Feature Article of Friday, 16 November 2012

Columnist: Samson Lardy Ayenini

Intransigent Afari Gyan must be flexible on early voting

I am extremely disappointed to learn that the Electoral Commission Chairman Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan is, reportedly, insisting that Journalists cannot have the privilege to join his men and women as well as security officers to vote before December 7.

Yes, he may be working within the strict confines of C.I 7 (Public Election Regulations 2012), the new law which came into force only on the 28th day of September.

But it is a notorious fact that legislative processes towards this particular elections have been late with a great deal of time wasted on the controversial C.I 78 which provides legal backing for the 45 newly created constituencies. The petition by the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) is spot on and ought not be brushed aside.

The sad and unfortunate suggestion by the Commission to have reporters join queues or rather depend on the benevolence of its officers on Election Day to have preference to cast their ballots without queuing must be rejected.

The EC ought to know that many reporters will be out of their polling registered stations on Election Day. Some will be in various parts of the country days before December 7. I am sure the EC and all other stakeholders acknowledge that the media contributes in no less measure to the credibility of the polls that have brought Ghana high esteem the world over.

This, is the singular wisdom that guided their inclusion on the list of special voters in previous elections. I don’t know why the respected Commission Chair has in recent times preferred to ask people who have some election-related complaints to head to court, instead of allowing them the opportunity to first exhaust the options for jaw-jaw.

I don’t find his apparent inflexible posture amusing at all going into the crucial elections. I have made the educative point elsewhere that the current Public Election Regulations, 2012 – C.I 75 may not be such a great departure from its predecessor in respect of the present debate to the extent that journalists were really not specifically added to the security and EC officials for the special or early voting, but it beats my mind why the current law took away the power previously given the EC to certify other voters to participate in the special voting for obvious good reasons.

It is natural to have expected that the change would have rather made provision for the specific inclusion of media persons and perhaps such other groups like health workers who are needed at post even on Election Day. C.I 75 like its predecessor both contain regulation 21 which gives ordinary voters the chance to apply 42 days before the elections to be included in the special voters list if their duties will prevent them from being present at their registered polling stations on election day. Ignorance of the law, I know, is no excuse.

But by virtue of the late passage of C.I 75 and the lack of reasonable time for voters to receive education on it, I am certain none or not many voters have availed themselves of this opportunity and right.

On the basis of this, I respectfully and humbly submit, Dr. Afari-Gyan, that it is expedient and well within the commission to “certify” journalists and key groups like the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers – CODEO to vote early so they may have undivided attention and focus working on December 7. This is a position that can be comfortably urged on a court of law, but shall we wait for that, 21 days to the polls? OVER TO YOU AFARI GYAN.