A group of Civil Society Organizations on Thursday, October 19, 2023, held a press conference to draw the attention of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) and the general public on what it describes as “ills within the EC”.
The convener of the group and Executive Director of CFF-Ghana, Mr. Richard Kasu in his address listed among many other claims, some calculated attempts by the EC to disenfranchise some Ghanaians in the 2024 general elections.
Read full statement below.
JOINT CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS (CSOs) PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY RICHARD KASU, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CFF-GHANA ON THE ILLS WITHIN THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION (EC) OF GHANA AT 37 OFFICERS MESS CONFERENCE ROOM ON THURSDAY, 19TH OCTOBER, 2023.
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press!
Let me welcome you on behalf of the organizers of this press conference which includes leading Civil Society Organizations such as CFF-Ghana, Democratic Credentials Network (DCN) and Coalition of Ghanaians without Ghana Card (CGWGC) and to also thank you for coming on such a short notice.
Friends of the Media, as you may be aware, Ghana is heading to presidential polls next year.
From all indications, the elections would be hotly contested between key political parties including the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the major opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC). Without doubt, the Electoral Commission (EC) is the constitutionally mandated body to lead processes related to the general election including voter registration, and supervision of the electoral process among others. Thus far, the Commission’s posture does not denote one as an electoral referee. Some of its actions have become a cause of great concern for the Ghanaian people. These troubling issues if left unaddressed may throw Ghana into political turmoil in 2024.
It is against the above background that this joint CSOs press briefing is being held under our participatory governance initiative christened #safeguarding Our Democracy#.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, this media engagement is premised on a comprehensive assessment conducted on the EC. The research set out to investigate activities of the EC at every stage of the electoral process which has the potential of negatively impacting democratic values of civic participation and participatory political engagement. We also assessed the conduct of EC Commissioners and some government officials which cast a shadow of doubt on the EC’s neutrality as by law established.
For the purposes of this press conference, excerpts of the findings would be highlighted to enable us engage in constructive conversations to addressing the ills within the EC aimed at repairing its near damaged image.
The issues in no particular order of importance are as follows;
EC’s entrenched position to make Ghana Card sole document for voter registration:
Having thoroughly assessed the reforms being contemplated by the EC, We have taken note of the ongoing efforts by the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana to review the existing Constitutional Instrument (CI) particularly portions pertaining to registration of voters. As you may recall, Parliament on Friday, 31st March 2023, has by unanimous decision, rejected the Electoral Commission’s (EC) Constitutional Instrument (CI), that sought to make the Ghana card sole registration document for voting.
As if the rejection by August House is not enough, the Commission is hell bent in using Ghana Card as sole document for voter registration.
According to the EC guarantor system had the highest patronage during the just ended limited registration exercise with 563,919 users representing 61.9% followed by Ghana card users which stood at 37.8% and passport users at 0.3% respectively.
From the above data, we contend that, if the C.I. is passed in its current form or shape, it will completely disenfranchise millions of prospective voters who for no fault of theirs are unable to obtain the Ghana card issued by the National Identification Authority (NIA) contravening the right provided for Ghanaians under Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution.
The reason(s) for this unpopular decision by the EC is yet to be told.
Electoral Commission’s decision to restrict centers for the Limited Voter Registration exercise to their District Offices:
Our assessment revealed that EC’s decision to use only district offices for the just ended limited registration exercise instead of the electoral areas or polling stations was unlawful, unreasonable and defeats the purpose for which the exercise was organized.
Though we commend the EC of exceeding their set target of 700,000, yet the 910,996 citizens captured on the voter roll is still not enough in our view taking into account the high number of Ghanaians below 18 years (estimated at 14.2 million out of which 3.8 million are teenagers) as indicated in the 2021 population and housing census report.
The findings clearly showed that the long distances that many eligible voters would have to travel with guarantors, accommodation in some cases, feeding and the exorbitant fares they would have to pay to transport themselves and guarantors to district offices of the EC resulting in some people abstaining from the exercise even if reluctantly.
The question begging for answer is what becomes of those who were excluded from the registration exercise due to proximity of the centers?
Voter suppression allegations against the EC:
We have also identified voter suppression allegations against the EC by some social commentators, pro-democracy activists, and political parties such as the NDC, Convention People’s Party (CPP), All People’s Congress (APC); Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG); and the Great Consolidated People’s Party (GCPP). There is high public perception about how the EC is deliberately working in connivance with the NIA to rig the upcoming election in favor of the governing NPP.
Key factors resulting in these allegations are indicated below;
Insistence of EC to use only Ghana Card as sole source document for voter registration;
Commission’s decision to restrict the registration exercise to its district offices;
Deployment of defective registration machines to opposition strongholds;
Unpopular registration modalities being put in place by the EC unilaterally;
EC breaking laws with Impunity:
Our investigations revealed how Ghanaians are troubled by the posture of the EC as if it is a law unto itself. The EC seemed to be flouting laws especially electoral laws with impunity. EC’s decision to proceed with the limited voter registration exercise despite being served with two injunction applications from the courts is one of the many examples cited as ways EC assault the law and goes escort free.
Unguarded public statements by some commissioners of the EC:
The assessment pointed out that some Commissioners of the EC have gained notoriety in making unguarded public statements making people to doubt their neutrality as referees in the electoral process. Dr. Bossman Asare, Deputy Chairman of the Commission in charge of Corporate Services during 2023 the limited registration said ‘voting is not by force’ angering many Ghanaians.
IPAC no more consensus building mechanism but abusive platform for unpopular decisions-making by the EC:
The assessment indicated that the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) which hitherto was used as consensus building mechanism among political stakeholders has now become abusive platform being used by the EC to stifle political stakeholders with unpopular decisions.
EC packed with NPP activists to rig 2024 elections:
Contributors to our assessment which included governance experts, political watchers, security experts, students and CSOs leaders expressed their displeasure towards President Akuffo-Addo for appointing known New Patriotic Party activists including Dr. Peter Appiahene and Salima Ahmed Tijani to the Electoral Commission.
There are public opinions that the duo has been strategically appointed to help other commissioners to rig the 2024 election for the NPP.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the press, in our collective quest to promoting the integrity of Ghana’s election, we recommend the following;
1.That having taken cognizance of the numerous challenges regarding the acquisition of the Ghana Card, it must not be made as the sole source document for the voter registration card in 2024;
2. That IPAC is strengthened within a legal framework to help in the consensus building process for democratic consolidation;
3.That appointment of politically exposed individuals breeds mistrust which is the potential trigger electoral violence. As such, we are calling on the President to reassign the duo and appoint more neutral persons to the EC;
4. That ECOWAS’ intervention over alleged voter suppression agenda by Ghana’s Electoral Commission is critically needed. In the spirit of ECOWAS protocol on elections, it will be right it oversee the actions of the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) to ensure compliance in order to prevent any potential electoral skirmishes;
5.That EC takes keen interest in its low public confidence and intentionally works to repairing same for public trust so far as 2024 election is concerned;
Thank you for coming!
Long live Ghana!!