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General News of Sunday, 23 May 2010

Source: Ghana Celebrities

Statement Issued By Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom,

Statement Issued On May 21, 2010 By Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, On the Opening of the Voters’ Register By the Electoral Commission

The Electoral Commission has announced the reopening of the voters’ register from June 11 – 20, 2010. This is to register those who have attained the age of 18 since 2008 and those above 18 who did not register in 2008. But this time, I am not impressed by the intentions of one of the world’s most respected independent Electoral Commissions (EC). Since the advent of the Fourth Republic, the Ghana EC has conducted a number of elections of Unit Committee and Assembly Members, Members of Parliament and Presidents. It has been called upon to conduct internal elections of political parties and has also advised on elections in other parts of the world. I have commended the actions of the EC in the past and have affirmed my confidence in the integrity of this very important organization. Indeed, when the integrity of the EC is undermined by its own actions or that of others, the integrity of our democracy suffers.

As we want to deepen democracy in the country and further boost the integrity of the EC, we must all be concerned and act appropriately when it is going off course. The EC as a human-based organization can be strengthened and its systems and processes can be improved. It is in this regard, that I consider the announcement of the opening of the voters’ register and the processes the Commission plans to rely on flawed and prone to errors. At worse, what it plans to do by relying on our past practices is likely to encourage fraud in future elections. The world and technology has changed but it appears that the EC is standing still. It must move with the times.

The EC plans to open a limited number of polling stations in the country during the period the register will be open. The question is why? Opening a limited number of polling stations causes people to have to move from place to place to find a registration center and hence the need for all manner of political “agents” to guide people, facilitate their movement and lead them to the limited centers. Why not make it easier for people to register at the polling stations they are likely to vote at? Quite often, lack of funds is cited as the reason for limiting the number of centers to be opened. That cannot be accepted as a good reason after so many elections. If we want to continue to enjoy a national life with a vibrant, multi-party democracy, we cannot let the excuse of lack of funds to limit the ability of people to register to vote. The Mills Administration must provide the resources needed for us to get an improved voters’ register.

Better yet, in this day of advanced technology, why do we not encourage continuous registration when someone comes of age to vote? Now that the National Identification System is being implemented, what stops the EC from developing a new approach to adding people onto the voters’ register? If they have any such plans, they should tell us so that we can encourage its implementation.

I am at a loss to understand why the EC would schedule the reopening of the voters’ register from June 11th to the 20th during the period of the World Cup. Everybody knows where the attention of the nation is going to be. All eyes and minds will be tuned to South Africa and the games to be played by our Black Stars football team. If these dates remain, then we will be encouraging the usual suspects to attempt to cheat while no one is paying attention.

The EC in announcing the reopening of the voters’ register called on political parties to desist from acts that will disrupt the process. The EC knows what happened the last time the register was opened. It must address its venom at the NDC and the NPP. These two political parties engaged in all manner of activities that should have resulted at the very least in penalties and in some known, specific cases, some people should have faced the law. Some members of these two political parties moved people and indeed steered people to register in polling stations to gain advantage in such aggressive manner that fights broke out and people were injured in the process. No one was brought to face the law. Some leading members of these two parties openly organized minors to register to vote. Nothing was done about it. And now all the EC can do is to “appeal” to them to be of good behavior?

Finally, it is about time that the EC did away with the idea of polling agents. The Commission should test this when it opens the register by preventing political party representatives from going anywhere within 100 meters of the registration center. It must not encourage polling agents or representatives of the political parties to hang around the registration centers. They will only go there to sow conflict. They have no legal powers and cannot prevent anyone from registering. Only EC officials and security personnel should be at the registration centers. If we are able to do this, the idea of “macho men” and others meant to intimidate people during registration and voting periods will reduce and eventually become a thing of the past. It is time the Electoral Commission and the country moved on from just living off past glory some of which has come because we live in a very bad neighborhood in Africa. Yes, we have achieved a good measure of success in the recent past. But we must strive to do better. It is time for change.

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