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Opinions of Friday, 4 December 2020

Columnist: Chineseman, Osei and GuyGee

Independence of the electoral commission under Akufo-Addo intact

Prince Adjei is one of the authors of this article Prince Adjei is one of the authors of this article

Ghana has been touted as a beacon of hope for the African Continent and this is largely due to the near perfect culture of democratic governance it has developed for itself.

As part of the country's credentials, it has successfully organised seven successful democratic elections leading to the smooth transfer of power from one government to the other albeit from one political party to the other.

Underpinning this achievement is the establishment of stronger institutions of which the Electoral Commission is one. The Electoral Commission as an important wing of the democratic governance of Ghana became functional following the coming into force of the 1992 Republican Constitution.

It is important to emphasise that following the promulgation and coming into force of the Constitution which invariably established the commission, three individuals have had the opportunity to manage the affairs of that great institution. They include Dr. Kwadwo Afari Djan who worked from 1992 to 2012, Madam Charlotte Osei from 2015 to 2018 and currently Madam Jean Mensah who started her work in 2018.

While the work of the commission has largely contributed positively to the country's enviable credentials as a democratic state, it has not in anyway been spared of the regular criticisms and bastardisation. In many instances, there has been accusations from sections of the Ghanaian public especially the political parties, against the E.C. on issues of objectivity and fairness.

The accusations have largely depended upon which political party is in power or opposition at anytime. More often than not, parties in opposition have tended to accuse the electoral management body while those in government have always gone to the defense of the commission.

Having declared Mr. J.J. Rawlings a winner of elections in succession, many thought it would be difficult or impossible for Dr. Afari Djan to announce another political party as a winner of elections.

However, in 2000, following the overwhelming verdict of the people going in favour of candidate J. A. Kufour and his New Patriotic Party(NPP), it became the duty of Afari Djan, then Chairman, to declare him the winner.

This and other issues notwithstanding, some people still saw challenges and biases with his work particularly in the conduct of the 2012 general elections where he failed to provide the correct figure on the list of voters who registered abroad in the various Ghana missions.

When Madam Charlotte Osei took over in 2015, she did her best in overhauling the Commission but encountered some challenges with people in the discharge of her duties. Her posture and demeanour sometimes created suspicion among the political parties.

Some of her decisions that generated confusion and doubts within the Ghanaian populace, was her announcement in a BBC interview in UK that, should there be a close margin in the presidential results after getting to her office, she would do a ballot recount.

Many wondered why she could harbour such a plan when it was against the constitution and the electoral laws of country to call for ballot recount after declaration at polling station and certification by the Chairperson who is the Returning Officer for the presidential elections.

The accusations and counter accusations from her own colleague Commissioners on corruption matters created some discomfort and uneasiness and whittled down the confidence reposed in the Commission and deepened the suspicion of interference in their work. The ultimate price to pay was that through constitutional means, she was removed as the commissioner.

Following her removal, Mrs Jean Adukwei Mensa was appointed the head of the new electoral management board. In sharp contrast to her predecessor, the Jean Mensah led EC seems to have calmed down the atmosphere.

Though her administration has also not been spared the usual accusations and bastardisation, the level of transparency and competence injected into the operations of the commission seems to make a mince meat of the accusations.

The commissioners and their staff have so far remained focused and resolute in their work particularly the conduct of the 2020 elections.

Over the period, presidents who have appointed Chairpersons and other Commissioners of the EC are seen to be either consciously or unconsciously putting up a behaviour and demeanour that suggested they expected the Commission to favour.

This reflected in the arrogance some of such leaders displayed to electorate as if they were not going to seek their mandate again.

President Akufo-Addo seems not to bother about what the EC will do. His campaign tours across the regions look like he is even in opposition now looking for power. Same applies to his Vice President who has engaged people in the hinterland for the past couple of months ahead of the 2020 elections.

This action of President Akufo-Addo, not expecting any favours from the EC, must be commended by all. Such positive attitude helps to strengthen state institutions and invariably makes them stronger for the benefit of the country.