ASP Sarpong Bempah A POLICE OFFICER who was deployed to provide security at certain polling stations in the Eastern Region has expressed disgust at how some presiding officers and returning officers showed open bias and supported agents of certain political parties, at the polling stations whenever an electoral problem reared its head.
According to him, some of the returning and presiding officers openly backed agents of one political party or the other when disagreements cropped up, while security personnel at the station looked on helplessly because the law did not allow them to intervene or interfere in the electoral process.
The police officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Okrako Sarpong Bempah, wondered whether the returning and presiding officers were given any training regarding the need for neutrality at the polling stations or whether thorough checks were done on their political backgrounds by the Electoral Commission (EC) before being recruited to perform those roles.
ASP Bempah, who is the Second-In-Command of the New Juaben Municipal Police Command, expressed these comments at an Inter-Party Advisory Committee meeting for political parties in the Eastern Region convened by the EC, in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and KAB Governance Consult.
The meeting was to assess the December Presidential/Parliamentary elections, in terms of meeting the aspirations of the various stakeholders, at Koforidua in the Eastern region last Thursday.
The meeting, which was attended by security agencies and other stakeholders in the electoral process, was also intended to provide the EC with information and suggestions which would guide it to introduce certain reforms that would make future elections more acceptable.
ASP Bempah told the meeting attended by David Kangah, a Deputy Chairman of the EC in charge of administration, and Acting Director of the commission's public affairs, Christian Owusu Parry, that he was put in charge of Akwatia and Kade in the Eastern region where he witnessed the said biased situations.
“I was surprised to see presiding members and returning officers openly displaying their biases towards one political party or the other,” adding that if EC officials could show such partiality, then the integrity of the electoral process could be compromised.
The police officer also said he realised that wherever a polling station was manned by an armed police officer, there was always order and smooth voting by voters.
In a response, Mr Kangah expressed worry about the situation and said accusations and counter-accusations by the two main political parties of electoral rigging in the Ashanti and the Volta regions, was a big concern to the EC.
He noted that all these accusations are flying about because of lack of effective vigilance in these areas and said that there would be the need to ensure that polling station vigilance is very effective.
“Polling station vigilance is losing its significance and effect and we should find ways and means to promote the sanctity of the electoral process.”
According to him, if the state can support political parties with some funds and logistics, smaller parties can organise themselves and participate effectively in the electoral process.
He thus suggested to the new government to consider giving political parties the minimum resources to enable them have an active presence at the polling stations, so that vigilance there could be improved.
He said the EC is very much interested in electoral reforms, since the commission believes in perfection of the electoral process for “clean” elections.
He therefore invited written memoranda from political parties and individuals with suggestions as to how vigilance at polling stations could be improved as well as the integrity of the electoral process, adding that suggestions should be sent to the head office of the EC for consideration.
From Thomas Fosu Jnr, Koforidua