The largest opposition party in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has rejected a plan by the Electoral Commission (EC) to end voting at 3 pm in future elections, beginning with the 2024 general elections.
Since 1992 polls have always closed at 5 pm on any election day in Ghana, but the EC hopes to bring the time forward to enable the votes-counting process to start when there is still enough daylight.
This reform was part of 16 proposals by the EC that was adopted by the Interparty Advisory Committee (IPAC) at the end of a two-day review workshop of the 2020 general elections in Accra.
That workshop was not attended by the NDC but the partyâ€™s biggest contender, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and other smaller parties.
However, at a press conference held on Thursday, May 20, 2021, to react to the 16 proposals agreed at the IPAC, the NDCâ€™s Director of Elections, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, said even when polls have closed at 5 O'clock, there have been instances voting continued beyond this time because voting materials arrived late.
â€œGhana is not Accra and Kumasi. In some of the rural areas, the poor farmers there have to go to the farm, get some food for the day before they come and vote. So, you create a situation where you are going to create unnecessary panic and confusion, is this necessary at this time?" he asked.
On another reform by the EC to substitute periodic mass registration with continuous registration, the NDC said continuous registration cannot be a substitute for periodic nationwide registration because the all-round registration can only be done at the district offices of the Electoral Commission.
â€œEligible voters may have to travel several kilometres to district offices to register and not everyone can do this. Secondly, political parties always assign agents to observe the voters registration process. It will therefore be ludicrous for the EC to suggest that political parties should employ permanent agents at their district offices to observe the registration of eligible voters all-year-round,â€ the NDC stated.
According to the opposition party, the reform proposal also presents a major challenge of transparency in verifying the claims of prospective registrants at the district office level.
Below is the full text of the address read by Mr Afriyie Ankrah during the press conference held at NDC headquarters in Accra.
THEME: ASSESSING THE SO-CALLED ACHIEVEMENTS AND ELECTORAL REFORM PROPOSALS OF THE JEAN MENSAH-LED ELECTORAL COMMISSION.
20th May, 2020
Good afternoon distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the media. You are welcome to the Headquarters of the NDC for this all-important press conference.
The NDC has taken notice of several false claims made by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensah in her speech delivered at the just-ended two (2)-day workshop between the EC and the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) at Alisa Hotel in Accra.
The purpose of this press conference is to formally respond to and expose the many unfounded claims peddled by the EC Chairperson in her speech at the program and to explain to you the reasons for our boycott of these IPAC engagements.
Friends from the media, contrary to the claims by the EC Chairperson that the 2020 general elections was the best ever in the history of this country and calls for the nation to celebrate some so-called unprecedented successes chalked by the EC in the conduct of the elections, the facts show that last yearâ€™s elections was one of the most poorly conducted, flawed and manipulated elections in the history of this country, a situation that has undermined the strides we have made since the inception of this 4th republican democratic dispensation. And we say this for the following reasons:
- The dubious handling of the printing and distribution of ballot papers and other electoral materials that led to ballot stuffing by the NPP in their strongholds and other regions.
- The unprecedented number of rejected ballots recorded in the elections owing largely to the incompetence and recklessness of the EC in using unapproved stamp pads instead of the approved voting ink pad that we have used in previous elections.
- The use of illegal Statement of Polls/pink sheets (Form 8B) that omitted BVD entries in about 7,581 polling stations, thereby undermining the ballot accounting process and the integrity of the entire results. This totally belies the claim by Jean Mensah that only 11,000 people voted by manual verification in the 2020 general elections.
- Widespread cases of patent arithmetic errors on the faces of pink sheets and constituency results summary sheets by incompetent EC staff in the filling of electoral forms and aggregation of valid votes.
- Manipulation of figures by the EC leading to a disparity between constituency collated results aggregate (13,118,640) and regional collated results aggregates (13,119,460).
- Padding of votes at the constituency collation centres in favour of candidate Akufo-Addo.
- No proper collation at the national collation centre by the Returning Officer for the Presidential elections, Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensah.
- Unprecedented cases of state-sponsored violence and killings at constituency collation centers occasioned by the reckless and unlawful conduct of some EC officials and the despotic Akufo-Addo government and in contravention of our time-tested election security arrangement.
- Also contrary to the claim that the International community has hailed the conduct of the 2020 general elections as Jean Mensah will have us believe, the European Union is on record to have decried the non-transparency of the collation process for the elections. So flawed was the conduct of the 2020 general elections that for the first time in the history of this country, a whole district made up of the Satrokofi, Akpafu, Likpe and Lolobi (SALL) communities were deliberately disenfranchised by the EC for the sole purpose of assisting the New Patriotic Parliamentary Candidate, John Peter Amewu win the Hohoe seat. Is this what Jean Mensa and her bias Commission is inviting us to celebrate?
- Again, the claim by the EC that an amount of $90 million was saved in the conduct of the 2020 general elections is completely contrived. The facts show that the state incurred avoidable financial losses as a result of the procurement of a facial recognition technology by the EC that turned out as a fiasco. It is therefore ridiculous and laughable to say the least, that an Electoral Management Body that has failed to pay its temporary staff their allowances, five (5) months after an election will make the claim that they have saved the nation money. We wish to entreat the public to treat this baseless claim with the contempt it deserves and wait for a credible audit into the the ECâ€™s expenditure for the 2020 general elections.
PROPOSED REFORMS BY THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the media, we have taken note of some proposals for reforms that the Electoral Commission has put forward for the consideration of IPAC. However, the first and most important reform required is for the EC to reform itself. Jean Mensa and Bossman Asare must be the first to reform and change their attitude of arrogance and bias.
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, I will now proceed to do a critical and objective analysis of the four (4) reform proposals put forward by the EC.
- Closure of polls at 3 pm in 2024
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, the NDC finds the proposal by the Jean Mensah-led ECÂ to change the closing time of polls from 5 PM to 3 PM in 2024 baffling and mind-boggling. Since the 1992 elections, polls have always closed at 5PM. This has worked perfectly without any challenges whatsoever. It therefore beggars belief that the EC would want to change this time-tested arrangement and go for a poorly thought-through alternative which is bound to disenfranchise eligible voters and create needless problems for our electoral system.
This is particularly so given the undue delay we usually record in the delivery of electoral materials to some polling stations and other technical challenges that usually characterize voting in this country.
Ghanaians will recall how a similar hasty decision by the EC to declare results within 24 hours after closure of polls in the 2020 elections failed miserably and led to the rushed declaration of a patently flawed results that yielded a percentage aggregate of more than 100%,Â by the Returning Officer, Mr. Jean Adukwei Mensah. One would have thought that Jean Mensah would have learnt the right lessons by now but that appears not to be the case.
Friends form the media, our position on this proposal is simple. The current arrangement of closing polls at 5PM has worked perfectly in seven (7) general elections in this country and does not require any fixing. Like the Chairperson said in her speech, â€œif it ainâ€™t broke, donâ€™t fix itâ€.
- Substitution of periodic mass registration with continuous registration.
We wish to remind the Electoral Commission that the all-round continuous registration of eligible voters is not new. The law requires the Commission to put in place mechanisms to ensure that at any time that citizens become eligible to vote, they can be registered.
However, continuous registration cannot be a substitute for periodic nationwide registration because the all-round registration can only be done at the district offices of the Electoral Commission. Eligible voters may have to travel several kilometres to district offices to register and not everyone can do this.
Secondly, political parties always assign agents to observe the voters registration process. It will therefore be ludicrous for the EC to suggest that political parties should employ permanent agents at their district offices to observe the registration of eligible voters all year round.
This proposal also comes against a major challenge of transparency in verifying the claims of prospective registrants at the district office level.
- Introducing all-year round Voter Exhibition exercise through the use of technology.
The proposal by EC to have a year-round exhibition is a laudable ideaÂ but cannot be a substitute for the periodic exhibition exercise of the voters register that is normally done after voter registration. This is simply because the Voter exhibition exercise is not only intended to afford voters the opportunity to verify and confirm their details but to also;
- a) ensure ineligible registrants (minors and foreigners) are challenged and removed from the register.
- b) help clean the names of dead people from the register.
- C) afford voters the opportunity to confirm their captured biometric features.
And this cannot be achieved through the system the EC is proposing.
Given the errors that occurred in the run up to the 2020 elections when this system was deployed and the fact that not all Ghanaians have mobile phones to assess this system, it cannot be a replacement for periodic Voters Register Exhibition.
- Restrict data entry of election results to the constituency collation level and generate regional and national reports.
The proposal to have the entry point of data done only at Constituency Collation Centres will introduce another opportunity for rigging through hacking and other means of manipulation of the results.Â The way to build further efficiencies into the collation process and eliminate inaccuracies is to hire and train competent EC staff to ensure accurate data entry and collation and not to throw away the time-tested practice of collation at the national level.
Data entry and collation must be done at constituency level and sent to the national collation center for aggregation by the Returning Officer and with the participation of political party representatives. This will ensure accuracy and transparency in the aggregation of constituency results for free and fair election results declaration.
OUR BOYCOTT OF IPAC
Ladies and gentlemen of the media, you may be aware, the National Democratic Congress has decided to boycott IPAC temporarily due to the bastardization of that revered body by the Jean Mensah/Bossman Asare-led Electoral Commission.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the framers of the 1992 Constitution in their wisdom created the Electoral Commission as an independent institution to perform its constitutional functions without the control of any person or group of persons. The independence given to the EC under the 1992 Constitution is based on the presumption that the Electoral Commission will at all times perform its duties conscientiously in the ultimate interest of Ghana. However, this does not mean that the Commission is not accountable to the people and can therefore decide to act whimsically or capriciously in ways that undermine our democratic experiment.
Unfortunately, the Jean Mensa led Electoral Commission has misinterpreted this independence to mean arrogance and non-accountability. And it is sad that the Supreme Court of the country endorsed this irresponsible conduct of the NDC and allowed them to get away with the embarrassment they caused this country in the 2020 general elections.
Ladies and Gentlemen, one unique convention of Ghanaâ€™s electoral system which has become international best practice is the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC). The rationale for IPAC, as it has been over the years, is to create a platform for consensus building on major issues affecting elections with key stakeholders involved in elections.
Over the years, IPAC has served Ghana well as a platform where ideas are shared on various issues, before the EC takes substantive decisions on critical electoral matters. Indeed, to promote transparency in our electoral process, IPAC has been involved in the drafting of Constitutional Instruments on elections as well as procurement processes of the EC under previous Chairpersons. IPAC is supposed to serve as a platform where political parties participate in all electoral activities throughout the electoral cycle, such as, voter registration, exhibition of the voters register, printing of ballot papers, observing the voting process at all polling stations through polling agents as well as collation of results at both the constituency and national levels.
Unfortunately, since the June 2018 ouster of the chairperson of the Electoral Commission and her 2 deputies and their subsequent replacement with Jean Mensa and Bossman Asare, all these best practices have been thrown to the dogs.
The current leadership of the Electoral Commission has turned IPAC from a consultative and consensus building platform to an information sharing platform where the EC only comes to impose its decisions on IPAC without room for meaningful deliberations and exchange of ideas. It became so bad to the point that the EC even announced publicly that IPAC had agreed to the decision to compile a new register for the 2020 elections when the issue of a new register had not even been discussed at the said meeting.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Jean Mensa led EC appears to be in a world of its own. The Commission appears to be tickling itself and laughing. The Electoral Commission has for the first time in our history conducted elections that leaves doubts on the mind of Ghanaians and other observers on the credibility of the elections. The Commission declared wrong results and even after issuing an unsigned press release to subsequently correct same, the figures still do not add up. Instead of taking advantage of the election petition to clear itself of the mess caused, the EC failed to mount the witness box to testify and explain to Ghanaians how it arrived at its results.
These issues coupled with the non-equitable voting arrangement at IPAC meetings, is the reason why we have taken a principled position to boycott IPAC until the right changes are effected to ensure fair and meaningful deliberations at IPAC.
NDCâ€™S PROPOSED REFORMS
Ladies and Gentlemen, after a painstaking review of the 2020 elections, the following are the preliminary proposals for electoral reforms which the NDC intends to engage various stakeholders such as the media, civil society organizations, religions leaders, traditional leaders, development partners, the diplomatic community, and the general public. These preliminary proposals are as follows:
- That, the participation of IPAC and its advisory role in the electoral process should be given legal backing, without encroaching on the constitutional independence of the Electoral Commission.
- That, the EC adopts an equitable voting formula for political parties in IPAC deliberations based on their representation in Parliament.
- That, the Electoral Commission complies with the use of the legally-prescribed Statement of Poll/Pink Sheet (Form 8A & 8B) provided for in our Election Regulations to prevent the omission of BVD entries so as to preserve the ballot accounting process and makes it possible to check multiple voting, ballot stuffing, impersonation and other forms of rigging.
- That, the high rate of rejected ballots recorded in the 2020 general elections be addressed through the use of the appropriate ink pads and that same should be stipulated in our election regulations.
- That, the EC employs and trains highly competent staff to accurately fill election result forms and collate results so as to forestall the reoccurrence of the widespread cases of arithmetic errors recorded in the 2020 general elections,
- That, the Electoral Commission reverts to the time-tested election security arrangement where the deployment of security for election purposes is reserved to the Ghana Police service acting within a framework provided by the Electoral commission. This security arrangement should have minimum involvement of the military and no interference whatsoever by so-called National Security operatives, as recommended by the Emil Short Commission.
The party has constituted a committee to come up with a compressive document on electoral reform proposals and we shall share that with you in the coming days.
Hon. Elvis Afriyie Ankrah