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Politics of Saturday, 25 April 2015

Source: citifmonline.com

Give EC powers to prosecute electoral offenders – C’ttee

The 10-member Electoral Reform Committee has recommended that the Electoral Commission must be empowered to prosecute election offenders.

The committee argued that over the years, the Attorney General’s (AG) Department has failed to prosecute election offenders because it is not truly independent from the party in government which may have benefited from such infractions.

Elections in Ghana always record some violations of the electoral rules but the perpetrators are mostly not prosecuted.

A Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and a member of the 10-member electoral reform committee, Dr. Ransford Gyampo on Eyewitness News revealed that officers of the Electoral Commission (EC) who were members of the committee expressed serious concern about this trend.

This, he said, was the reason the committee discussed and agreed on the setting up of a strong legal department for the EC to prosecute such offenders to help sanitize Ghana’s elections.

“Let’s empower the EC, let us create a strong legal department because the EC has no legal department and because they are an independent institution of state, let them be able to prosecute,” he stressed.

Dr. Gyampo stated that over the years, there have been reports of party bigwigs who instigate illegality among their supporters to violate the electoral rules with the assurance that when they come to power, they [the supporters] will be set free in the event that they are arrested.

AG as sole prosecutor not effective

Dr. Gyampo pointed out that the AG’s Department which is the sole prosecutor for the state has not worked in favour of the country in electoral offences.

“Over the years, [what has happened] with what the constitution says? Have we implemented it and has it been able to inure to our benefit in terms of our electoral system?” he asked.

He remarked that if this system has not helped the situation, then it is time to change the laws because the country’s electoral processes have undergone a lot of changes “and this should be one of such changes.”

Dr. Gyampo admitted that even though there is merit in the argument for an independent prosecutor’s office to be created, and be in charge of prosecuting irrespective of whichever side of the political divide offenders belong, “politicians are not so much interested in paying heed to this particular recommendation.”

The alternative therefor is to have the EC prosecute some of these offenders and “if we do that, there wouldn’t be no impunity.”

Guarantees

The Electoral Reform Committee member was optimistic that empowering the EC to prosecute will reduce to the barest minimum, or possibly put an end to electoral offences.

He mentioned that considering the fact the EC representatives on the committee expressed their frustration over the matter, it is indicative of a will to effectively discharge such duties if conferred on the Commission.

Dr. Gyampo also stated that since people are forced to respect the laws when they know they will be prosecuted for any violation, a legal department for the EC is the way to go.

“Sometimes, when people know that by violating or taking the law into their own hands, will bring about some punishment and swift response, they will be careful and cautious about what they do,” he said.