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General News of Thursday, 30 June 2011

Source: GNA

EC to start biometric registration before end of year

Accra, June 30, GNA - Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana on Wednesday announced that the Commission would start the biometric voter registration before the close of this year.

He, however, dismissed the notion that the EC should use the electronic voting process for the 2012 general elections. Dr Afari-Gyan was speaking on the third day of a public lecture organized by the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) with support from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), in Accra. The three-day forum which started on June 27 to 29, 2011, is on the theme: 93Elections and the Democratic Challenges in Africa". Dr Afari-Gyan who spoke on the topic: 93Challenges encountered in acceptance of election results by politicians in Africa" said the use of biometric voter registration in Africa holds the promise of ending multiple registrations.

He however explained that preventing unqualified registrations was a different matter altogether and often required the collective effort particularly of the Election Management Body (EMB), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the electorate.

He said in some African countries, in-fighting associated with the nomination of candidates at the party level had been known to generate more rancour and violence than the main election campaign. He said sometimes the EMBs placed obstacles in the way of particular prospective candidates or even sought to disqualify them without justifiable cause, adding that such a candidate may be reluctant to accept the result when they lose the election. Dr Afari-Gyan also said insufficient funding or the late release of funds may make it difficult for the EMB to roll out an orderly and transparent process to the discomfort of candidates and voters. He said poor planning may result in inadequate logistics and shortage of materials, whiles corrupt officials both permanent and temporary, may adulterate the results leading to the cancellation of a particular candidate's results.

Dr Afari-Gyan also stated that one major flaw in African elections is the abuse of incumbency in terms of the use of state or government property in support of activities of the party in power. He cited instances where government interference in elections administration is common practice, particularly at the regional and district levels where political bosses wrongly assume that election officials working in their areas come under their control. He said there was an abiding tendency to turn state functions into virtual party campaign grounds, adding that government dominance of the public media was widespread.

Dr Afari-Gyan said aside from the reasons enumerated there were several other factors that may make it difficult for a politician to accept election results.

He said the personalities of the candidates involved in an election contest mattered with respect to the acceptance of the result.

He said the crux of the matter was whether candidates mutually showed respect for one another as legitimate aspirants for the office they are seeking.

"In this connection, certain syndrome tends to afflict some politicians and make it difficult for them to respect their opponents and to accept defeat at the polls.

"We don't need a specialist for a diagnosis: We only need to watch and listen to politicians carefully and we will be able to tell if they are afflicted with a syndrome," he added. Mr Kwasi Amakye Boateng, a Lecturer at the Political science Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) who spoke on the topic: 93Election Monitoring" said though the issue of election monitoring was a sensitive matter given its intrusion into the internal affairs of most African countries, the phenomenon had come to stay.

He said the process should be made to work and impact positively on the democratization of the African continent. He said most Sub-Saharan African countries in the 1990s were forced to introduce democratic reforms as conditionality for financial assistance from the western governments.

He said countries like the USA, Britain, Japan, France, Germany, Canada, Norway and Sweden insisted on African countries who were recipients of their financial aid to embark on democratic reforms or forfeit their support.

He explained that in the post-cold war era, western countries had increasingly made the holding of democratic elections a prerequisite for bestowing legitimacy on governments and that many international organizations had put pressure on African governments to hold elections and invite international monitors. He said some African countries had failed to invite election monitors, whiles others sent invitations but monitors declined to honour the invitations on the grounds that conditions in those countries were not conducive for competitive elections.