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Opinions of Friday, 27 March 2020

Columnist: Enimil Ashon

What if no President by January 7?

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo

I am not God, not even a Nostradamus, but in all things, I try to see tomorrow.

Unless the election of a President and members of parliament (MPs) is so critical to our existence that we can afford to put the health of the people on hold, it is very possible that at the rate at which Ghana is counting its Coronavirus infections, the 2020 elections could be postponed.

The ‘possibilitist’ antenna in my head became agitated when, on Wednesday, the EC announced a suspension of the exercise to compile a new voters register until “it gets to a time when the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ghana Health Service (GHS) and other experts” give it the all-clear.

If the all-clear comes before the end of April, it may be possible to begin and end the electoral process by all the due dates and conduct actual voting on December 7. Question is, what if the all-clear comes some time in May or even later?

By the EC’s interim calendar of activities, the compilation of the new register starts from April 18 and ends on May 30. After adjudication on challenges which will end by October 26, the final register will get to all political parties on November 4 and to all constituencies by November 8.

What if something should happen and a new President cannot be sworn in by January 7? Will Ghanaians agree to allow the incumbent President to continue till such time that Covid-19 will cease to be a threat to our existence?

What about all those wannabe MPs from both sides of the divide, especially those in ‘World Banks’ where primaries have already been held and who know, by now, that they have two legs in the House come January 2021?

Postponing the election will not be new: the first election in the Fourth Republic was on November 3, 1992. Certainly, on a certificate of urgency, dictated by the will of the people, Election 2020 can be shifted. By its very nature, however, the constitutional process is tortuous and time consuming.

The EC will have to write to the Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Justice justifying the need to amend Article 112 (4) of the 1992 Constitution to allow for a date change.

The resultant bill from the AG’s office will go through the required parliamentary process. I can envisage the walk-outs, the ayes and nays. I can even foresee the National Democratic Congress (NDC) mightily advertising the point that the delay has been occasioned by an EC procurement challenge resulting from its “recalcitrance”. When quiet is restored, two-thirds of MPs will have to vote in favour of the amendment.

Only then can the EC go ahead to begin the processes to change its calendar to be in tune with the new date.

All of the above process does not foresee coronavirus still walking the streets of Ghana. Meaning, it is possible that our MPs can cite pandemic reasons for refusing to be called back. Fellow Ghanaians, I have a solution. In the event of a delay, I propose that we use the National Identification Authority (NIA) Ghana Card. The NIA is not done registering the entire country, but my experience with the process assures me that all things being equal, using the Ghana Card to vote will be the most acceptable option.

Alternatively, how about using the existing register! All we need to do is add names captured in the June 2019 limited registration. This humble suggestion of mine, however, is dead on arrival, having been shot down by Dr Serebuor Quaicoe, EC’s Director of Electoral Service, who has stated categorically that “that will not happen”.

In the United States of America, the virus has forced some of the states to postpone their primaries for the election of a Democratic flag bearer. To protect the health and safety of citizens, the Board of Elections has requested that the elections take place primarily by mail ballot.

Meanwhile, in Ghana, as the deadly pathogen walks the streets and strikes in increasing numbers, British Airways has been granted special right to lift British citizens out. My information is that the Canadian Embassy staff left a week ago. Eishh!

Is there going to be a lockdown? What will happen to compatriots in 91 per cent of homes in Accra without toilets and 35.7 per cent nationwide? What about the 32 per cent, nationwide, who depend on public taps and the 73.9 per cent in rural areas who have to fetch from wells or natural sources?

And by the way, we may have to wait till pay-day because at this time of the month, people are so broke they can’t do the panic buying to stock up.

To do or not to do: that’s a question!

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