Use of Minors in Campaigns Condemned
...as group hails elections 2004 as free and fair
The use of minors in electoral political campaigning has come under sharp criticism in a post elections interim appraisal report issued by the Elections Observation Committee of Religious Bodies in Ghana, a group made up of the Ghana Catholic Bishops' Conference (GCBC) and the Christian Council of Ghana (CCG). The report, issued on Tuesday, and signed by the Rev. Seth Osei Agyemang and Rev. Dr Fred Deegbe, however hailed the December 7, 2004 general elections as "Generally free, fair, and devoid of intimidations that could have undermined the entire process and its outcome."
The group noted that there were a few problems, but said in its view they were not pervasive and could not have influenced the conduct and the outcome of the elections significantly.
Some of the irregularities observed by the Committee before and during the elections were the use of indecent, and sometimes intemperate language in campaign messages and advertisements. The report expressed particular concern about the use of children to convey some campaign messages, describing the practice as "improper and disrespectful of certain traditional values and practices regarding child-adult relationship."
The report also described as disturbing, reports of isolated violent incidents, such as attacks on some people of rival political parties in a few constituencies, and the attempted abduction of a female journalist a few days to the elections at Ho. It noted further, that a few cases of gun-shots at some polling stations on election day also came to their notice.
On elections day itself, the report said, the Committee's observers encountered isolated cases, where minors were employed as party agents. In another instance, it pointed out, "People engaged as party agents were seen offering assistance to Electoral Commission staff in their work, contrary to electoral regulations."
On the voting itself, the religious bodies' elections observation group, attributed the large numbers of rejected ballot papers to improper voter education, which in the group's view, led some voters to misapply the proper procedures in thumb-printing and folding ballot papers. Equally worrying, the group observed, was the disproportionate distribution of polling stations in the various constituencies giving rise to large numbers of registered voters at particular polling stations, while others were virtually free for most part of the voting period; a situation which forced voting to be extended beyond the stipulated hour of five o'clock in the evening. The result, the report said, was that "Counting went into the night, with all its implication for an expectant electorate."
The group however commended the EC, the political parties, the media and the security agencies for the professional manner in which they executed their various roles in the electoral process.
The two bodies that constituted the Committee together trained and deployed about 3,500 observers for the elections. They were joined in the exercise by some foreign observers from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria and Liberia, with financial support for the whole exercise coming from the Catholic Relief Services and MISEREOR.