 'macho men' to intimidate voters in the polling areas and other places or bribe voters to vote for them.

The communiqué further urged the police and members of other security agencies who would be responsible for maintaining peace and order during the elections to conduct themselves professionally, remain absolutely neutral and take the appropriate action against all trouble makers.

It reminded Ghanaians of the need to express their choice by voting and called on every eligible voters to vote.

"Neglecting to vote is a denial of potential support for social justice and progress. Voting carelessly or corruptly, whether for a fee or other selfish consideration can support injustice and retrogression," it noted.

It made it clear that voting conscientiously and purposefully was the citizen's most available and direct way of contributing to the election of the most suitable leaders and support of publicly beneficial policies.

The communiqué also appealed strongly to non-Ghanaians and Ghanaians under the age of 18 who had registered not to attempt to vote.

It called on all who had a role to play in the maintenance of justice and peace in the country to be vigilant, committed, zealous and conscientious and advised voters to return home quietly after voting and avoid loitering around the polling centres in the interest of peace.

It said Ghana's conduct in the last four elections in the Fourth Republic had been very creditable and peaceful, to the admiration of all, and affirmed the fact that Ghana was maturing in the culture of democratic governance and the rule of law.

"We cannot but commend our fellow Ghanaians for the many positive efforts and activities for peace and peace-building. We are also heartened by the many prayers, prayer vigils and sessions for peace in Ghana, by the demonstrations for peace by our women and school children and by the "peace train" that has been traveling through the country. We are encouraged by the very many seminars and public education on peace building and reconciliation organised by the various state agencies, civil society and faith based organisations," it added.

The communiqué also commended the political parties and their leaders for participating in the presidential debates and for the firm promise and commitment to peace before, during and after the elections.

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