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14.04.2012 Politics

BVR Progressing Steadily

By Kobby Asmah - Daily Graphic
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With barely 10 days into the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) exercise, Ghana is already reviewing, analysing and de-duplicating the registration data.

The process of de-duplication, the identification and weeding out of duplicate or multiple registrations is the crux of the biometric voters registration process to ensure that we have a credible and reliable voters register.

In the face of many challenges and an extremely short time to implementation, the independent National Electoral Commission has demonstrated its commitment, progressive forward-thinking vision and is fulfilling its objective of acting on behalf of and in the best interest of the people.

In return, a grateful nation has embraced and supported the process and with this type of commitment, the voter registration exercise can already be declared a huge success – which bodes well for the upcoming crucial December parliamentary and presidential elections. Well done, Ghana!

Soaring temperatures, long queues and overwhelming technology coupled with people’s frustrations and irritations would normally be a powder keg waiting to explode as the exercise began on Saturday, March 24.

But not so in Ghana. While some countries across the African continent face civil war, coup d'état and the Arab spring, Ghana continues to demonstrate its democratic maturity and insight.

Against a backdrop of political uprising, unrest and instability in some parts of the African continent, Ghana is proving the exception rather than the rule. Ghana’s democratic credentials keep soaring as it continues to reap the dividends of democracy in all its facet.

Currently underway nationwide, is the voter registration exercise which seeks to ensure that the country gets a clean, reliable and accurate voters list for the December elections. Despite challenges here and there, Ghanaians have fully embraced the implementation of the BVR with patience, tolerance and enthusiasm. This became evident, as the BVR got underway. Ghanaians, from all walks of life turned up at the various polling stations, eager to partake in the registration exercise. The initial teething problems, which are to be expected on a project of this magnitude, is in no way deterring the voting public from going through the process and collecting their voter registration cards.

Indeed, according to EC sources, the success of the exercise was immediately evident as the number of registrations per day far exceeded the daily registration targets on the first day of registration.

I share in the conviction that Ghana’s success with the biometric voters registration project can be directly attributed to its people, who have proven to be tolerant so far. The Electoral Commission’s visionary leap onto the global technologically advanced stage has been eagerly supported by a nation which is appreciative. Completely contrary to the norm in many parts of Africa, Ghanaians embrace change and eagerly pursue state-of-the-art technology and best practices in the quest for advancement and progress.

Added to this, the naturally warm and welcoming disposition of most Ghanaians in what potentially could be a disaster waiting to happen is transformed into a sterling example of a functioning, stable democracy!.

Historically, a large majority of biometric voter registration projects have achieved only partial success or have been a downright failure. This is largely due to the inherent complex nature of the project, the challenging operation and logistics and the rush to implement them.

Although faced with similar challenges, Ghana has managed to avoid the “potholes” associated with biometric voters registration by adjusting the registration strategy and from the onset striving to make the registration exercise a big success, unlike its neighbour, Nigeria, which decided to forego the de-duplication process, or other countries where the process is delayed until the end of the registration,

On the challenges facing the BVR, one cannot discount the inadequate training of officials conducting the exercise as well as unbearable climatic conditions. Reports trickling in suggest that the lapses traced to some biometric kit operators were due to their lack of appropriate training.

Indeed, it was further observed that the pressure put on the printers used for the registration exercise by kit operators resulted in the malfunctioning of the equipment. Indeed, it is reported that some of them (kit operators) instead of issuing one command for printing, issue two, three, four and eventually the printer gets locked up because of too much information sent”.

Siting some of the registration centres in the open, scorching sun, on football pitches and under trees can also affect the lifespan of the equipment, and sometimes lead to freezing of the registration equipment.

Undoubtedly, the kit operators who are handling the equipment and where we place the equipment for registration are a challenge to the whole process.

Another challenge being encountered in the ongoing biometric voters’ registration exercise could be attributed to inadequate public education carried out by both the Electoral Commission and the National Commission on Civic Education.

It is important for the EC, NCCE as well as other stakeholders, particularly political parties, to join in the efforts at intensifying public education, especially in rural and peri-urban communities where literacy is low.

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