Opposition parties slam electoral commission’s plan to compile a new electoral register before the December general elections, reports our correspondent Francis Sackitey from Accra
The Electoral Commission of Ghana has come under criticisms from opposition parties, including the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), for its decision to compile a new electoral register.
Coming under the umbrella of the Inter Party Resistance Against the Compilation of a New Voter’s Register, the opposition parties have planned series of demonstrations to be staged all over the country to pile pressure on the Electoral Commission (EC) to rescind its decision to compile a new voters’ register ahead of the December 2020 general elections.
“A new register has the potential to affect the credibility of the election because the EC itself has admitted that the current register is credible; so, if there is a credible register and you insist on replacing a credible register, what are you doing it for?” ask Asiedu Nketia, the General Secretary of the New Democratic Congress (NDC).
Mr Nketia has debunked the claim by the EC that the current voters’ register is obsolete. He cited the successful District Assembly Elections conducted by the EC in August 2019 which he said counters the claim of the EC that the register is obsolete.
“So, you’ve been able to use the current register to fill 40,000 vacancies [in the District Assembly Elections] while the Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) you described as ‘obsolete’ were 99 per cent efficient during the conduct of the same election; so, if you are saying that the machines you declared ‘obsolete’ performed with 99 per cent efficiency and filled 40,000 vacancies, then what changed within two weeks that the same register and machines can’t be used to elect a President and 275 MPs? We don’t understand,” he said.
The EC on its part said it took the decision to procure the new Biometric Voter Management System on the advice of its IT team and external consultants “to the effect that it would be prudent to acquire a new system rather than refurbish the current system.”
Addressing a press conference at its headquarters in Accra, the EC’s Deputy Chairman in charge of Operations, Samuel Tettey, said it would make more economic and operational sense to acquire the new system than to keep the current system and refurbish them at a high cost of frequent replacement of failing parts and renewal of warranties.
Besides, he said the current Biometric Voter’s Registers (BVRs) are at what he termed “their end-of-life”.
Justifying the need for a new Biometric Voters’ Register for the December 2020 elections, Mr Tettey said the present register is bloated yet there has not been any effective means of cleaning it. The bloated register thus needlessly increases the cost of elections as materials must be procured for an otherwise high voter population, leading also to waste. Besides, its continued use will greatly affect the credibility of the 2020 general election.
He said the system to be used to compile a new register would include facial verification that will eliminate manual verification and ensure credibility. He discounted concerns that the time was too short to compile a new voters’ register and claims that a new register will amount to a waste of scarce resources.
As the debate rages on, some organizations and individuals have thrown their weight behind the EC while others are also on the side of the opposition parties.
The Concerned Voters Movement (CVM) has voiced it s support for the EC. Also, the Dean of Studies and Research, the Institute of Local Government Studies, Dr Eric Oduro Osae, has advised those opposed to the EC to go to court. He said that it was the most prudent thing to do instead of demonstrating and applying indirect pressure on the election management body.
Dr Osae said the Constitution, under Article 45(a) gave the EC the sole mandate to compile a voters’ register and its independence in that regard was guaranteed under Article 46 of the same Constitution.
Moreover, a body known as The Coalition of Political Parties in Support of a New Electoral Roll has entreated the EC to engage those opposed to it in an atmosphere of “openness and sincerity.” The Coalition, at a news conference, also wants the Commission to demonstrate that it is capable of compiling a new voters’ register ahead of the 2020 general elections.
The Chamber for Local Governance (ChaLoG) on its part, has said that the reasons so far advanced by the EC to procure a new IT system and compile a new register are simply unjustifiable and untenable.
It said the continual insistence of the EC to go ahead to compile a new register in spite of the overwhelming evidence of the effective functionality of the Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) for the 2012 general election, 2015 District Level Election (DLE), 2018 referendum and 2019 DLE “is only an attempt to create a problem which simply does not exist by the EC to create fertile grounds to go ahead to needlessly and intentionally wantonly dissipate a whopping GH¢444 million of the taxpayers’ money just for the sake of it”.
The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) also said “there is no need for a new voter’s register” and has cautioned the EC to be careful not to plunge the country into chaos over its decision to compile a new voter’s register.
According to the CDD, Ghana is holding a population and housing census in March 2020 which means the EC would have to wait for that exercise to conclude to have Ghana’s new population data in order to plan for their new register, by which time it will be too late.
Ghana will hold general elections in December. The main candidates for the presidency are incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and former President John Mahama of the main opposition NDC.
Ghanaians are worried over the strong positions taken by the EC and the opposition parties. Every election year in Ghana has produced tension and Ghanaians are praying that the differences do not lead to civil conflict during or after the elections.