Electoral Violence Is More Expensive Than A New Register

Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the media, the Let My Vote Count Alliance called you here this morning for an important national matter. A matter that can make or break our infant democracy.

We are concerned because we believe the cost of fixing what is wrong is far lower than the cost of not doing it. Every sensible Ghanaian knows that the way we choose our democratically elected leaders has major defects which, happily, can be fixed. Yet, the body responsible for fixing it remains stubborn on perhaps the single most major defect: the electoral roll.

Tuesday, Mr Christian Owusu Parry, the Director of Public Affairs at the EC, said on Adom FM news that the Commission has no intention of changing the existing register. Is this really the position of the Charlotte Mensah-led EC? Ghanaians sincerely hope not. We know that was the position of Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. But, what we want to know is this: has his successor as EC boss adopted this no new register position as well? If so, then we want to assure Mrs Osei that she should prepare for the ugly consequences.

Ladies and gentlemen, we find this no new register position very unfortunate and potentially dangerous and we hope it is not going to be the official position of the EC under its new boss. The EC, it must be noted, is yet to openly and formally engage the political parties, religious bodies and civil society organisations who are all raising concerns over the current register. Also the EC has not come out with any evidence refuting the case being made for a new register. The PRO's comment also indicates that, as usual, the EC has not learned any useful lessons from its spectacular recent mistakes and wants to conduct the 2016 elections with the same fraud-bewitched register, as we witnessed in the 2012 general elections.

We wish to warn the EC that it risks the stability and democracy of this country. The hard-line path it has taken on the register issue may plunge Ghana into an otherwise avoidable state of conflict if it doesn't listen to the calls for a new credible register to set the bases for credible elections next year.

We are worried also because Mali, Kenya and Cote d'Ivoire were all once the beacons of peace and stability in Africa until doubtful elections brought about conflicts and deaths.

Ghana has no special genetic profile which guarantees our immunity from conflict. The only thing that can guarantee us peace, stability and development is for us to have the courage to do what is just and right to protect and strengthen the integrity of our democracy.

If the EC wants peace it must give the country what the country needs, which is a new voters' register.

We find it difficult to understand the stubborn stance of the Electoral Commission, especially, when all the leading opposition political parties in the country, the NPP, CPP, PNC, PPP and NDP, have in various ways and degrees all stated that there are real problems with the 2012 register.

Moreover, number 4 on the list of the ruling NDC proposals submitted to the EC’s Electoral Reform Committee on 27th January 2014 states, “the Electoral Commission must conduct sustained and continuous voter registration subject to periodic rigorous auditing of the registers to maintain their integrity.” Whether the NDC is for a new register or not, the ruling party also appears to be saying that it is equally for a voters' register with assured "integrity".

Again, the NPP document to the EC Electoral Reforms Committee, dated 21st March 2014, paragraph 3 of it states, “In view of the impending registration of the District Assembly elections, we ask for an early meeting as the cleaning of the current register is of importance to all Ghanaians to ensure that multiple registrations such as were evidenced in court are removed and the continuing validity of the register assured.” Sadly, that meeting never took place.

Subsequently, the NPP's Bawumia Committee presented a comprehensive report on Electoral reforms, in January 2015, with the case for a new voters' register at the heart of it.

Again, just last week in the Daily Graphic, the Chairperson and Leader of the CPP, Madam Samia Yaba Nkrumah, underscored the need for a new register by saying, "In view of the controversies the current voters register has generated election year after election year, there is no doubt that we need to do something about it." She went on to stress, "We cannot go into the 2016 election with the old register."

The underlying statement from all the political parties is that the current register is faulty and must be fixed.

We have also heard some deliberate ploy to reduce the important call for a new register to one for mere "auditing" of the current register. The LMVCA wishes to make it absolutely clear that Ghana does not need a mere auditing of the 2012 register. What we want is a complete jettisoning of that discredited list for a new one. It is the only way to fix it.

Ghana is not ready for any fidgeting of a register which is fundamentally flawed. For those calling for an audit, we want them to tell us what exactly do they mean by that? What are the details and specifics of this audit?

Who will do the auditing? How transparent will that auditing be? Will it identify the estimated 4 million people who registered using a National Health Insurance Card? Can it identify foreigners on the register? Will it fish out the under age? Will it detect and delete all multiple registrations? Is the EC aware that the Supreme Court has ruled the use of NHIS card for the purposes of establishing voter eligibility as unconstitutional? Has the EC, since the ruling, come out to tell Ghanaians how many people specifically registered using NHIS cards? For the nearly one year since the ruling, why has the EC not taken any steps to purge the register of those who registered with NHIS cards in order to give them an early opportunity to register again?

Ladies and gentlemen, Ghana needs a new register. Ghana does not deserve any bogus audit of a bogus register.

Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot sit unconcerned and allow the Electoral Commission to risk the peace, stability and growth of Ghana’s democracy.

In fact, electoral violence is more expensive than a new register.

For our democracy to survive and grow, let us do what is right and just and let us start with a new register. We hope that the new EC boss will stamp her authority and integrity on this hot issue by changing the stubborn attitude of the EC against all legitimate calls for a new register.



David Boateng Asante

Spokesperson, LMVCA