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Election 2016 needs more deeds and less chatter

Wednesday, 01 June 2016 12:10

The month of May has ended. This means we are just five months away from Election 2016. Or is it 6 months away?

We do not know; for we have not taken the necessary actions to make real what we all agreed would be a more sensible arrangement for elections. This suggestion, first mooted by the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) in 2013, and endorsed by the EC’s electoral reforms committee before the end of Afari-Gyan's tenure as EC Chair in 2014, has still not been turned into the law of the land.

On May 5, 2016, the Supreme Court of Ghana, in a unanimous decision, gave two orders to the EC to “delete” and “replace” the names of supposedly ineligible voters from the country’s electoral roll. A full four weeks on, we the people of Ghana are still engaged in a vigorous debate as to the true and proper meaning of the Supreme Court’s orders.

The latest addition to the endless chatter has come from three very knowledgeable people on these matters. The Director of Elections of the NPP has suggested that even an “ordinary person can understand the SC ruling”, The President of the IMANI Think Tank has suggested we may have to postpone the elections to achieve credibility and the Dean of the School of Information & Communications Studies at our premier university has “urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to soften its stance on discussions on the voters register.”

All of the above attracted lots of public hearing and are ‘trending’, as social media would say. But the question that we are left with is: Has all the new chatter moved us forward on the road to a successful and credible Election 2016? In my view, the answer is a resounding NO! and indeed only manages to throw more fuel, instead of foam, into an already raging fire of endless chatter. I will now give further and better particulars.

Martin Korsah’s suggestion is an affront and insult to we ‘ordinary’ Ghanaians who have been bombarded with conflict interpretations of the SC’s decision for almost a month. A decision that forges the most unlikely alliances of strange bedfellows can never be described as simple. In the red corner, we have Ace Ankomah - Celebrated campaigner for good governance, and Inusah Fuseini, the Minister of Roads & Highways in the ruling government, and an accomplished lawyer. The red corner pairs former Executive Secretary to President John Mahama and a distinguished law lecturer; and John Ndebugri (‘Nde’) former Member of Parliament for the PNC and forever ‘rebel’ of several causes.

Amidst all the legalese from the luminaries being churned out, we the people of Ghana remain unenlightened from the darkness of “delete” and “re-register”. That is why as a mere engineer, acting on the fundamental principle of my profession to seek solutions, called for the SC to clarify its decision three weeks ago. It is for our own good that we are all on the same page on this and @eyetarzan intends to go to the SC to get this clarification so we can all move on to ensure that this year’s election will actually happen.

Now to the IMANI suggestion that we postpone the date for Election 2016. In my view, it is both impractical and almost certainly unconstitutional. Even the now obligatory reference to Nigeria’s experience does not help this discourse. First and foremost, the Constitution of Ghana has stipulated that John Dramani Manama’s tenure as President of Ghana must end on the stroke of midnight on 6th January 2017. That same constitution also stipulates that the tenure of the current Parliament must end by 7th  December 2016, one month before a new Parliament is inaugurated.

It was to satisfy these two requirements and not give undue advantage of momentum to the winning Presidential candidate’s party, that we have been holding elections on 7th December since the first 1992 election which had a month’s interval between Presidential & Parliamentary elections. It is the need to reconcile the election date with giving ample time for re-runs and transition that is driving the change to settle on the first Monday in November as the General Election date.

Yes Nigeria did postpone their elections. But they did so without breaching their constitution, which requires that the newly elected president be sworn in on May 29. So the only option left to us is either we do an”azorya”, remain with the December 07 date or move quickly to pass the law that would make manifest our unanimously agreed new preference - which for this year is Monday 7th November 2016.

I am struggling a little bit to appreciate my dear sister’s call for the EC to soften its stance. Is this a criticism that the EC is behaving like Don Quixote, and tilting against the popular but not necessarily correct sentiment? This is suggested by her reported assertion that “it’s important for the EC to listen to the majority of Ghanaians in order to make decisions that would not bring agitations.” Are we confusing decibels with informed assessment here? I am not up to Audrey’s expertise in these matters but I dare to ask. Or does the soft allude to the presence of two women amongst the three executive members of the EC? The jury is out on this one.

 At the beginning of March, I penned an opinion piece that asked the question: “Are we better prepared for a disputed electoral outcome?” Two months on, the SC has not proffered an answer to this fundamental matter as to whether we will swear in a President whose election is challenged or whether we will decide the legal dispute before a President is sworn in? Don’t forget our constitution’s stipulation that the new President must take office on the 7th January of 2017. Squaring this legal circle simply adds to the woes and confusion surrounding Election 2016.

“Confusion efee basaa”, was how we described the current stalemate with Election 2016. Strangely enough, even though all the chatter is to heap all of the opprobrium on the EC, the truth is quite different. For me, the EC’s role is confined to it seeking clarification as to what the SC ordered it to do. I say so for the simple reason that the SC’s orders are directed at the EC as the executor. A complementary reason is that despite all the chatter of the Plaintiffs’, they have absolutely no intention to take the initiative to seek further and better particulars as to the true and proper intent of the SC.

On the date for the election, the EC has completed its part of the process. The EC does not make laws. That is the task for the Attorney General, the Council of State and Parliament to drive and see through into passage for John Dramani Mahama to assent into a new amendment to the constitution. Mercifully my brother Alban Bagbin and the Parliamentary leadership have resolved to do whatever it takes to make it happen, Dominic Nituwul’s pique with Charlotte Osei subsiding.

As to the resolution of the thorny matter of ‘do we swear in and litigate or wait to finish litigation before we swear in, that remains squarely in the bosom of the SC. I believe Justice Dotse has been appointed by the SC to lead its efforts re the successful conduct of Election 2016 “to comply with 1992 constitution and the applicable laws of Ghana”

As for the rest of us, especially the media, it is our cardinal duty to educate the people of Ghana to prepare them to make an informed choice at the election. It is a greater burden on us to ensure that all the endless chatter on the airwaves and in the newspapers facilitate actions to ensure that credible and acceptable elections come on at the appointed time and with the utmost peace.

As the facilitator of a plural media in Ghana’s 4th Republic, I often find that I am seeing the creator of Frankenstein’s monster in me. I do not ever want to regret what Radio Eye achieved for free expression, but very often now I wonder and worry very deeply about the commitment to accurate content that forms the basis for an informed choice at elections to choose those who must ascot in our name to improve our collective welfare instead of filling their personal pockets.

From: Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby

The writer is the Chief Policy Analyst of the Ghana Institute of Public Policy Options and a 2000 presidential candidate