General News of Thursday, 10 April 2008
Accra, April 10, GNA - Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), on Thursday urged the government not to abuse its incumbency in Election 2008 but rather create an enabling environment for a free, fair and transparent poll. He said any flagrant abuse of incumbency by the governing party at any stage of the electoral process could create the grounds for dispute and mar the transparency of the whole elections.
"To ensure that the EC plays its electoral role effectively for public acceptance of the results of both the presidential and parliamentary elections, the government must provide the Commission with the needed resources timely," Dr Afari-Gyan added at the launch of a book on the Framework for Domestic Election Observation (DEO) in Accra. The 18-page booklet seeks to provide DEO an intimate knowledge on the electoral process, outline the role of DEOs in observation and monitoring, with particular focus on what to observe, actions on the ground and interpreting the facts in a professional manner. The booklet was compiled and printed by the EC in collaboration with Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Foundation (FES) and KAB Government Consult.
Dr Afari-Gyan noted that apart from the government adequately providing the needed resources, the other principal democratic stakeholders - the EC, media, political parties, donor communities and the security agencies - must also be committed to their constitutional responsibilities towards achieving credible elections whose results were incontrovertible. "The electorate must register and vote only once, and they must not prevent others from doing the same; the political parties and candidates must carry out clean campaigning, devoid of violence and intimidation," he said.
"The media must report political events and other happenings accurately, as a means of helping the electorate to make informed choices and the security agencies must adopt a stance of zero tolerance to election-related violence, irrespective of its source," the EC Chairman stated. He assured all stakeholders that the Commission would carry out its activities in a professional manner and also ensure that the observation of those activities was done in the same way. Dr Afari-Gyan advised political parties to recognize that an election was a process and not a single event that involved major activities from constituency demarcation through voter registration, candidate selection, nomination of candidates, campaigning to the actual conduct of the election, counting and collation of votes, and declaration of results.
"The EC therefore on its own cannot adequately mediate electoral contests effectively as whatever transpires at each of these stages has the potential of influencing the eventual outcome of the elections." On the role of DEO, the EC Chairman said the first responsibility was to gather facts which referred to verifiable happenings, and not opinions or what somebody alleged to have happened and to adequately interpret the facts for the purpose of making informed judgement about the election. "Ultimately the judgement that the observer group is required to make is whether or not, on the whole the election went well. Making such judgment is not always easy. "In all likelihood, an observer group will notice irregularities of one kind or the other in relation to an election. "The group must then judiciously assess the ways in which the irregularities might have affected the eventual outcome of the elections." Dr. Afari-Gyan also identified three key advantages of DEOs over their foreign counterparts, as the domestic observation is less costly and leads to the recruitment of more observers.
DEOs are also suitable to a long-term observation of the electoral process and intimate knowledge of the local situation. Mr. Laary Bimi, Chairman of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), who chaired the launch, said the essential requirements for elections were for its outcome to be accepted and to be devoid of suspicions and in some cases violence. He noted that with the introduction of the DEO framework election observers would know the rules and regulations that governed the electoral process. "We have held elections since 1992 and we cannot say that we are 100 per cent perfect in the outcome of elections and whatsoever imperfections there were the Ghanaian citizenry did not resort to violence," he said Mr Kwadwo Sarfo Kantanka, Deputy Chairman of EC in Charge of Operations, described the booklet as a goldmine for electoral observation and as it offered a new knowledge and understanding on the guidelines as well as the application of rules in electoral observation.
He added that the EC's main objective was to promote democracy and organize a free and a fair election and therefore the Framework was a contribution towards eradicating violence and consolidating democracy.