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General News of Thursday, 23 October 2008

Source: GNA

Political parties pledge commitment to peaceful elections

Accra, Oct. 23, GNA - Representatives of seven political parties on Thursday pledged their commitment to peaceful free, fair and transparent elections in December. At a forum of members of the Council of State and the political parties to identify obstacles to a peaceful election in December and find ways to tackle them, each representative stated that they would not do anything to mar the peace before, during and after the elections. The forum, organised by the Council, was in response to a request by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) for the Council to enter the political fray and help address thorny issues that could mar the electoral process.

Representatives of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Convention People's Party (CPP), Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), Democratic People's Party (DPP), National Reform Party (NRP) and the Reform Patriotic Democrats (RPD) were present at the forum.

Prof. Daniel Adjei Bekoe, Chairman of the Council of State, noted that the Council found it necessary to enter the fray at this time to help find solutions to possible obstacles to a peaceful election. He congratulated the political parties for the tolerance they each exhibited at the balloting for positions on the ballot paper and expressed the hope that the same level of tolerance would characterise the December polls.

"We are interested in peace and we believe that every political party has a role to play in ensuring a level playing field which is imperative to keeping the peace before, during and after the elections," he said.

Dr. David Pessey, Member of the National Working Committee of NRP, disagreed with the Chairman of the Council of State, saying that the responsibility of ensuring a peaceful election rested with the sitting government since it controlled the law enforcement agencies, state media and other institutions, which were part of the framework for peace. "I don't think it is fair for the Council of State to call on all political parties to ensure a peaceful election when all the institutions and mechanisms for ensuring peace are being controlled by the incumbent," he said.

"The Council must be forthright enough to place that responsibility squarely at the doorstep of the government and the EC instead of generalising the call to ensure peace."

Dr Pessey observed that it was all well and good to witness the peace campaigns across the country, but stated, however, that the mere call for peace would not guarantee peace.

"Justice and fairness precede peace; the EC needs to ensure a credible electoral register to warrant a peaceful election," he said. He, however, pledged that the NRP would be willing to participate in any venture geared towards ensuring a peaceful election and expressed the hope that the forum would be a springboard for a sustained process at ensuring a credible election in December.

Ms Hannah Tetteh, Communications Director of the NDC, called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to display the voters' register on its website to enable everyone to have easy access to it and contribute to its purging.

She noted that one of the major obstacles to a peaceful election was the lack of credibility of the current voters' register due to the mass abuse of the recent limited registration exercise where hundreds of thousands of minors were reported to have registered.

Ms Tetteh said the recent exhibition of the register was not patronised as expected, adding that the register could not guarantee and free, fair and credible elections.

She noted that the election itself was just one event, but the processes that led to it needed to be handled properly to guarantee peace before, during and after the elections. Mr Peter Mac Manu, National Chairman of the NPP, asked the political parties not to demonise the EC, saying they could all help to solve the mistakes of the EC instead of taking advantage of them to go on rampage.

"EC alone cannot guarantee peaceful elections - all of us need to come on board to make peace a reality in this election," he said. He urged all parties to be guided by Constitutional Instrument 15 and the Public Order Act in the conduct of their activities before and during the elections, saying that the NPP was committed to making the law work.

Mr. Mac Manu assured the other political parties that the NPP would not abuse incumbency but would ensure a level playing field. Mr. Bede Ziedeng, National General Secretary of DFP, said there was no way the December polls could not be peaceful since the four previous elections were peaceful.

He said the DFP was committed to ensure peace, adding that political parties, who thought they were divinely ordained to rule Ghana, should shift positions on that thought and accept that any party could win elections. Mr Ziedeng protested the exclusion of minority parties from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) presidential debates and asked the major political parties and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation not to participate in "the discriminatory venture of the IEA". Mr Mohammed Salisu Sulemana, General Secretary of the DPP, noted that the Political Parties Code of Conduct was not a valid document for regulating the behaviour of political parties since it was not endorsed by most of the political parties. The political parties and the Council of State held a closed door meeting with the parties, which is expected to come out with practical solutions to the obstacles to a peaceful election as put forward. 23 Oct. 08

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