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Opinions of Friday, 6 January 2012

Columnist: Ofosu-Appiah, Ben

Addressing The Flaws Of Organizing Elections In Africa;

After watching Jarreth Merz’s internationally acclaimed movie, An African Election, and all the commentary and interviews about it, I realized how close we were to violence in 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections. One interview that caught my attention was the one conducted by Paul Adom Otchere of Metro TV. The interviewer made a lot out of having cameras in the EC strong room and I ask myself: What's the fuss about having cameras in the EC strong room?
Jarreth Merz did a great job by filming the EC strong room during the 2008 elections for his acclaimed movie; "An African Election".
That's the way to go if we are to ensure transparency and fairness in our Electoral process. Cameras should be installed in all corners of the EC Strong Room to capture every action that goes on there during the tabulation of election results.

You see I have always said that our journalists whether in the print media or the electronic media are at the bottom of the pack. We have TV stations, and numerous radio stations in Ghana but they don’t do any original and creative work worthy of the name that can receive critical acclaim. They sit on their lazy and incompetent asses and show only copyrighted materials, hip-hop songs and azonto dancing, "charlatans" who call themselves pastors and their cacophonous noise making called preaching all day and night. The hosts of their numerous so called political discussion programmes are arrogant, rude, and disrespectful, they have no ethics and they contribute to the crap and insults on the airwaves everyday, but these same incompetent souls got the audacity to question Merz for making a movie about Ghana's elections.
Why didn't MetroTV or whatever it calls itself make a documentary about the Elections and document it for posterity given how pivotal the 2008 elections were in the annals of Ghana’s history?

Merz has done a great job by documenting democracy in Ghana. His movie has received international acclamation, he has done a great PR work about it including a talk about it on and has been interviewed by numerous media houses abroad and at home. This movie shows the world Ghana went to the brink in the 2008 elections but we were able to pull ourselves back. The people decided the fate of Ghana, it wasn't left to the Supreme Court to decide even though Atta Akyea and co. conspired with the Chief Justice to overturn the people’s will. Ghana had its own Florida 2000 moment but we excelled and did better than even the United States. The people of Tain decided the elections not a hurriedly convened Supreme Court anywhere.

The Electoral Commission and its Commissioner Afari-Gyan must be decisive, strong, independent and fair even in the face of intimidation. By the powers invested in him as the Electoral Commissioner, he can throw out results from any constituency where the turn out exceeds 100% of the registered voters in that particular constituency. It goes without saying that any constituency that returns an election results exceeding 100% of the voter turnout of the registered voters in that constituency must have the results nullified and thrown out. THIS IS COMMON SENSE.
In an election it is impossible to have 100% voter turnout in any constituency. No way. Chances are none, zero, zip, nil, nada. Having a 90% turn out is a near impossible feat. Some people might have passed away since the last elections and the last voter registration exercise, some may have moved out of the community, others owing to ill health or other commitments may decide not to vote, so 100% voter turnout is impossible let alone the ridiculous situation of having more people than the number of registered voters in that constituency vote. That is fraudulent and must be rejected right away.
If the EC’s Afari-Gyan cannot be firm on this he must resign or be made to step aside. As we go into Election 2012, all stake holders must agree to play by the rules, and the EC must enforce those rules without fear or favour. This is how one observer put it:
“After watching the trailer of the documentary on the 2008 elections, and hearing Afari-Gyan’s comment that there is no African election in which one side has not alleged cheating by the other, I have been wondering whether the time has not come for him to retire or be retired.

I wonder whether he realized that his position that ‘once the ballot gets into the ballot box it will be counted’ lies at the root of his own observation. It is a fact that there will always be some unlawful votes in all elections. But to get to the situation where voter-turnout exceeds 100% - that is more people voted than registered – takes the crown. If he had any spine, he would have rejected the vote count from all constituents where the results showed up a voter turnout in excess of 100%. But he accepted results which showed voter turnout of even 139%!! He might not have been responsible for the 139% voter turnout, but by accepting such a result he was certainly nurturing potential electoral violence. By Afari-Gyan’s logic, we could soon have election results that show 200% voter turnout, provided the votes are in the ballot box!

That the violence did not occur was not due to any divine intervention. It was simply because the NDC felt that even if they won by one single vote they had won: ALL-WIN-BE-WIN!!!. Was that not the case, we would be singing a different song right now.”
The current government’s lack of action in investigating the electoral malpractices that occurred in 2008 with a mind to fixing it so they don’t show up again in 2012 is worrying to say the least. A friend of mine recently remarked “It’s been 4yrs now and the government has done nothing about all the anomalies that took place during the 2008 elections.

It has been very irresponsible and reckless on the part of the government not to had instituted some inquiry to address these issues and has allowed this time-bomb to keep ticking to 2012.Some people were determined to plunge this country into violence but since the government came into power we have heard nothing about these anomalies which nearly sent us over the cliff.”
That’s the crux of the matter. No effort has been made to investigate and punish wrongdoing. So here we go again. Another election year and we are all sitting on thorns not knowing what went wrong last time that brought us so close to violence and how to avoid it this time.

No telephones must be allowed in the EC strong room. People who go there to transact business must know that their every move is being monitored and recorded. People in there must be cut off from the outside world. If phones are brought in they must be bugged, immobilized or all phone conversations recorded. If we do this we can make our elections more and more transparent and the rest of Africa and the world will look up to us for inspiration. They are a lot of things we can do to make the outcome of our elections more credible and also to make the elections itself more transparent , and free from violence and fair to all parties taking part.

Ben Ofosu-Appiah,
Tokyo, JAPAN.
The author is a policy strategist, and a social and political analyst based in Tokyo, Japan. He welcomes your comments. He can be reached at ;