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The case of the missing ballot boxes and other matters

I can’t believe that the long-awaited Election 2016 is less than a week away. And it’s interesting that there has been no shortage of memorable developments this election is generating, such as what one can term the ‘strange case of the missing ballot boxes’.

MANASSEH’S FOLDER: The only man who can exonerate Mahama in Bugri Naabu bribery saga

The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) yesterday held a press conference and wildly accused President John Dramani Mahama and his brother, Ibrahim Mahama, of attempting to bribe the Northern Regional Chairman of the NPP, Daniel Bugri Naabu. Mustapha Hamid, who addressed the media, said the intention was to get Bugri Naabu to turn against the NPP’s flag bearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, portray him as a divisive ethnocentric bigot and destroy his chances of winning the 2016 elections.

H. KWASI PREMPEH WRITES: The Bawumia Factor in the 2016 elections

THE BAWUMIA FACTOR IN THE 2016 ELECTIONS: WHY IT REPRESENTS A MORTAL THREAT TO THE NDC AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO TRANSFORM THE BASIS OF PARTY POLITICS IN GHANA.

Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia is the vice presidential candidate of the NPP in the upcoming December 7 elections. It is not in the nature of presidential contests for a party or campaign to aim a significant portion of its attacks and propaganda at the vice presidential candidate of its main rivals. Of course, being an integral part of a presidential ticket, a VP candidate is fair game in a hotly contested presidential election. The point here, though, is one of proportion. Why has the NPP’s Bawumia become such a thorn in the flesh of the NDC and a focal point of rival attack and attention in this year’s contest for the presidency?

MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Confession

I stand accused. I stand accused of hating the President of the Republic of Ghana, H.E. John Dramani Mahama. I stand accused of hating the National Democratic Congress (NDC). And others accuse me of hating the government. This is because of the work I do. I’m an investigative journalist. And a writer.

The one wish of late Bawumia’s aide on night of death

Before writing this piece, we were hesitant. Not so much because we were afraid of being inaccurate, but because we didn’t want to hurt the sensibility of our friend, Kwabena Boadu who could best be described as a man of words.

MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Mahama isn’t the problem. Our hypocrisy is!

Last weekend, President John Dramani Mahama stirred the dangerous beehive of ethnicity. And he got himself deadly verbal stings from across the country. Even people who have no right to open their mouths in this matter had their bite. It reminded me of Dr. Paa Bobo’s song, “Abaa saa.”

Akufo-Addo writes: On the ‘Ghanaian economic paradox’

IN this election Ghana is at a crossroads. The current NDC government is throwing away the economic credibility of the nation, and President Mahama’s handling of the economy has raised serious questions that need answers.

Tribute to Eva Lokko: First and only female Director-General of GBC

Death is the wish of some, the relief of many, and the end of all,” Craing Gang.

But that was not our wish when death unexpectedly laid its cold hands on Madam Eva Lokko, an accomplished woman of our land. Her sudden demise came as a huge surprise to many because no one heard about her ailment.

A layman’s summary of Woyome and Martin Amidu’s battle over our GHc51.2 million

The Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) under President John Evans Atta-Mills, fraudulently paid a financier of the party GHc 51.2 million cedis between 2010 and 2011. A Supreme Court Judge, Justice Jones Dotse said it appeared those who facilitated the payment“entered into an alliance to create, loot and share the resources of this country as if a brigade had been set up for such an enterprise”.

The silent majority; spiral of silence in motion

How did this just happen? Unusual, unexpected, strange, weird, unprecedented and now bizarre are but few of the words used by mainstream media to describe a bitter election that has produced Donald Trump, 45th President of the United States of America .

The irony underlying democratic politics

Three months ago, I was told by a scientist of the University of Cape Coast that Ghana’s main water bodies will almost all have been destroyed in the next five years, if things go on the way they are going.

Dialogue from the other room

Mrs Angela Merkel (AM) walks into her living room at the end of another day in her life as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Dancing in the rain at Manhyia

Anytime I use the Accra-Kumasi road, undoubtedly the busiest network in the country, I come back annoyed. I get angry because of what I detect as a deliberate policy of this administration, not to bring the construction of the 31.7 kilometre Teacher-Mante-Suhum-Apedwa stretch of the 250 kilometre Accra-Kumasi road, to a definite conclusion.

Mental Men & The Magic Economy: The Future of Africa

Money rules the earth. Just look at the seductive power of money over humanity and you can see how all other subjects have now become footnotes to economics. The mother of money is of course, business.

Elizabeth Ohene writes: Monster, raving, loony decisions

When I lived in the United Kingdom, one of the highlights of election night for me was the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, (OMRLP). The leader of the party, Screaming Lord Sutch and his outlandish outfits fitted perfectly my image of the quirky English.

Ghana’s 2016 elections: New boss, New rules!!

The first queen of England, Queen Elizabeth, was regarded as too controversial for mainly three reasons; the fact that she was a woman had the people doubt her ability to rule, her refusal to wed was a threat to getting an heir to the throne; and her ban of Catholicism. But incidentally; her marriage to England proved successful.

The kind of President we need

The tragedy we face as a nation is that most of the people who seek to lead us are con men. The stories they tell us to convince us to vote for them are mostly lies and the vocabulary they use all come from the lexicon of the con artist. But why should we complain? Telling lies to the ones we claim we love is a Ghanaian thing! Ask the young men who seek to sow their wild oats among unfortunate young girls. They break their hearts as they ‘con’, ‘boss,’ spin them ‘lines’ and tell them outright lies straight in the face by promising to love them all their lives. All the nice rhetoric means nothing, except as a window dressing for a possible future broken heart. Sounds familiar?

The fall of a mighty star: Dr Abdulai Choggu

A tragedy of the 21st century for Dagbang, the Northern regions and Ghana as a whole, occurred today, 3rd October 2016, in the death of Dr. Abdulai Choggu. Dr Choggu’s death symbolizes the fall of a mighty tree or the brightest of all stars.

MANASSEH’S FOLDER: Where are the NPP billboards?

I spent the past weekend in Cape Coast. Like any other town or city in the country, one thing was obvious. The smell of election was very thick in the air. And one hardly moves without seeing signs of the impending elections – billboards and campaign posters advertising all manner of characters, who need our mandate to have unfettered access to the national purse.

Ghana, under Mahama, is a divided nation

I was chatting with a woman lecturer in Communication Studies from Nigeria yesterday, who said: “In Africa, a whole ocean separates official pronouncements from action.” She was absolutely right.

People first? Surely not under the NDC

It is official! Better Ghana is dead. The burial and memorial service dates have not been officially announced, but it is as clear as tomorrow is Saturday that the concept is interred with the mortal remains of the deceased leader of the party, who originally out-doored the mantra.Political connoisseurs never left the old Slave Castle when President John Dramani Mahama beat a hasty retreat from the Castle, following the death and interment of Prof. Evans Atta Mills at Asomdwee.

Six tell-tale signs that could signal vote rigging

As Ghana goes to the polls on December 7, the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) which beleives it was cheated of vicotry in the 2012 presidential elections has vowed not  allow itself to be cheated again.

But how does one spot vote rigging?

BBC's Elizabeth Blunt has witnessed many elections across Africa, as both a journalist and election observer and looks at six signs of possible election rigging.

Too many voters

Watch the turnout figures ‒ they can be a big giveaway.

You never get a 98% or 99% turnout in an honest election. You just don't.

Voting is compulsory in Gabon, but it is not enforced; even in Australia where it is enforced, where you can vote by post or online and can be fined for not voting, turnout only reaches 90-95%.

The main reason that a full turnout is practically impossible is that electoral registers, even if they are recently compiled, can rarely be 100% up-to-date.

Even if no-one gets sick or has to travel, people still die. And when a register is updated, new voters are keen to add themselves to the list.

No-one, however, has any great enthusiasm for removing the names of those who have died, and over time the number of these non-existent voters increases.

I once reported on an election in the Niger Delta where some areas had a turnout of more than 120%.

"They're very healthy people round here, and very civic-minded," a local official assured me.

But a turnout of more than 100%, in an area or an individual polling station, is a major red flag and a reason to cancel the result and re-run the election.

A high turnout in specific areas

Even where the turnout is within the bounds of possibility, if the figure is wildly different from the turnout elsewhere, it serves as a warning.

Why would one particular area, or one individual polling station, have a 90% turnout, while most other areas register less than 70%?

Something strange is almost certainly going on, especially if the high turnout is an area which favours one particular candidate or party over another.

Large numbers of invalid votes

There are other, more subtle ways that riggers can increase votes ‒ or reduce them.

Keep an eye on the number of votes excluded as invalid. Even in countries with low literacy rates this isn't normally above 5%.

High numbers of invalid votes can mean that officials are disqualifying ballots for the slightest imperfection, even when the voter's intention is perfectly clear, in an attempt to depress votes for their opponents.

More votes than ballot papers issued

When the polls close, and before they open the boxes, election officials normally have to go through a complicated and rather tedious process known as the reconciliation of ballots.

After they have counted how many ballot papers they received in the morning, they then need to count how many are left, and how many ‒ if any ‒ were torn or otherwise spoiled and had to be put aside.

The result will tell them how many papers should be in the box. It should also match the number of names checked off on the register.

 

The first task when the box is opened is to count the number of papers inside, this is done prior to counting the votes for the different candidates.

If there is a discrepancy, something is wrong. And if there are more papers in the boxes than were issued by the polling staff, it is highly likely that someone has been doing some "stuffing".

That's a good enough reason to cancel the result and arrange a re-run.

Results that don't match

Mobile phones have made elections much more transparent.

It is now standard practice to allow party agents, observers and sometimes even voters to watch the counting process and take photographs of the results sheet with their phones.

They then have proof of the genuine results from their area ‒ just in case the ones announced later by the electoral commission don't match.

It has clearly taken crooked politicians some time to catch up with the fact that people will now know if they change the results.

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionMobile phones have made elections more transparent and caught some politicians off-guard

In south-eastern Togo, local party representatives told me that they witnessed the count in 2005 and endorsed the result; they saw the official in charge leave for the capital, taking the signed results sheet with him. Yet the results announced later on the radio were different.

The same thing happened in Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2011. The results announced on the radio were not the same as those international observers saw posted outside the polling stations.

But this transparency only works if the official announcement of results includes figures for individual counting centres ‒ and this has become an issue in the current Gabonese election.

Delay in announcing results

Finally, something that is not necessarily a sign of rigging, but it is often assumed to be so.

Election commissions, particularly in Africa, can appear to take an inordinately long time to publish official results.

This is not helped by local observer networks and political parties who, tallying up the results sent in by their agents on mobile phones, have a good idea of the result long before the more cumbersome official process is completed.

But the official process takes time, especially in countries with poor communications, and the introduction of modern electronic transmission systems has not necessarily helped.

Where these systems have proved too demanding for the context, as in Malawi last year, they can actually increase delays as staff struggle to make the technology work.

In that particular case the results eventually had to be transmitted the old fashioned way; placed in envelopes and driven down to the capital under police escort.

By then, allegations of rigging were flying.

Delay is certainly dangerous, fuelling rumours of results being "massaged" before release and increasing tensions, but this is not incontrovertible proof of rigging.