View Full Version : The 2012 December General Elections: - Matters Arising

9th December 2011, 12:26 PM
There is no doubt that the December 2012 General Elections will usher in a lot of changes in the political history of Ghana.

Whilst the NPP Presidential Candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo says voters should return the NPP to power to halt the negative trend the NDC Government is plunging the country into, the President, Professor John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills, on the other hand says he will hand over power in January, 2017.

Baba Jamal also says the Akwatia seat will be his in January, 2013, no matter the outcome of the December, 2012 General Elections. It is for this reason that many people are suggesting that the 2012 Election will be a watershed in our countryís the history.

But I have my fears as to whether or not the Electoral Commission will be ready to undertake this onerous time within the time frame for registration and voting and also to act as an impartial arbiter in the elections.

For one thing, registration of voters is always flawed in many ways. The Commission creates only few Registration Centres with few officials to carry out this exercise. Very many people are made to go through excruciating pains just to get registered. I have seen prospective voters standing in queues under the scorching sun for hours and at times for days before they got registered. A potential voter may move from one Registration Centre to many other Centres before getting the opportunity to be registered.

And the irony of the whole situation is that he might get registered at a Centre where he is not known and where it is difficult to verify his identity.

And if we are to get a credible Votersí Register, a way must be found to verify the identity of potential voters. I remember during the registration of voters in the UNIGOV era, registration officers moved from house to house as was done during the Census period. Registration Officers might not necessarily move from house to house, but it can be done in such a way that people living in a particular area will assemble at a particular location to be registered. If such a measure is adopted, it will be impossible for someone who does not live in an area to present himself for registration. The residents of the area will raise an alarm that ďa stranger in JerusalemĒ is in their midst, and the infiltrator will be flushed out.

But the way the whole registration exercise is carried out leaves loopholes to be capitalized by notorious criminals. During the 2008 December Elections, I joined a queue surrounded by unfamiliar faces. A way must be found out to make the upcoming 2012 Elections credible. More polling stations must be created. For example at Israel where I live, there were only two Registration Centres, one at the lorry station and the other in front of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. People joined the queue as early as 5.00am yet could not be registered before registration closes for the day. Those who cannot endure the shoving, pushing, kicking often leave the queue to look for centres where the queues are not long.

What is worth doing is worth doing well. More Registration Centres should be created to enable more people to be registered at places where they reside. Voting could also be done at places of work. For example, a two day public holiday to start on Friday and end on Monday together with Saturday and Sunday could be declared to enable residents within a certain radius assemble at a particular place for the registration to be effected.

How do we prevent aliens from registering as voters? Our borders are porous and foreigners from any of our three borders could infiltrate our ranks and be registered. If we want a credible voterís register devoid of all acrimony, a way must be found so that only Ghanaians get involved in the election of our leaders at various levels. Foreigners should have no role in the decision making process of our country.

This is where the input of the National Identification Authority could be very helpful. What about making it a pre-requisite that every potential voter must prevent his National Identification Card at the point of registration? There must be some corroborative efforts between the Electoral Commission and the National Identification Authority during the Registration Exercise. French Speaking African Countries place much emphasis of Identity cards, and we must take a cue from them.

I urge IPAC during its deliberations to have a critical look at this suggestion. And it is on such premise that I appeal to the NIA to expedite action on the issuance of Identity Cards to their potential owners.

The EC must also ensure transparency during the registration period. At every given time, the Commission should try to prevent the recruitment of known party men and women to carry out the exercise. Everybody has some sort of sympathy for a particular political party, but known members or sympathizers should not be recruited. It should also avoid a situation where a political party will hijack the registration apparatus and use them to satisfy its own parochial end
People claim biometric registration will clean up the register and enable us have a credible one, but it is not full-proof.

A registration officer can register minors, use their particulars but affix the photographs of adults on their cards. Letís say if a hundred minors are registered because security and vigilance were compromised. During the election, the one hundred minors will not go out to vote, but that will create room for adults to use their names and information to vote, after they have cast their votes at places where they registered.

There is that possibility. And that is why we are asking for verification.

Two camps have emerged, one for verification and the other against it. Whilst the Opposition Parties are all for verification, the NDC which is the party in Government is strongly against it. Representatives of the Government Party argue about the cost implication for the nation. They also argue that it is not every part of the country that is connected to the National Grid and so it will be difficult to use the verification machine. They also make a case of a possibility of power failure.

But all these arguments pale to insignificance when viewed against the background that the country stands to gain more from an election whose results are accepted by the generality of the country than to have disputed results. But I am happy that the NDC, as a party has not said that verification is bad.

The party is hinging its rejection on the two stated points and the fact that the country is not ready for it. If we are not ready in 2012, when are we going to be ready? And by 2017, what is the guarantee that the illiteracy rate would have gone down drastically? What is the guarantee that by 2017 almost the entire country will be connected to the national grid? What is the guarantee that power outages or failure would have become a thing of the past?
Cote díIvoire embarked on a biometric registration without verification and we all saw the implications in terms of human lives and financial loss to the country. Is this the legacy we want to leave for our younger generation? No!
How do we verify the identity of somebody who has come to vote? By merely looking at the picture on his voters card and the Register? I have already made an issue of registration of minors. Let us look at this scenario. A seven or eight year old is registered by an unscrupulous registration officer, but his age is given as say twenty. The picture of an adult is affixed to the card and in the electoral register. To the NDC, the picture on the voterís card is enough to weed out double registration or impersonation, but from the analysis I have presented, it is not. The indelible ink will not deter notorious criminals for they have a way of erasing the ink mark from their thumbs.
In some Advanced Countries certain banks have placed limits on the amount of money one can withdraw per day. How do such banks enforce this directive? By verification! Otherwise, somebody can withdraw money from one town or city and make further withdrawals at other branches. With verification as soon as one reaches the limit, he/she will be told that he can no longer withdraw further money.
When one votes on line and attempts to vote again, the computer tells him/her that he has already voted. So it is with verification. You cannot use ordinary fire to smelt gold. It is done in a furnace. And the fact that the deity is kind does not mean it can be appeased with water. Biometric registration goes with its attendant verification. Finito!

Election dispute have plunged some nations into wars. We must therefore do everything to prevent such a calamity from befallen us. And a way out is to provide the necessary funds for verification exercise. There cannot be peace without justice. The money Government wants to spend on journalists could be channeled into provision of verification machines. In addition, the purchase of Four planes for the Ghana Air Force could be pruned down to two and the amount so saved be added to other monies to make verification exercise a reality. If we want peace, harmony and progress, we must make a lot of sacrifice.

On absence of electricity in most communities and the possibility of power failure, I have this to say. The verification machines can be operated by simply using dry cell batteries. And if for any reason, the machines cannot be operated manually, polling Agents from all the Parties present can come to a compromise to use manual verification. There are no fast and fixed rules on that.

I am through this medium appealing to every Ghanaian, irrespective of political affiliation to support this clarion call for verification during the December, 2012 Elections. We want a credible, free and fair elections free from all rancors and wrangling, come December, 2012. On verification I stand. What about you?

Source: Daniel Danquah Damptey (Damptey_daniel@yahoo.com) 0243715297