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11.03.2009 Politics

Election offences should be prosecuted

By gna

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) on Tuesday said those who flout the country's electoral laws should be prosecuted in order to end “political impunity” during elections.

Speaking at the special Regional Inter-party Advisory Committee (RIPAC) meeting in Ho under the Commission's “safeguarding the integrity of the ballot” project, he said it was the duty of the police to bring such offenders to book.

The meeting was organized in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency and the KAB Governance Consult.

Dr Afari-Gyan made the call in response to a catalogue of concerns raised mainly by representatives of the National Democratic Congress and New Patriotic Party (NPP) representatives regarding abuses during the last elections in the region.

Asked by the Ghana News Agency whether it was not the responsibility of the Commission to initiate such prosecutions, Dr Afari-Gyan said that was the duty of the police to whom the Commission has made several complaints.

He said both the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) were guilty of polluting the election atmosphere in the country.

Dr Afari-Gyan said abuses of the country's Electoral laws seemed to arise from the leeway the Commission had given to the political parties.

“We have been too transparent with the parties, sometimes we have to step back,” he said.

Dr Afari-Gyan said if only the political parties would adhere to the country's electoral arrangements every election report would be verifiable.

He said both the NDC and the NPP when in power turned the police into political and government police during elections, and did not allow them to act professionally.

That he said created problems for the Police establishment and its personnel when the reins of government changed.

“We are not treating them fairly,” he said.
Dr Afari-Gyan told the political parties that the calibre of people they appointed as party agents were essential to safeguarding their interests during elections.

Ms Laurentia Kpatakpa, Volta Regional Director of the EC said the integrity of Ghana's Electoral process rested in the checks and balances within the system which when operated properly would produce outcomes that are acceptable, verifiable and could be audited at every stage.

She said the 2008 elections should be a learning experience for the country, using best practices accepted globally to improve on subsequent elections in the country.

“We wish to re-iterate that when we make regulations and laws we have a duty to uphold them. Non-compliance could result in chaos.

“If party executives fail to submit lists and information on agents appointed by them for accreditation, we do not see how the returning officer could certify the agent's application authorizing him to work at a Polling Station or Collation Centre,” Ms Kpatakpa said.

The meeting called on the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), the Information Services Department (ISD) and the EC to collaborate and that adequate resources should be made available to them to carry out education on elections.

It was also suggested that Chiefs should be included in stakeholder forums on elections such as the RIPAC meeting because of the influence they wielded over the conduct of their people in the last elections.

The meeting agreed that people could capture events at the polling stations on their mobile camera phones as proof of allegations that might be raised.

It was explained that there was no law that limited political parties to choosing their agents from localities in which they would be guarding the elections, but it was important that such agents were conversant with the people and localities where they would be representing their parties' interests.