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Opinions of Thursday, 10 May 2012

Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame

Parliament Must Decide Extension of Biometric Exercise

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

Garden City, New York

The hint offered by the Chairman of the Electoral Commission that the just-ended biometric registration exercise may be extended for eligible voters resident in areas of the country where logistical problems and incidents of violence prevented their full participation, must come as refreshing and welcome news for all Ghanaians who are intent on ensuring the effective functioning of democratic culture in the country (See “Biometric Registration Exercise Ends; EC Chair Hints of Extension” 5/5/12).

In hinting at the possible extension of the exercise, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan also noted that such extension would be based on concrete case-by-case evidence of a genuine need for the same. Obviously, such selective approach is predicated on fiscal and logistical factors. It would also ensure more quality control, such as a more effective scrutiny for the elimination of registrant fraud. Time, of course, is of the essence in this particular instance.

Unfortunately, approaching such remedial exercise selectively would likely shortchange eligible voters in areas that the EC determines to have experienced a relatively peaceful and high registrant turnout. And here is precisely where the entire exercise may have woefully come up short, as it were. For in any well-functioning democracy, every vote ought to count. What this means is that there is an imperative need for the EC to opportunely undertake a constituency-by-constituency comparison between the general area population and potential voter eligibility, in order to ensure that a cumulatively significant percentage of eligible voters have not been excluded from the exercise.

What the preceding means is that rather than relying on media reports and even those of EC personnel on the ground, as it were, a more scientific and far-reaching approach ought to be adopted. The government should also be alerted to the fact that the currently abnormally high temperature of Ghanaians in general, and in particular the major political players involved, heading into Election 2012, necessitates a generous budgetary expenditure for the Afari-Gyan Group, if the outcome of the electoral process is designed to guarantee peace and security in the country, come December 8, 2012 and after.

For this reason, it would be more foresighted to delegate the decision to extend the biometric voter-registration exercise, as well as the form that such exercise ought to take, to a parliamentary select committee, working hand-in-glove with an independent and/or non-partisan panel of experts. I know perfectly well that this sounds far easier in conception than in execution; nevertheless, it is the surest was to guaranteeing peace and quiet, and security in the country in both the short- and long-term. ###