... Charges irregularities in voters' registration & photo-taking exercise
WITH BARELY six months to go for the nation to elect a President and Members of Parliament (MPs), tongues are wagging about a possible boycott by the minority parties on the basis of what they think are unacceptable cases of irregularities that have characterized both the voter registration and photo taking exercise across the country.
Political pundits of the minority parties speak about a premonition that the failure of the government to beef up support for the Electoral Commission to normalize the situation would not only jeopardize the forthcoming elections, but also cause unnecessary tension in the country.
This, the paper was told, was the reason behind the alarm being raised by some leaders of the opposition including appealing for intervention by international observers to ensure free and fair elections.
Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, the Presidential Candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was the first to appeal to the international community, including the ECOWAS Secretariat, Commonwealth Observers and other electoral monitoring agencies when he recently attended a fund raising dinner dance held by the UK-Ireland branch of the party.
Prof. Mills said spins and misinterpretations were given to the request in a section of the media in which he was accused of predicting doom for the nation.
The NDC flag bearer reiterated his call on the EC to regularize the acts of omission and commission on its part, since that had the potential of disenfranchising voters.
Mills, however, refused to be drawn into further comments on the next line of action to be taken by the party.
When he was asked at a press briefing last Friday whether the NDC would boycott the forthcoming general election if the EC failed to put its acts together or the international observers failed to exert the appropriate pressure by monitoring the elections, he said:
“We have not come to that point yet, but I can assure you that if our attempt fails, we will advise ourselves.”
One top NPP supporter who spoke to this paper said there was nothing wrong if the NDC boycotted this year's elections to get themselves well prepared for 2008.
“What is strange about this? The NPP boycotted the elections in 1992 and wrote a Stolen Verdict. Boycotting will therefore be all the good for them.”
At the press briefing, Prof. Mills took a swipe at the NPP government, accusing it of concealing the realities of the Ghanaian politico-economic situation from the rest of the world, causing the international community to have a jaundiced, pro-NPP perception of the country's democracy.
According to Prof. Mills, anytime such perception was punctured the government became jittery and over-sensitive, as happened after the NDC delegation visited Abuja to brief the Nigerian authorities about what they considered a worsening culture of democratic governance in the country.
The NDC Presidential Candidate said: “The NDC will continue to speak the truth about the realities of the Ghanaian situation and the only way the NPP government will feel comfortable about our report of their performance to the outside world, is for them to do the right thing and to speak the truth always.”
Prof. Mills further stressed that it was unfortunate that sections of the media gave wrong interpretations to what he said.
“We as leaders, need to have shock absorbers; we need to look into the mirror of the people and articulate their concerns, and if we fail to do that then why are we leaders?” he asked.
He continued: “It is regrettable that the genuine concern for free and fair elections and the legitimate request for commonwealth election observers has been mischievously misrepresented by a section of the local media for obvious partisan ends. It is our belief that it is the request that was made at the meeting with the Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General that triggered off President Kufuor's belated request for UN and Commonwealth observers.”
He said in terms of chronology, his request was made before the announcement of President Kufuor's request in the USA.
“The NPP's reaction to my request for Commonwealth observers came in the form of the Attorney General's statement to the effect that foreign observers were not needed, a position he had since denied and then modified.”
Denying ever endorsing or predicting any violence in the upcoming general election, the NDC flag bearer stressed that he had said nothing which might be new or strange to the nation, because what he said during his visit to the UK were things that he had consistently repeated in press conferences and statements to the media during his campaign tours.
Showing a video clip to the press on an interview that he granted the OBE TV station in London, the former vice President reiterated that the defeat of the NDC in 2000 had enabled Ghanaians to have a basis for comparing the two major political parties, which were currently dominating the political scene in the country.
“The NDC's matured, confident but humble and down-to-earth leadership as opposed to the NPP's arrogance, incompetence, naïvety and indecisiveness, are there for all to see.”
According to him, his call for electoral observers was as a result of alleged irregularities in the registration exercise.
He cited as examples, the non-registration and therefore disenfranchisement of a large numbers of potential voters, especially in the NDC strongholds due to the alleged shortage of registration materials, the government's quick attempt to amend the Representation of the People law to allow Ghanaians abroad to register and vote in the face of the EC's acknowledgement of unpreparedness to undertake such an exercise, imposition of a procurement committee on the EC and the assignment of an NPP ward chairman as the head of security of the EC.
Prof. Mills hailed the new sense of unity and harmony within the NDC family and called on all and sundry to pool their strengths and virtues to become even more impregnable to kick the NPP out of office.