Almost all the political parties in the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) have accepted a proposal by the Electoral Commission (EC) that general elections should close at the 3pm on election day instead of the current time of 5pm.
They also agreed that certified regional collated results should be announced by the Chairperson of the country’s election management body to reduce tension and suspicion.
However, in that case, the EC should state clearly the percentage of results yet to be released.
The political parties adopted the new reforms in principle in a communique issued after a two-day review workshop on the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections of Ghana.
The workshop was aimed at assessing the processes leading to the 2020 elections and the election itself with the view to proposing recommendations for reforms.
However, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) refused to take part in the workshop and therefore its views on these matters were unknown.
Among the political parties present at the workshop were the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Convention People’s Party (CPP), People’s National Convention (PNC), All People’s Congress (APC), Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), Ghana Union Movement (GUM) and Ghana Freedom Party (GFP).
As part of measures to secure polls, the political parties advocated affixing ballot boxes to tables in a bid to avoid ballot box snatching.
Message from Jean Mensa
In her keynote address, the EC Chairperson, Mrs Jean Mensa pointed out that any learning and assessment processes of the 2020 and future elections ought to reflect and take account of successes and possible areas of reform.
She noted that “as a nation, as a Commission and as stakeholders, it is important that we recognize the feats we achieved through the 2020 electoral processes for the purpose of documenting best practices and experience, and to ensure that the successful strategies we adopted do not fall through the cracks of inordinate fault-finding and critique. Constructive critique is a vital part of any institutional-building and learning process, but so is celebration of success.
“As state institutions we tend to gloss over our achievements. Instead, as a country, our default mode is to cast assessments of public initiatives or exercises in the mould of fault-finding missions armed with a fine-tooth comb, seeking earnestly to find fault. Sadly, we are slow to recognise where we have put good processes and systems in place, much less document them. In a bid to improve upon our past performance, we rush to propose new recommendations when the old processes and structures are working very well. We need to be guided by the adage that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, she said.
Successes of 2020 polls
Mrs Mensa indicated that for the purposes of learning and institutionalising best practices, it was important to highlight and document the processes and policies that contributed to the achievements chalked during the 2020 Elections.
These include EC’s ability to conduct presidential and parliamentary elections in six months in a COVID environment, ability to successfully conduct all electoral activities (Registration, Exhibition, Nomination, Special Voting and Election Day Activities) in the height of COVID-19.
Others include high participation of citizens in spite of fears and apprehensions of the COVID-19 pandemic, absence of long queues at polling stations and the ability to deploy technology to guarantee that only unique individuals were registered to vote thereby enhancing credibility of the register and electoral processes.
The rest are EC’s ability to prepare a brand-new voters’ register with over 17 million persons in 38 days without the spread of COVID-19, ability to reduce the cost of elections from US$13.00 to USD$7.70 per person and save the country GH¢522 million at a time when costs of elections the world-over was rising; and attaining the feat of election participation of 79% on election day.
For the first time in Ghana’s electoral history, the 2020 elections were fully financed by the Government of Ghana without any donor funding.
Again, deployment of technology to enable the citizenry to check their registration details all through to Election Day.
In his remarks, EC’s Director of Electoral Services, Dr. Serebour Quaicoe, noted that significant progress had been made since 1992.
He indicated that the level of transparency and accountability displayed by the Commission in the 2020 elections through the medium of the “Let the Citizen Know” platform, where the Commission provided bi-weekly briefings on key aspects of its work and answered questions from the citizenry was unprecedented.
In spite of the gains made, Mrs. Mensa bemoaned some challenges that need serious redress ahead of future elections.
These include the phenomenon of rejected ballots, incidence of manual verification, carting and encouragement of registration of unqualified persons such as minors and foreigners; and violence in some centres.
The political parties agreed on the implementation of the Continuous Voter Registration Exercise to enable citizens who turned 18 years and those who had not previously registered to do so.
Accordingly, they have for establishment of a committee to deliberate on the implementation modalities for the Continuous Voter Registration.
The continuous voter registration, they further suggested, should be implemented with proof of citizenship being limited to the use of Ghana Card and Ghana Passport since the guarantee system is often abused.
The parties called for an all-year round voter exhibition exercise through the use of technology (SMS short code) as well as maintain the periodic mass verification at exhibition centres.
However, they asked for a cut-off time for the continuous voter register exhibition to allow for the compilation of the register for voting on Election Day.
Filing of nominations
The parties agreed that the five-day period for filing of nominations introduced in 2020 should be maintained.
They asked that the period set aside to enable the political parties to obtain signatures from their supporters be increased.
The period for election campaign, the parties suggested, should be defined and that it should commence after nominations are filed.
They urged EC to encourage nominations of female and persons with disabilities (PWDs) candidates by reducing their filing fees by 50% and the refund of nomination deposits for all contesting candidates.
According to the political parties, the current arrangement whereby the media, security services and election officials are allowed to apply and vote under the Special Voting period should be maintained until such time that the process is fully entrenched.
The political parties agreed that the security around elections is the responsibility of the Ghana Police Service (GPS).
GPS, they proffered, should arrange a periodic platform to engage IPAC and other Stakeholders and provide updates on the 2020 Elections malpractices and violence.
In addition to this, political parties and the media must show commitment to the democratic process and be mindful of their comments, as some of their statements have the tendency to provoke violence and inflame tensions and suspicions.