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20.11.2008 Crime & Punishment

Those Involved In Multiple Registration To Face Prosecution

About 76,000 people who registered more than once during the recent limited voters registration exercise conducted by the Electoral Commission (EC) will be handed over to the police for prosecution next week.

According to the EC, from the trend, the number was likely to rise to about 200,000 by the time the process was completed.

The move is expected to deal a heavy blow to the party which has many of its supporters involved in the practice.

EC chairman, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, who announced this at a forum in Accra, said, “We will do our part and it is up to the police to also do their part by investigating the issue and prosecuting the culprits accordingly.”

Speaking at the Editor's Forum on the theme, “The challenges of Election 2008”, the EC Chairman said “the commission is compelled to do so because there is a precedent we are following: Somebody who was caught to have undertaken double registration was prosecuted and is languishing in prison and so the others must be treated same”.

He said the commission was deleting the names of foreigners and minors from the voters register, adding, “This is an exercise we are undertaking before, during and after the elections to ensure that the register is clean.”

An estimated 350,00 names have so far been deleted from the register in an exercise which is ongoing to ensure a fairly clean voters register.

The EC has said there are more 'ghost' names and names of minors and foreigners in the register which need to be deleted.

Dr Afari-Gyan also made another interesting revelation when he said that no one was expected to turn away people he or she felt suspicious about on polling day.

“We have agreed with the political parties that no one or party agent should challenge or prevent any person he or she suspects to be a minor or foreigner from voting because once his/her name is in the register, he/she is eligible to cast a ballot,” he said.

According to him, that agreement came about in view of the potential trouble it might create at particular polling stations, adding that “to avoid this we are of the view that people should not be turned away”.

“The EC, for its part, is doing all it can to ensure that those who do not qualify by virtue of age, nationality or have undertaken double registration will have their names deleted,” he said.

His comment is expected to start another round of debate in the media and in political circles, as it will be expected to be a major challenge on election day.

Dr Afari-Gyan said the commission was also likely to face another major challenge when it came to electoral materials being moved to all the 22,000 polling stations on the day of the elections.

He said on that day the police and other security personnel were expected to accompany the materials but served notice that “we will not wait for any security personnel before moving. When it is time to move, we will move without the security personnel because we cannot afford to get to remote places late to create confusion”.

On the issue of inaction on the part of the EC when complaints about electoral fraud were made in the media, he said anyone with such complaints would have to go to the EC directly, not use the media.

He said the media were not the official place for such complaints and made it clear that “the EC will not act unless the complaint is official, either to us or from the security agencies”.

Dr Afari-Gyan recounted a few incidents in which district chief executives (DCEs) had used their positions to bully police officers by preventing electoral officers from performing their duties.

“Because they are heads of the district security councils, they tend to use that power to stop the district police commanders from carrying out their duties,” he said, and described the practice as unfortunate and unacceptable.

Answering a question on the declaration of results, he said, “In Ghana we allow total parallel tabulation of results and so the EC and the parties get the results almost at the same time and the winner is known by all.”

He said each of the parties was expected to have 22,000 results slips on which it had all the results as declared from the polling stations where all the parties had their agents well represented.

Dr Afari-Gyan reiterated his advice to the parties to ensure that they selected knowledgeable and literate people to be their polling agents.

“This advice is one they should not toy with because the agents should be able to read and write. If they are unable to read or write, it may go against the parties,” he explained.

He asked all Ghanaians to be one another's keeper and ensure that the process was not a violent one to maintain the peace, as well as continue to win the trust and confidence of the international community.

Story by Charles Benoni Okine