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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Columnist: Addai-Sebo, Akyaaba

The public and peaceful order responsibility of the Electoral Commission

By Akyaaba Addai-Sebo

The Electoral Commission (EC), above all else, is an enabling public institution with a constitutional mandate to conduct free and fair elections (in keeping with the dictates of our national motto of Freedom and Justice) to sustain a peaceful order all in the national interest.

The EC therefore has a public responsibility to first draw the attention of applicants to errors made in the filing of nominations and assist such applicants to correct such errors so detected by the commission in the discharge of its duties. Such is the enabling function of the EC to sustain a peaceful order by assuring a level playing field.

The EC has a primary duty to inform the political parties of any infraction including fraud detected during and after the electioneering process so that the commission together with the stakeholders will see to it that such infractions of the electoral law do not occur again.

It is the due diligence exercise of all parties and stakeholders that deters and eliminates possible infractions and fraud. The onus of such responsibility is more on the commission as the clearinghouse of all electoral data and information.

Such forensic capacity and scrutiny rests with the commission and exercised as such and duly on behalf of and in the public interest. In essence, the commission is like the proverbial mother hen, who is all and at the same time an arbiter, referee and ombudsman to sustain a peaceful order. The mother hen may step on her chicks but not to hurt or kill them.

To deter and prevent future infraction and fraudulent acts punitive sanctions and their nature, degree or character must be discussed, approved and reviewed periodically by all stakeholders. This understanding becomes a civic education responsibility of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) and the EC itself.

The enabling functions of the EC is to foster trust, freedom and justice, above all else. When such trust is found amiss then it is the precipitation of disorder. For example, a situation should not arise when a suspicious or mistrusting party calls for a public enquiry on a decision of the EC seen as patently unfair and to the grave disadvantage of the complainant or disaffected party.

In this case, the approval or disqualification of parties in a nomination filing process which gave cause for the disqualified party to ask for a public forensic audit or enquiry must bear the burden of proof that the EC acted prejudicially. In other words, the burden of proof of victimisation is with the complainant or aggrieved party.

Where trust is lost the judgment of the commission comes into rude question here. The EC has a public and therefore constitutional responsibility not to place its function in a position of mistrust to foster disorder. A level-playing field and an entrusting refereeing are enabling factors of the electoral process.

This balancing order must not be jeopardised by all parties and stakeholders in the national interest. Therefore, the public trust to know and to be duly and accurately informed as such is a sacred right and the fulcrum point of representative governance and democratic order.

The functioning of the EC must, in no way, lead to entrapment, victimisation, discrimination and marginalisation and must as well not give undue credence to this. The strength and discipline of mind and mind-set required here is of the highest to achieve that efficiency of purpose in the maintenance and sustenance of public and peaceful order, all in all, in the national interest.

Although to err is human and to forgive is reconciling the EC must not err. In essence, the functioning of the EC must be free of prejudice.

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