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Opinions of Friday, 26 February 2016


EC must prove itself and stay the course

The job of being an Electoral Commissioner in Ghana is clearly an onerous one. For, ever since the Commissioner, Mrs Charlotte Osei, assumed office she has moved from one prolonged public disagreement to another.

Notable amongst them involved whether or not the country should come up with a new voters register and now the difference in opinion is about the setting up of a Steering Committee which according to the Electoral Commission (EC) is to assist it with the conduct of Election 2016.

The decision to come up with the committee has been met with a lot of resistance stemming from its composition. Another issue that has not sat well with a number of people particularly the politicians amongst us has to do with the seeming secrecy with which the committee was set up.

The civil society organisation, Let My Vote Count (LMVC), together with the opposition political parties led by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has registered its displeasure at the membership of the committee following revelation that a member, Dr Karl Mark Arhin, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the National Service Scheme, was a card bearing member of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC).

In fact, it was not only Dr Arhin who was fingered by LMVC to have leanings with the NDC. Also said to have association with the ruling party is Mr Joseph Whittal of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and Mr Francis Azumah, Executive Secretary of the National Peace Council.

At a meeting between the Interparty Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the EC, it was said to have been agreed that the Steering Committee was to be disbanded in view of the confusion surrounding its establishment.

But the EC has come out to deny this insisting that the committee is still in place. Since elections involve principally the political parties, it is clear that their non-acceptance of the committee would pose problems because they were not involved with its formation.

It would not be out of place, if the EC would go back to the drawing board and involve all stakeholders and come up with a new committee that would be acceptable to all.

But to insist that it cannot be stopped as has been presented by the Director of Public Affairs at the Electoral Commission, Mr Christian Owusu Parry, portends difficulties ahead.

Others are also raising constitutional issues that must be taken into consideration I believe. Article 46 of the Constitution provides that in performing its functions, “the Electoral Commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority”.

It is believed by experts therefore that the formation of the steering committee, even if its function is only advisory, will go against the independence sought for the EC by the Constitution.

Again the commission has seven members as stipulated by the Constitution a Chairman, two Deputy Chairmen and four other Members all of whom are appointed by the President on the advice of the Council of State.

These eminent men and women together with support from the political parties through IPAC have successfully conducted six elections already.

Why does the country need a steering committee under the ambit of the EC this time around? If it is anything to do with giving the EC advice or direction, that could be done through the IPAC and would involve the parties contesting the elections directly.

A number of people, church leaders and institutions have asked the EC to tread cautiously. All of them have asked the EC to be guided by truth, patriotism and the fear of God in order to ensure a peaceful election.

What is left is for the EC to play its cards well in order not to give room for doubts over its actions. This is extremely important considering the cliffhanger of an election on our hands this year.