Domestic Election Observation In Ghana: The Story Of CODEO
Ghana is touted as the beacon of democracy in a region plagued with political instability, conflict and divisions. But as the December 2012 elections approach, the question on the lips of many political watchers, and indeed many Ghanaians is whether Ghana will be six times lucky in avoiding the chaos that characterises elections in Africa.
Will Ghana continue to be a shining example of fair, transparent and credible multi-party elections and an oasis of peace in a troubled sub-region or slide into anarchy and political retrogression?
The credit for the democratic governance achievements of Ghana, and credible elections in particular, belongs to its governments, political institutions (state institutions such as the judiciary, security services, National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), political parties, etc.,) and their leadership.
The country is particularly fortunate to have an Electoral Commission whose professional competence and integrity has soared after successfully superintending five highly competitive elections within a period of 20 years.
But perhaps the most striking feature of Ghana’s elections over the last 20 years has been the burgeoning role of civil society organisations.
Civil Society groups have been incessant in their demand for accountable and responsive governance, respect for the rule of law and human rights, democratic participation and inclusion, and above all, free, fair and transparent elections.
This is the spirit which gave birth to the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), Ghana’s largest and most organised domestic election observation group, formed under the auspices of the Ghana Center for Democratic Development in 2000.
Made up of 36 secular and faith-based civil society organisations, CODEO has independently and impartially observed every election in Ghana since 2000.
This includes party primaries, local government and general elections and by-elections. Led by Justice VCRAC Crabbe, Ghana’s first election commissioner, a retired Supreme Court Judge and law professor, and Professor Miranda Greenstreet, a former Director of the Institute of Adult Education at the University of Ghana, CODEO’s objectives include: promoting free, fair and transparent elections, preventing electoral fraud, encouraging citizens’ participation in elections, promoting issues-based campaign and lending credibility to electoral outcomes.
The Coalition pursues these objectives through recruiting, training and deploying of election observers and collating, analyzing and disseminating the reports generated from their field observations. In 2004 for example, CODEO deployed over 7000 domestic observers nationwide to observe the presidential and parliamentary elections.
CODEO broke new grounds in domestic election observation in Ghana in the 2008 polls by deploying the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) (an advanced observation methodology that enables observers to provide accurate and detailed information about the conduct of elections, at a nationally representative sample of polling stations across the country), in addition to 4,000 regular observers nationwide.
The coalition set up an observation centre at the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Center (KAIPTC) where it processed data received from its field observers, analysed them and prepared reports for review and dissemination by the CODEO Advisory Committee.
Whereas the use of the PVT observation methodology degenerated into violence in some countries, its peaceful adoption in Ghana by CODEO speaks volumes about the effectiveness and the efficiency with which the coalition executed the project.
CODEO worked in concert with the Electoral Commission from the beginning to the end, exchanging information at various stages of the process and even though CODEO knew about the outcome of the elections long before the Electoral Commission, the coalition published its results only after the Electoral Commission had declared its results! Indeed the growing cooperation between civil society and the state election management body is been an important factor in the success of elections in Ghana.
Another important aspect of CODEO’s work is its monitoring of the pre-election environment. This enables the coalition to track the election campaign process and document it.
Most importantly, the reports generated from these systematic reports informed the interventions of the National Peace Council, state security agencies, the NCCE and moral and cultural leaders to safeguard the integrity of the elections. These strategic partnerships between CODEO and other institutions have immensely contributed to reducing electoral tensions in many parts of the country.
CODEO also collaborates with the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD) to enhance the participation of citizens with disability in national elections, including engagements with parties and candidates on community level platforms. These platforms have also enhanced the ability of voters in the local communities to make informed electoral choices.
If you are a regular voter in Ghana, you probably have come across men and women in branded in CODEO T-shirts and caps, many times not too far away from the ballot box, but close enough to detect and deter electoral fraud by their sheer presence alone. Some of these men and women walk on foot for miles to carry out this national mandate.
They may be abused in the process, they may suffer all kinds of setbacks, but these observers are driven by the spirit of democracy and sense of duty to the nation, for which they are willing to make sacrifices.
As CODEO launches its 2012 election activities, we pay tribute to our volunteers who are scattered all over Ghana, whose hard work and selflessness continues to provide momentum for the existence of the coalition. We salute the industrious board members for investing time, effort and experience into the activities of the Coalition, driven only by their sense of patriotism and faith in a peaceful Ghana.
We also wish to recognise the media and all partners and funders, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the European Union (EU), Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the British High Commission, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Department for International Development (DFID) and many others who have supported CODEO since 2000. We salute you for your contributions to the development of a well-governed, prosperous and peaceful Ghana where power truly belongs to the people.