Ghana’s 1992 Constitution contains many provisions aimed at facilitating democratic elections, and the implementation of those provisions has contributed in no small measure to the country’s achievements in the democratic space thus far.
And this is why the Electoral Commission (EC), as the principal organ for the administration of elections in Ghana, can share in the credit for the success so far achieved.
This is because the preparation for and conduct of elections are carried out by the EC, which is established and defined by articles 43-46 of the Constitution. Its role is further fleshed out in the Electoral Commission Act of 1993.
Article 46 holds that the commission is not subject to any authority in performing its functions, while Article 45 outlines those functions, which include the compilation and revision of the electoral register, demarcation and revision of electoral boundaries, conduct and supervision of public elections and referenda, education of citizens on the electoral process and other such functions that may be prescribed by law.
This year, in the midst of the national fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease pandemic, the EC took a very bold and courageous decision to compile a new biometric voters register for the 2020 elections, much to the disagreement of some stakeholders including political parties and civil society organisations.
In spite of the disagreement, which culminated in demonstrations in some cities in the country and legal battles at the Supreme Court, the EC did not flinch. It stood its ground, armed with all the provisions in the Constitution and the act that set it up, and the voters registration took place.
Justifying the need for a new biometric voters register for Election 2020, the EC said the present register was bloated, yet there had not been any effective means of cleaning it.
The commission subsequently procured a new biometric voter management system to compile a new register for the 2020 general election, explaining that it also took the decision to procure the new system on the advice of its IT team and external consultants, who said it would be prudent to acquire a new system, instead of refurbishing the current system.
The Daily Graphic commends the EC for its resolute stance in the face of criticisms and public backlash and for showing fortitude to ensure the smooth and successful execution of the exercise.
Admittedly, it was quite a daunting task having to defend its position, especially when questions were being raised over its decision by a cross-section of Ghanaians, the media and some political actors.
The EC’s job is a difficult one, and rightly so because the performance of its functions could be fraught with controversies which could provoke acrimonious disputes due to extraneous or extra legal factors introduced in the process, either by the state, through its numerous agents, or contending political parties, their candidates or supporters.
Such interference can severely compromise the role of the EC as an impartial referee and thereby throw into grave doubt the credibility of entire elections.
Thankfully, the existence of a body of laws, explicit rules and regulations provides the EC with a measure of insulation and puts it in a stronger position lawfully to resist undue external pressures and interference in its work.
We are happy that the EC has so far resisted undue pressure and is acquitting itself very well. Between Friday, September 18 and 25, this year, it is carrying out another important exercise — the exhibition of the voters register for the final opportunity for the 16.6 million registered voters to authenticate their personal information, as well as confirm if their names are on the register.
We implore all registered voters to take this exhibition exercise seriously.