Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Raging Controversy Over Ghana’s Voters Register

The controversy over the voters register appears unending. The opposition NPP and Pressure Group, the Let My Vote Count Alliance, have been on the heels of the Electoral Commission to compile a completely new register towards the November elections. That suggestion has been dismissed by the Commission, but the focus has shifted to what is now known as validation. The development is worrying especially looking at the entrenched positions taken by the various parties. This is contributing to an increasing tension in the country and may be a foundation to dispute the election depending on the outcome. Ghana has so far succeeded in organizing peaceful elections since the inception of the 4th republican constitution in 1992. Though, the last election was disputed, it was peacefully resolved at the Supreme Court. It is not surprising therefore that Ghana is regarded as a beacon of democracy and a torch bearer on the continent. There should not be any room for complacency, and certainly more needs to be done to maintain, if not improve on the status quo.

To achieve orderly election in November, the Electoral Commission must continue its open door policy and have constant engagements with all the stakeholders including the registered political parties, the academia, religious and traditional leaders. It is true that the EC is an independent body and it will not be out of place for it to guard its independence jealously, but it will not do the Commission any harm if it opens up for advice and ideas. After all, the EC will not be bound to swallow any such advice and idea hook, line and sinker. There is also the need for the EC to be forthcoming with information on all its activities geared towards the November polls. On the other hand the Let My Vote Count Alliance and its partners must hold their horses. Truth be told, their proposal for validation is simply not practicable. How do you delete people's name just because they fail to turn up to check their names on the register? The point must be made that during voters register exhibition, less than 50 per cent of registered voters turn out to check their names. And therefore deleting names of those who do not turn up will mean, disenfranchising millions of people.

The Justice VCRAC Crabbe Committee set up by the EC to look into calls for a new register has denied ever recommending validation as claimed by the NPP and the Let My Vote Count Alliance. In any case, there will not be any legal basis for such an action. It is true that a credible register is the foundation for a credible election. Therefore no effort should be spared towards ensuring a clean register. There is unanimity that the current register has questionable names in it and needs to be cleaned. The point of departure has to do with the mode of cleaning. On this score, one is tempted to go with the recommendation of the Justice VCRAC Crabbe Committee that the EC should extend the time for the exhibition. It is fantastic that the EC intends contacting other agencies like the birth and death registry, and the Controller and Accountant General's Department to assist with the names of dead people. This can be complemented by individuals and groups who can provide information on the death of people on the register. Above all, let the New Patriotic Party that claims it has names of hundreds of foreigners on the register, go and point out those names on the register and provide the proof that they are indeed foreigners. In as much as people have the right to make certain demands, everybody must ensure that the tension is minimized and the peace sustained. God bless our homeland Ghana.


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