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25.11.2008 Elections

I'ts Unlawful To Stop Anyone From Voting — EC

I'ts Unlawful To Stop Anyone From Voting — EC

The Electoral Commission (EC) has reiterated that it will be unlawful for any party agent or any other person to attempt to prevent anyone from voting on December 7.

At various workshops designed to educate the public on election procedures, the point was made clear that if a person who was seen as a minor or a foreigner turned up with a valid identity card and had his or her name in the register, that person could not be prevented from voting but that the attention of the officer in charge could be drawn for the officer to make an official report for the law to take its course.

At Odododiodoo in Accra, the District Electoral Officer, Nana Oduro Numapau, reminded all candidates and their agents that they could not prevent anyone from casting his or her ballot.

Addressing a training workshop for identifiable groups in the  Constituency, Nana Oduro Numapau said it was for that reason that the EC was organising training workshops in all the districts across the country for all party agents and called on all candidates to make provision for their agents to attend the workshops.

 He said the EC had exhibited the voters register to allow for all forms of corrections before election day, adding that the day of voting was only part of the electoral process.

 “Persons who have misplaced their ID cards can also vote,” he added, noting that the only difficulty the officials would encounter would be the delay in searching for the names of those persons.

 He, however, stressed the fact that individuals who had lost their cards must know their card numbers before going to the polling stations to vote. 

According to Nana Oduro Numapau, the  EC was prepared to conduct these elections in a free and fair atmosphere and, therefore, called on the security agents, the government, religious bodies and other stakeholders to play their part without any bias towards any of the parties involved.

In Kumasi, the EC has warned that any attempt to challenge the eligibility of any voter at any polling station on the grounds of age, nationality, among others, would be a recipe for chaos which could go a long way to create violence and undermine the electoral process.

A member of the commission, Mrs Pauline Adobea Dadzawa, who gave the warning in Kumasi during a seminar organised for journalists, explained that political parties and their agents had already been given the platform to challenge people with questionable ages and nationality during the registration and exhibition exercises, causing the EC to rectify all anomalies, where necessary.

She pointed out that all voters who had their names in the register and had been issued with voter identity cards were eligible to vote for candidates of their choice in both the presidential and parliamentary elections and that “under no circumstance should they be prevented from casting their votes on the grounds of being minors or of doubtful nationality".

"Who judges on whether one qualifies to vote or not? No party agent or political party can challenge the eligibility or otherwise of anyone whose name is in the register and has been issued with a voter ID card to cast his or her vote. If any challenge will be entertained, it will be after the elections," Mrs Dadzawa stressed.

The seminar, which provided the  opportunity for Mrs Dadzawa and the Ashanti Regional Director of the EC, Mr Isaac Kofi Asomanin, to fruitfully interact with the journalists on how to conduct transparent, peaceful, free and fair elections, was sponsored by The Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD).

On allegations of the elections being rigged by a political party, Mrs Dadzawa said the system put in place was "so transparent that nobody would dare make any attempt to influence the results of the elections".

 "The system has been improving since the 1992 elections so the speculations going round that the EC is collaborating with a particular political party to rig the elections is a calculated lie to throw dust into the eyes of the public. 

“It is mere mischief to build unnecessary tension in the country. We have our integrity to protect and nothing will be done to compromise that. Besides, the system is such that it is totally impossible to rig it," she noted.

She pointed out that the EC could never be influenced by influential personalities to create a fertile ground for a particular political party to win the election, stressing, "The EC is totally independent and has maximum protection by the Constitution."

In Ho,  Chairman of the commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, warned that the commission would not relent in dealing swiftly with any member of staff of the EC who would be found to be involved in any act that would threaten the electoral process. 

According to him, the EC must stand tall and blameless at the end of the elections, adding that to realise this, any action on the part of any official of the EC which had the tendency to generate accusations against the commission would be dealt with through the appropriate channels.

Dr Afari-Gyan disclosed that some officials of the EC who had been found to have engaged in acts that impugned on the reputation of the commission had been handed over to the police for investigations and further action.

He said this when he addressed a two-day encounter between the EC and parliamentary candidates in the Volta Region to update the candidates on the preparations so far made, and also to provide a platform to discuss issues and concerns in relation to the polls and build consensus on the way forward.

The meeting formed part of the "Safeguarding the Integrity of the Ballot" project by the EC which is sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and facilitated by the KAB Governance Consult.

He said, for example, that at Sogakope, a case had been raised against an enlisted returning officer who was said to be a card-bearing member of a political party, adding that the EC acted swiftly, verified the information and took the person off the list of returning officers.

Further to its commitment to ensure free and fair elections, he said, about 76,000 names in the voters register which had been established as confirmed multiple registrations had been given to the security agencies for investigations and prosecution.

He said it was not fair for one person to be jailed in the Ashanti Region, while others who had committed the same offence were let off the hook, adding, "They will also face prosecution."

Dr Afari-Gyan pointed out that surplus ballot papers had been printed to make room for spoiled ballots with a formula calculation based on the number of voters in every polling station.

He, therefore, said he did not foresee the situation where there would be shortage of ballot papers, a situation which he said had been bolstered by the new ballot papers that had thick lines between the various candidates to reduce the incidence of ballot papers getting spoiled.

"If there is any shortage, it will be the artificial creation of the returning officer and he will be held responsible," he stressed.

The EC Chairman advised parliamentary candidates that if such a situation arose, they should contact the district and regional officers of the EC and report the matter to them, adding that the candidates would at a later date be provided with the numbers of the various district officers and regional directors of the EC to help in that regard.

On the issue of agents, Dr Afari-Gyan advised on the calibre of agents the various parties and candidates must select, saying they must choose people who were level-headed, educated, alert and who had a firm grasp of polling issues.

He cautioned that no party or candidate should blame the EC for what his agents did at the polling stations, stressing, "We will take no blame for the lapses of the people whom you appoint as agents."

Dr Afari-Gyan said with experiences from past elections, one issue that could crop up was transpositional errors and added that even in that case the vigilance of the agents of the various candidates should resolve that.

Ghana's electoral system, he observed, was so structured that outcomes of the process were verifiable, for which reason it was almost impossible to cheat and that anybody who attempted to cheat would be found out.

"At the end of the day, if all the stakeholders play their roles well, there will be no cause for alarm," he said.

The Volta Regional Director of the EC, Madam Laurentia Kpatakpa, called on the various parties and candidates to appoint their agents early enough so that they could be given the needed training for the election day.

She also entreated the various parties to let the agents be present on the day the EC would be entrusting the electoral materials into the care of the police.