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Opinions of Monday, 12 August 2013

Columnist: Blankson, Nana Kow

Don’t Undermine Integrity Of Ghana’s Electoral System

By Nana Kow Blankson

August 12, 2013

Ghana’s electoral system is one of the most transparent you can ever imagine in any part of the world. It compares to none in Africa. Even the United States does not come close to Ghana’s electoral system. Ghana probably is the only country that involves political parties in every facet of the electoral system.

Due to the extreme pellucidity that the Electoral Commission has operated, all the political parties in Ghana even know the printing houses that the ballot papers for elections are printed. In fact, all political parties are permitted to bring their own agents who act as security men and women to the printing houses when ballot papers are being printed. What is more, the security at the printing houses is 24-hours.

Then again, when the ballot papers and the accounting sheets are being transported to the regions and to the constituencies and the polling stations, no single political party in Ghana is left out. They all have log books with the serial numbers of all the ballot sheets.

All political parties are aware of the movement of the vehicles transporting the ballot papers and their final destinations. We also have polling agents of all parties at all the various polling stations during Election Day. Each party is supposed to have one polling agent at each polling station. But even where an agent has to leave a certain polling station for some time, he/she is permitted to arrange for another agent to relieve him/her.

On Election Day in December 7 and 8, 2012, polling agents were allowed to move around and observe everything that happened. In fact, the polling agents had the power to protest if they found that there was somebody who was not authorized to vote who has gone to the polling station to vote.

When the polls closed, no political party agent was sacked. They were all there when the sealed ballot boxes were opened. They witnessed the separation of the ballots as well as the counting of the ballots. At any point in time if any agent was not satisfied with what was being done, he or she was authorized to yell.

When the counting of the ballots was over, every agent ensured that the right number of votes garnered by his/her candidate was written on the pink sheet. Here again, if any agent was not satisfied with anything, he/she could raise hell.

When the accounting of the voting was finalized, every polling agent was called to come on board to sign his/her signature to signify that they witnessed to the transparent voting, counting and the declaration of a free and fair election. No single polling agent of any party was forced to append his/her signature.

And at any point in time that an agent felt that something uncanny had happened or his/her candidate has been cheated out, they had another window of opportunity to protest by refusing to append their signatures at the polling stations.

But what is even more beautiful about the country’s electoral system is that even assuming an agent feared for his/her life at the polling station, and as a result, could not register his/her protest, the laws permit such an agent to go all the way to the collation centre to yell out his/her protest.

All these have been done by the EC to make the country’s electoral system very transparent and robust. In fact, the mechanisms that the EC has make it very easy to detect and expose any irregularities, sometimes even before they occur.

In the United States, we don’t have polling agents of political parties at polling stations on Election Day. In fact, political parties don’t even take part during the printing of ballot sheets and they don’t play any role during voting, the counting of ballots and the collation and declaration of results. It’s all done by the state electoral officials.

Therefore, if Ghana gives all the parties such leverage and respect during voting on Election Day, how come only one party will come back and cry wolf after losing the presidential election, while the rest of the political parties see otherwise.

It is in this vein that, Mr Tony Lithur, counsel for President John Mahama, thinks that the Supreme Court must not entertain the desk top exercise by Nana Akufo-Addo and others which has the propensity to undermine the integrity and legitimacy of the country’s electoral system.

“We should not undermine the integrity and legitimacy of our electoral system by recourse to a desk exercise based on flimsy material unsupported (indeed contradicted) by the testimony of eyewitnesses.”

Mr Lithur stated in his oral address that, “It is submitted that failure to observe the steps laid down by our electoral laws of doing simple things like signing irregularity forms, or noting on the face of pink sheets any alleged irregularity, at the very least, cast a very heavy burden on a petitioner who alleges irregularity at those polling station to lead credible evidence of wrong doing?”

“It is this burden of proof, which lies at the heart of 1st Respondent’s defence, and, exhibiting pink sheets without more, does not discharge that burden in the face of strong denial by Respondents”, Mr Lithur added.

If Ghana has all these electoral checks and balances in place, yet Nana Akufo-Addo could not produce just one NPP supporter or sympathizer to inform the whole country that he witnessed Kwame K voting twice or Kofi Bruce who was not authorized to vote attempting to vote, why is he trying to waste everybody’s time with this desk top noise? I can conclude by saying that indeed the country’s electoral system would be seriously undermined if the Supreme Court rules in favour of Nana Akufo-Addo.

nkowblankson@yahoo.com