The Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) Joseph Whittal, is concerned about the Supreme Court’s role in empowering the Electoral Commission (EC) in Ghana. He believes that certain judgments by the Supreme Court have made the EC appear untouchable and overly emboldened, even to the point of challenging the authority of Parliament.
Whittal’s remarks center around the idea that the Supreme Court’s interpretations of the law in various election-related cases have granted the EC significant power and autonomy, potentially at the expense of democratic checks and balances. He questions why one institution should be given so much authority, especially with the apparent endorsement of the Supreme Court. Whittal’s concerns reflect worries about the balance of power in Ghana’s democracy.
One specific case Whittal cited is the Abu Ramadan case, where former Chief Justice Georgina Wood emphasized the importance of the right to vote and the ease of voter registration. Whittal argues that the EC should not create obstacles for Ghanaians wishing to register to vote, as registration is a fundamental aspect of democratic participation.
Additionally, there is controversy surrounding the EC’s decision to conduct limited registration exercises only at district offices, which critics argue may disenfranchise individuals living in remote or hard-to-reach areas. The EC has defended its decision, stating that it would be logistically challenging to cover all areas and that they would prioritize registration in hard-to-reach areas based on the situation on the ground.
The Chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, also mentioned the challenge of decentralizing the registration process, partly attributing it to Parliament’s failure to pass a proposed Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) for approval.
Overall, Joseph Whittal’s comments highlight concerns about the power and autonomy of the Electoral Commission in Ghana’s democracy and the role of the Supreme Court in shaping the EC’s authority. These issues are important in the context of ensuring a fair and transparent electoral process.