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19.11.2008 Elections

We're ready despite challenges - Afari-Gyan

We're ready despite challenges - Afari-Gyan

Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), on Tuesday said though the commission was faced with some challenges, it was prepared to handle Election 2008 successfully.

He said like any other human institutions, the EC was faced with some challenges such as limited logistics, transportation as well as limited staffing, yet it had put in place stringent measures to ensure a credible election.

Dr. Afari-Gyan, who was addressing journalists at a meeting organised by the Editors Forum Ghana (EFG), on the challenges of Election 2008, said the EC was almost through with the cleaning of the voters' register, which it realised was bloated with either double, minor or foreigners registration.

"We have deleted about 349,000, about 76,000 of which have been confirmed as double registration, but this figure is likely to rise to about 200,000 by the end of the exercise," he said.

"We had earlier estimated that the total eligible voting population should be between six to eight million, but at the end of the voter review the number had risen to 12.5 million and therefore it was the EC that first indicated that the register was blotted and needed cleaning," he said.

He presented documentary evidence of some minors registering, and said the EC would hand such persons over to the appropriate security authorities for action.

Dr. Afari-Gyan said due to over subscription of the registration exercise and the extension of time, the EC exceeded its budget and had to request for a supplementary budget, which was granted within a week after request.

Touching on current changes on the ballot paper, the EC Chairman said it had reformed the rules, stating that now the entire horizontal column belonged to the particular candidate therefore the new rules accept any mark that appears on that column and clearly spells out the intention of the voter.

Dr. Afari-Gyan said these new rules are to minimise the number of spoiled ballots and the EC would only count a ballot as spoiled if the voter had marked for two candidates.

He mentioned other challenges as difficulties in transporting election materials to polling stations on Election Day, especially in areas with hostile terrain.

Dr. Afari-Gyan appealed to the electorate, candidates and the media to exhibit a certain level of understanding for the EC when election materials were delayed for a short time, saying where election materials delayed for long, Presiding Officers had the mandate to even postpone voting till the next day which was allowed by a provision under the electoral law.

He appealed to electoral officials to report at their polling stations on schedule in order to receive their materials to ensure effective take-off of the voting process and to help minimise other confrontations by voters.

The EC Chairman also commended the various political parties for the peaceful way they nominated their candidates and explained that those who could not file their nominations with the EC failed to satisfy the requirements.

He also pleaded with all political parties to ensure that they presented credible, committed and educated persons as polling agents who had total understanding of the electoral process in order to ensure vigilance at the polling centres.

Dr Afari-Gyan further appealed to the media and all security personnel to act responsibly and professionally to prevent violence.

He gave the assurance that the EC would ensure that the necessary structures and qualified personnel were trained for the task ahead.

Ms Ajoa Yeboah Afari, Interim Chairperson of the EFG, said the media had been blamed for creating undue anxiety among the public, which had often created serious tension and problems in certain areas.

She reminded journalists of the fact that they would also be affected in one way or the other should there be fighting and disturbances in the country and advised against any act that would destabilise the peace that the nation was enjoying now.