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General News of Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Source: Class FM

Voter roll: Clergy mustn’t 'ambush' EC - Group

Most Reverend Joseph Osei-Bonsu, President of the GCBC Most Reverend Joseph Osei-Bonsu, President of the GCBC

The pressure being put on Ghana’s electoral commission by some Christian clerics, in relation to the debate over the country’s electoral register, is “unfortunate,” a group calling itself Concerned Clergy Association of Ghana (CCAG) has condemned in a statement.

“In the current state where some…clergy are making statements to pressurise and ambush the electoral commission is very unfortunate and every effort must be made by the Church to disassociate itself from such a posture,” CCAG said in a statement signed by president and spokesperson Bishop Prince Benny Wood.

The group says it has reservations with comments and contributions made by some clergy over the matter.

The Christian Council of Ghana (CCG) and the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference (GCBC) have commented on the debate saying there was a need for a credible register for the 2016 polls.

In a statement signed by the President of the GCBC weeks ago, Most Rev. Joseph Osei-Bonsu, the Catholic clergy said the need for a credible register for the December elections was very critical, thus the need for all claims of anomalies to be investigated and redressed.

Also a statement signed by CCG’s General Secretary, Rev. Dr. Kwabena Opuni-Frimpong in early October said: “In order not to give anybody doubts about the 2016 General Elections and ensure that electorate have confidence in the voters’ register and the electoral process, the CCG recommends to the Commission to ensure that the register is credible.”

It added, however, that: “The Council is of the view that, the determination and call for a credible voters’ register should be done by electorate and not the political parties.”

But the concerned clergy group has warned that: “The contributions of pastors on electoral issues under the 4th Republic have always been seen with a lot of suspicion and we have to be careful not to make it worse.”

“We are of a firm belief that our Electoral Commission is capable of dealing with the issue of the voters register and should be allowed to finish its consultations, come out with a position and report, then we can analyse and make our position on it, but as of now nothing shows that the EC is incapable of giving us free, fair and peaceful elections,” it affirmed.

It said: “As a body that is mandated by God to promote morality and peace, we have an enormous responsibility to make sure that our statements will promote peace and respect for our institutions.”

“No nation can develop without strong institutions and it’s important we do whatever we can to encourage the strengthening of our institutions and not take positions that may weaken it,” it added.

Views of former Presidents

Flagbearer of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo, recently told the international community at a programme in Amsterdam that Ghana’s electoral roll is bloated by more than two million names.

“For a country where a margin of 40,000 votes can determine who wins an election, having a register bloated by over two million names is totally unacceptable,” the former attorney general noted.

He said “three out of the five main political parties have called for a new register,” adding that the support from former Presidents John Agyekum Kufuor and Jerry Rawlings for calls by pressure group Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA) for a new register, underscores the need to replace the 2012 register ahead of the 2016 polls.

LMVCA has been pushing for a new roll. The Police botched two planned pickets towards that end, a few weeks ago.

When its leaders visited Mr Rawlings on Wednesday October 14, 2015 to rally support for their cause, the former President said if a new electoral roll will engender confidence in the electoral process as far as the 2016 elections are concerned, then “let’s do it.”

“Everything possible must be done to ensure a very credible electoral process. If this means that we listen to what some of the elders are saying, the Churches etc., to examine what’s going on, to give the registry, the electoral process into the elections a very credible climate, a very credible instrument, platform, I think let’s do it,” Mr Rawlings said.

On the same day, former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings said the new Chair of EC Charlotte Osei is in office to do what Ghanaians want, and not what she unilaterally decides for the country, as far as the electoral process is concerned.

Supporting the LMVCA’s cause, Mrs Rawlings told journalists that: “We cannot say that we are going to have credible elections when it is clear that the electoral process is flawed.”

In that regard, she said the Chair of the Commission must listen to groups like the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, LMVCA, and several other political parties, including her own National Democratic Party (NDP), that are clamouring for a “new credible register.”

“Once it has been discovered that some pictures were scanned and pushed into the register, it’s already flawed the register; totally flawed, and once it is flawed, that alone, without talking about all the other issues, shows that something has to be done.

“It is not up to the electoral commissioner to decide that she will, or will not do what the people of Ghana want.

“She is there to do what the people of Ghana want, in consultation with the people that she is working with, and the parties around, not in consultation with: ‘me, myself, and I.’ That’s not it, so, if pictures can be scanned and put onto the register, it already negates it.

“Why don’t you have a new register that will be more credible, [and] make everybody in Ghana happy? If all those recognised groups are saying the same thing, then we cannot all be wrong, and one person is right, so, it is important to revisit it,” She said.

The comments of the Rawlingses came just a day after the Catholic Bishops’ Conference’s statement.

On a similar visit by LMVCA to Mr Rawlings’ successor on the same matter, Mr Kufuor said the EC had no excuse but to compile a new roll.

“I am with you entirely, completely that the Electoral Commission should not plead excuses like cleaning the register and it’s a new chair and I hope she’ll start her tenure with a very clean state…I’ll add my voice and will ask the Electoral Commission to do the right thing” Mr Kufuor said.

According to him, a clean and credible register will save the country a lot of trouble, adding: “I have seen what faulty elections can do to otherwise peaceful people. So the Electoral Commission should listen… The cost of having a faulty election cannot be imagined.”

LMVCA is alleging that more than 76,000 names of persons from neighbouring countries have infiltrated the Ghanaian electoral roll, thus the group’s demand for a new register.

Mr Akufo-Addo, who strongly supports calls for a new register took the campaign to the international community. In separate meetings in Washington DC with think tanks Centre for Global Development and the National Endowment for Democracy, the three-time flagbearer said the most effective means by which the EC can win the confidence of Ghanaians is by compiling a new electoral roll.

According to the three-time flagbearer, Ghanaians are no longer interested in resorting to the courts to settle electoral disputes, but, rather, prefer a reformation of the country’s electoral process.

Quoting from the CDD’s Afrobarometer report in 2014, which said that public trust in the EC dipped to 42% in 2014, from 80% just before the 2012 elections, the former Attorney General said it was imperative for the EC to restore the confidence of the citizens in the institution by having a new roll.

To firm up his argument, Mr Akufo-Addo also read from the report by the UNDP on Ghana’s Electoral Commission (“Conduct of an Institutional Assessment and the Development a Strategic Plan for the Electoral Commission of Ghana”), issued 2 months ago (16 August 2015), which stressed that: “the EC used to be the most trusted institution in the country; but not anymore.”

The UNDP report, according to Mr Akufo-Addo, concludes by categorically stating that “substantial amount has been invested on the biometric registration and verification; however, there is still no reliable voter register.”

Ghana’s governing party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) is opposed to the calls for a new register. It’s General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia has argued ad nauseam that the register could be cleaned and used for the general elections, rather than replaced with a totally new one.

President John Mahama, also, recently said on one of his visits outside Ghana that the 2012 register was “relatively young.”

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