Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan created the atmosphere for all parties to sit around the table to discuss electoral reform proposals when he was the chair of the Electoral Commission (EC), Director of elections of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Elvis Afriyie Ankrah, has said.
He explained on the Key Points on TV3 with host Dzifa Bampoh that in 1992 when the then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) were dissatisfied with the electoral system and wrote the stolen verdict to table their reform proposals, Dr Afari-Gyan accommodated the concerns and accordingly created the enabling conditions for dialogues on those proposals.
The NDC, the party in government at the time, also cooperated with the NPP and ensured that most of their reform proposals were accepted and factored into the electoral system, he added.
To that end, Mr Afyrie Ankrah believes that the current Chair of the Elections management body, Mrs Jean Mensa should also create the same platform for the proposals outlined by the NDC.
“For example in 1992 when the NPP were not satisfied with the system they wrote the stolen verdict. It is instructive to note that most of the reforms, the transparent ballot boxes , most of them came from the NPP and the NDC, at that time the government in power, we went along with them and Dr Afari Gyan created the atmosphere for us to have those consultations. So reforms really do enhance the electoral system.”
The NDC has put forward another set of electoral reform proposals including how the Chair of the EC should be appointed.
This comes after the party made initial six proposals for electoral reforms on May 20, 2021, during a press conference they dubbed: Assessing the so-called achievements and electoral reform proposal by the Electoral Commission of Ghana.
Those proposals came by way of an immediate reaction to the adoption by the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) and the Electoral Commission some electoral reforms which included closing polls at 3:00 pm, a continuous voter registration exercise, an all-year-round voter exhibition exercise through the use of technology (SMS shortcode), among others.
The NDC, which had not participated in the IPAC meeting at the time raised concerns about the proposals, rejecting some, especially the proposal to close polls at 3:00 pm.
In furtherance to that, the party in a stakeholder engagement made the following proposals and justified same;
Provide for prior parliamentary approval for the appointment of EC members: The NDC is of the view that the current mode of appointment of the Electoral Commission appears to be partisan and does not involve the representatives of the people of Ghana (Parliament). They contend this does not allow the commission to be as independent, neutral and credible as it ought to be.
Thus, they want the appointment of the EC members to be like that of Justices of the Supreme Court which involves prior parliamentary approval. According to the NDC, the Constitutional Review Committee(CRC), of which the current EC Chairperson, Jean Mensa, was a member, recommended prior parliamentary approval for the appointment of EC members and that the Government White Paper on the CRC Report accepted the recommendation.
Repeal the requirement for the consent of the AG to be given before the prosecution of electoral offences: Section 42 of the Representation of the People Act, 1992, PNDCL 284, requires that the Attorney General gives consent in writing for the prosecution of electoral offences. The provision states as follows:
“A person shall not be prosecuted for an offence under this Act without the consent in writing of the Attorney-General, except that this section shall not prevent a person being
(a) charged with that offence, or
(b) arrested with or without warrant in respect of the offence, or
(c) remanded on bail or in custody in respect of the offence, without the consent of the Attorney-General.“
This, the NDC claims has often being used by the police as “an excuse for the non-prosecution of high-profile electoral offence cases” which they say “creates a culture of impunity and undermines fairness and credibility of Ghanaian elections”. Again, they say the AG as a political appointee finds it difficult to consent for the prosecution of offenders who are his colleague ministers or party members. This proposal, according to the NDC was first made by the EC’s own Electoral Reforms Committee in 2015.
Special Courts to handle election-related offences: The NDC wants specially-designated courts that will be appointed exclusively for electoral disputes and offences before, during and after registration of voters and elections. In their view, this will reduce or at best, do away with the “undue delay in the adjudication of electoral disputes and offences in Ghana” and also encourage the courts to specialise in election matters. They believe the move will also prevent situations where an illegitimate President will be being in office for too long or an illegitimate MP representing the electorate due to protracted litigation.
EC should resort to Court to clean voters register: The NDC proposes that the EC be allowed by law to apply to the courts to remove names of deceased and other unqualified persons from the provisional register when informed by the relevant authorities. According to them, what currently exists allows only registered voters to object to the inclusion or exclusion of any voter in the provisional register. This proposal, they say, is the universal practice that they believe will allow for the register to be more effectively cleaned up.
State Broadcaster to provide equal access to all political parties: The NDC wants the state broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC), to be made to comply with the provision of Article 55 (11) of the Constitution of Ghana, 1992, as was held in the Supreme Court decision in New Patriotic Party v. Ghana Broadcasting Corporation [1993-94] 2 GLR 354. Article 55 (11) states that:
“The state shall provide fair opportunity to all political parties to present their programmes to the public by ensuring equal access to the state-owned media
They believe the proposal when implemented will ensure an even playing field and an equitable access to state-owned media which is funded by the taxpayer.”
IPAC should be backed by legislation: The opposition NDC wants the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to have legal backing through an amendment to the Electoral Commission Act, 1993, Act 451. They want the amendment to spell out the composition of IPAC and its functions, a proposal said to have first been made by the EC’s own Electoral Reforms Committee in 2015, adopted by the IPAC and accepted by the EC.
The other proposals include;
Spelling out by law the security responsibilities of the EC (if any), the police and the military during registration of voters and during and after voting.
Legislation should bind the Chairperson of the EC as the Returning Officer of the Presidential Election to afford the agents of the participating political parties and candidates full participation in the collation of the Presidential Election results at the EC’s National Collation Centre
The EC must by law be made: a mandatory party to all parliamentary election petitions just as is the case in Presidential Election petitions, a compellable witness to produce all public election and related material and documents relevant to presidential and parliamentary election disputes;
Split the EC into two separate bodies namely an Office for the Regulation of Political Parties (ORPP) and an Electoral Commission (EC) by amending the Political Parties Act, 2000, Act 574.
By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana