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26.02.2009 Politics

Upper East RIPAC reviews Election 2008


Political party representatives on the Upper East Regional Inter-Party Advisory Committee (RIPAC), have made recommendations to improve the country's electoral system, at a meeting to review Election 2008, in Bolgatanga on Thursday.

They called for regular transfer or change of returning officers and polling assistants, as well as refraining from locating polling stations at private houses.

The representatives contended that some returning officers and polling assistants in the region had been in their constituencies since 1992, and had thus became too familiar with the people, which did not augur well for the country's electoral system.

On the location of polling stations at private homes, they said that could compromise the neutrality and fairness of the electoral process, as residents of those homes ultimately belonged to one political party or the other.

The RIPAC forum was convened jointly by the Electoral Commission (EC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and KAB Governance Consult, as part of activities under the "Safeguarding the Integrity of the Ballot" project.

It aims among other things, to assess the December 2008 polls in terms of meeting the aspirations of various stakeholders, to review activities carried out under the project such as the training of polling agents, and to draw lessons from the elections to inform the conduct of future elections.

Participants at the meeting comprised representatives from the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), security agencies, returning officers, district electoral officers, media practitioners, political parties, notably the Convention People's Party (CPP), National Democratic Congress (NDC), Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), New Patriotic Party (NPP), People's National Convention (PNC), and Democratic People's Party (DPP), and some head of departments.

The forum also expressed concern about the late arrival of the transferred voters list, as well as delays in the delivery of ballot papers and other electoral material, particularly in the remote parts of the region.

Participants urged the EC to institute a system of continuous registration by which persons who turn 18 years could be registered as voters, rather than waiting for four years to take part in general registration exercise which was often done with cost.

They recommended that the EC came out clear on the role of personalities such as Members of Parliament, party candidates, district chief executives, and ministers of state on election day, arguing that the absence of such guidelines resulted in undue interference with the duties of election officials by some of those personalities.

Mr. Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka, Deputy EC Chairman in charge of Operations and Commission member responsible for the Northern and Upper East Regions, commended the people for the peaceful outcome of the December polls in the area.

He said " That notwithstanding, the stock-taking we are doing here today is still necessary since it would enable us to identify and correct certain shortcomings in our evolving electoral system."

Mr. Charles Addei, Director of Training at EC headquarters, indicated that the biometric system of voter identification which the EC would soon introduce would eliminate all problems associated with voter identity.

He observed that the purpose of the RIPAC forum was not to find fault or apportion blame, but to give participants the chance to provide inputs to improve Ghana's electoral system.

The Deputy Regional Director of EC, Mr. Godwin Okley said although last year's election was full of challenges, it ended peacefully due to the collective efforts of stakeholders including political parties, media, security agencies, the EC, and the electorate.