Thirteen political parties have thrown their weight behind the decision by the Electoral Commission (EC) to compile a new voters register for this year’s parliamentary and presidential elections and called on all other political parties to support the EC in its quest to deliver credible elections.
In the estimation of the parties, the EC had made a solid case for a new register in terms of cost, time and credibility, hence their decision to support the commission to compile the new register.
At a press conference in Accra yesterday to state their case, the Spokesperson for the parties and Leader of the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), Mr Kofi Akpaloo, said: “We are a coalition of political parties for ‘YES’ to a new register because the justification for the new register by the EC is very clear.”
The ‘YES’ political parties
The 13 parties which are in favour of the EC’s compilation of a new voters register and represented at the press conference were the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), led by Mr John Boadu, its General Secretary; the LPG, represented by Mr Akpaloo, and the People’s National Convention (PNC), represented by Mr Haruna Asante.
The National Democratic Party (NDP), the United People’s Party (UPP) and the Democratic People’s Party were represented by Alhaji Kwame Frimpong, Mr Emmanuel Ackom and Mr Tweneboa Kodua, respectively.
The Convention People’s Party (CPP), the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), the Reformed Patriotic Democrats (RPD), the New Vision Party (NVP), the Yes People’s Party (YPP), the United Love Party (ULP) and the Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), which are part of the ‘Yes’ group, also had representatives at the media briefing.
While acknowledging the fact that the EC was the constitutional body with the sole responsibility to administer all public elections in the country, the parties said the compilation of the voters register was one of the key functions of the EC.
“We also recognise that by reason of Article 46, the EC is an independent body that is not subject to the direction or control of any person or authority in the performance of its functions, except as provided in the Constitution,” Mr Akpaloo emphasised, quoting Article 45 of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Electoral Commission Act (Act 451) to buttress their point.
He said every effort by the EC to enhance the democratic process needed to be supported, and that informed the decision by the 13 parties to back the EC’s plans.
“It is a patriotic obligation on all other stakeholders, including political parties and civil society organisations, to support and cooperate with the EC to discharge its constitutional mandate and not seek to direct the EC on how to perform its functions,” he emphasised, saying: “The Constitution, in Article 51, also mandates the EC to make regulations for the effective performance of its functions, particularly for the registration of voters and the conduct of public elections.”
Making a case against the claim by the NDC that the EC successfully used the current register in the just-ended district assembly and unit committee elections and so there was no justification for a new register, Mr Akpaloo said: “That assertion is akin to comparing apples with oranges because the turnout in district assembly and unit committee elections cannot be compared with the turnout in general elections.”
He wondered why any political party or group would be opposed to an exercise by the EC intended to enhance the credibility of the polls in December.
“We cannot fathom how the compilation of a new voters register to improve and enhance the credibility of our elections can be construed by any reasonable person as a recipe for chaos.
“On the contrary, we think that it is rather the reckless comments by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and its like-minded political parties against the compilation of a more credible register, as well as their diabolic agenda against the EC, including their desperate move to incite Ghanaians against the commission, that can jeopardise the peace and security of this country,” he said on behalf of the parties.
He further emphasised how key elections were to the sustenance of the multi-party democracy of the country, noting that since the cost of a disputed election could not be quantified, it would not be too expensive to spend GH¢448 million to secure the peace of this country before, during and after a general election.
He said a report by the independent consultants, as well as the EC’s own Information Technology (IT) team, had established that it was rather more expensive refurbishing the current system, which had become obsolete and unfit for purpose, than to acquire an entirely new system.
Therefore, he said, “the amount of GHc487.9 million spent by the Charlotte Osei-led EC on just limited voters registration in 2016 was much more than the proposed amount of GH¢448 million to be spent by the Jean Mensah-led EC, not on limited registration but on an entirely new biometric system with more functionalities”.
Touching on the role of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), Mr Akpaloo said almost all the major electoral reforms that had been witnessed in the country from 1996 till date had been spearheaded by political parties through the IPAC.
To that end, he said, it was important for the public to note that the debate on the new register was best carried out within the framework of the IPAC, where genuine concerns could be digested properly by all concerned parties, else “we have to also come out with our equally important views in a manner to also show our support for the compilation of a new register”.
On the biometric voter management system (BVMS), the Spokesperson for the parties said the EC had, time consistently and in line with its constitutional mandate, served notice that it intended to procure new gadgets ahead of the 2020 general election which would, therefore, lead to the compilation of a new voters register and had proceeded to justify the need to do so.
He said the EC consulted all the relevant stakeholders, particularly the political parties through the IPAC, where extensive deliberations had been held.
“The EC, in justifying the need to compile a new register, informed the parties and, indeed, the public that its decision was based 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 which had become obsolete and unfit for purpose,” Mr Akpaloo said.
Additionally, he said, the current biometric architecture did not have a facial recognition technology, neither did it allow for a facial recognition, and, therefore, “the new BVMS that the EC intends to acquire ahead of the 2020 elections will have a facial recognition as an additional feature for those whose fingers cannot be verified and thus reduce the high incidence of manual verification which often proves to be problematic and tends to compromise the integrity and credibility of our elections”.