Feature Article of Thursday, 27 December 2012
Columnist: Frimpong, Desmond
The struggle for democracy is a struggle for the rule of law, or more specifically the institutionalised rule of law through a constitutional government. It is invariably achieved through free and fair elections.
Popular perceptions about the integrity of the electoral process in Ghana are dismal. Several historical political developments explain the low levels of popular confidence in the electoral process. But the low level of confidence in the integrity of the process does not deter large numbers of Ghanaians from still wanting to vote.
Rigging in elections is popularly perceived in terms of stuffed ballot boxes, impersonated multiple voting, and fraudulent counting by polling staff who are intimidated or bribed to suit their masters’ illegal interference in fair voting processes.
Before Ghanaians went to the polls on December 7, President John Dramni Mahama and the ruling NDC have invested a great deal of time and money in ensuring that there could be only one outcome – so-called “one touch” victory. Constituencies were comprehensively gerrymandered. There were few overt signs of fraud during the voting itself; there was no need for it. The target was the collation centres. Allegations that the figures were doctored at these centres could mean that the collation process constituted the weakest link in the election management process. So, even if the polling was credible, the collation was not. With a divided country and with many of the “losers” convinced the elections were stolen, the result has enraged supporters of the NPP against the ruling party.
The people of Ghana deserve so much better. They deserve to live in a country with strong democratic institutions that respect the rule of law. And election 2012 did not advance those goals. There is a great hunger for democracy in our country. You can tell just by looking at the queues of voters who turned out on December 7. Nothing is more dispiriting than to learn that their votes have been manipulated. Substantial discrepancies have been discovered from results at collation centres when compared with the official tally figures from the EC. This situation is very worrying and should not be allowed to go unchallenged.
Without doubt, the woeful failure to conduct free and fair elections since the return to constitutional rule in 1992, has been one of the major reasons why democracy has failed to flourish in Ghana. The question now is; how do we in future ensure that no one in power will ever be in a position to meddle with election results? How can we make the Electoral Commission truly and permanently independent of the executive? Nothing should be more rewarding for the EC than organising free and fair elections which are acceptable to all stakeholders. Ghanaians expect the commission to abide by the principles of professionalism and high ethical standards for transparency and fairness to prevail in every election – something that was sorely missed in election 2012.
It is therefore refreshing to hear that the New Patriotic Party has resolved to go to court to contest the 2012 election results declared by the Electoral Commission. Seeking redress in the law court is the best civil alternative and must be applauded by all well-meaning Ghanaians. By going to court, it is important that the NPP advises its supporters to desist from doing anything that has the potential to jeopardise any court process and could further worsen the already tense atmosphere currently prevailing in the country. If the NPP’s case is upheld by the Supreme Court, it would go down monumentally well in African history since it could overturn the results announced by Afari Gyan on December 9. The current electoral impasse presents the Supreme Court with a unique opportunity to cement the country’s democratic credentials. The world is watching.