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Politics of Friday, 25 November 2016

Source: Graphic.com.gh

Three parties cry foul; claim elections may not be free, fair

Three of the political parties contesting this year’s general election have expressed concern that the presidential and parliamentary elections will not be free and fair.

According to the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC) and the National Democratic Party (NDP), “free and fair elections do not happen on voting days; they happen only if a number of things are in place and are guaranteed for the benefit of all the players”.

In a statement signed by the flag bearers of the three parties — Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP, Dr Edward Nasigre Mahama of the PNC and Mrs  Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings of the NDP — in Accra yesterday, they further said free and fair elections were not limited to the electorate queuing up on December 7, 2016 to cast their ballots and for a person to be declared a winner.

‘’We make this point, strongly believing that we have a responsibility, as leaders of these three parties, to bring into sharp focus a number of issues that have happened that defeat our expectation or aspiration as a country to hold free and fair elections”, it said.

IPAC meeting

Reacting to the statement by the three political parties, the Head of Communications at the Electoral Commission (EC), Mr Eric Dzakpasu, said the commission would convey an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting today, “where some of the concerns of the parties will be raised’’.

“The EC has not yet taken a position on the concerns but we will meet the political parties at IPAC,’’ he said.

Background

The three political leaders were initially disqualified by the EC from contesting the presidential election and had to resort to the law court to seek redress for them to be approved by the EC as presidential candidates qualified to contest the presidential polls.

Terrible experience

The statement said the three parties had a terrible experience of spending close to six weeks in court, litigating against the unnecessary attempted disqualification of their candidature as part of a deliberate scheme to frustrate their efforts to contest the December polls.

That situation, it added, had brought about untold hardships, financially and emotionally, and taken energy and precious time from their campaigns.

It accused the EC of deciding to utilise the regulations guiding the conduct of the 2016 elections as an oppressive tool to punish and deny them equal opportunity to campaign during the critical times of the campaign season.

“If a party in a competition loses six weeks of campaign time, while spending on legal fees that were not budgeted for but occasioned by a frivolous scheme designed to frustrate and deny us fair opportunity to participate in the elections, how can anyone say that this elections are and will be free and fair?’’ it argued.

In the view of the three leaders, all political parties and candidates must be given a fair opportunity to campaign and send their messages to the electorate for them to make informed choices.

Impartial referee
The statement said the parties had expected that under normal circumstances the EC would be a fair and impartial referee whose only interest would be to comply with the provisions of CI 94 to ensure certainty and predictability in the processes leading up to the elections.

“As we speak, the EC has been inconsistent in the supply of information to the political parties on the number of voters registered for the special voting exercise. The new allegation that the Ghana Police Service is adding more names to the special list, long after the deadline passed, is disturbing, to say the least,” it said and queried which other groups of people had been allowed to add to the list after the deadline.

It said the EC had clearly disregarded the relevant portions of CI 94 (Regulation 23) to have entertained the latest application from the Ghana Police Service.

“If the rules of the game can be twisted and turned by the referee as and when it pleases, can we then say that the elections will be free and fair when the parties do not know what illegal steps will be taken in the process leading up to the elections?“ it pointed out.

It further stated that some of their parliamentary candidates had been disqualified without due process and were also aware that the EC chair had announced the intention to recount the ballots depending on some circumstances which were not backed by law.

Another tool

“We believe this is another tool to be deployed in favour of a particular candidate if the results do not go in his favour. This attempt to change the results through a purported recounting is a recipe for chaos and civil disobedience,’’ the statement said.

It said the elections had witnessed the clearest ever abuse of incumbency on the part of the NDC and the use of state security agencies and party thugs to intimidate opponents and added that a free and fair election environment would require an atmosphere of fairness in the application of the EC's laws on political party funding.

It said the EC had gone to sleep and allowed the NDC to use state funds to buy votes without questioning it. More so, the state security apparatus had been used to harass and intimidate opponents of the ruling government.

It said the three parties had shown resilience in the face of those problems and demonstrated leadership in controlling their supporters to do their best possible to participate in the process of a semblance of an election.

But, more importantly, it placed on record the need for civil society, the National Peace Council, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) and the international community to take steps to reverse those disturbing trends, so that there could be proper free and fair elections in the future, since free and fair elections on December 7, 2016 had escaped us.

Quick read

The Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC) and the National Democratic Party (NDP) have cast doubts over the possibility that the December 7, 2016 elections will be free and fair.