16 November 2012

Ghana: Toddlers May Decide the Vote

WITH 20 days to the December elections, it appears some people, suspected to be children but have been registered as eligible voters, would help decide who emerges as President of the Republic of Ghana, if nothing is done to verify their eligibility.

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan has expressed worry over a number of children suspected to be under the age of 18 years, who have been captured in the voters register to vote in the upcoming elections.

He said this was a real problem because these supposed children have been registered across the regions and constituencies, saying "when the name gets onto the register, you can only remove it on the orders of the court."

According to him, this is a potential cause of conflict on Election Day, despite the fact that once a person's name is on the register, "you cannot have a physical confrontation with the person on election day."

He pointed out that "If we cannot find a way to prevent them from voting when they appear there, you cannot go and accost them", stressing "So now, we have a big problem."

The EC Chairman said "From our visual inspection, we think these people are kids and should not be on the register and yet they are on the register", he lamented, and stressed that "this is a blot on register."

Currently, there appear not to be a solution to the problem, and Dr. Afari-Gyan said "it will not cut a very good picture at all because you tout yourself as accomplished democracy and you have kids electing your President."

He was addressing members of the media at a news conference, organized by the Editors Forum Ghana (EFG), in collaboration with the EC in Accra yesterday, to update journalists on the EC's preparation so far towards the election 2012 and other related matters.

According to the chairman, the EC was compiling the list of the number of registrants suspected to be children and so could not put a figure to it but the pattern shows they have been registered everywhere.

He cited an example where a father was asked to produce his son's birth certificate as proof of his age but retorted, "na paper born am?"

At an Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting on Wednesday, November 14, where the pictures of the 'minors' were shown to political party members, "almost unanimously, they agreed that these are kids and cannot be 18 years", Dr. Afari-Gyan indicated.

The EC said it can only go to court to prevent these 'minors' from voting when it has evidence to prove their real ages.

However, it is not clear if this can be accomplished before the elections, thus, the EC was currently appealing to parliamentary and presidential candidates during their campaigns to dissuade such persons from going to vote on Election Day.

"If we can't convince them, next time you go voting and there is somebody who appears to be eight years in front of you, patiently wait for the person to go through the voting before you", he said.

On other matters, the EC said the application of journalists to be allowed to take part in special voting could not be granted because it is not allowed under the new law, CI 75.

He noted that at first, there was a lot of discretion left in the law for the EC to exercise, which they used to allow the media to take part in special voting but it has now been restricted to security personnel and EC officials who will be going out of their constituencies to work.

He expatiated that because of the biometric registration and verification, there was a difficulty such that to allow journalists to do early voting, would require that they are pooled into one machine and centre to be certified to vote.

However, the EC has asked journalists, including foreign journalists who wish to participate in the election to pass through the GJA for certification. Additionally, the EC was considering allowing journalists who would be certified by GJA, to vote on Election Day without joining queues.

Dr. Afari-Gyan added that "It is rather unfortunate but if this experiment works, and there are not too many people running around polling station claiming to be journalists, then next time, we can amend the CI and say that journalists accredited by the GJA can be allowed to vote early."

Also, the EC said the printing of the main register was ongoing and when that was done, the political parties would receive their copies from Monday, November 19, saying "We cannot print for them when we have not finished printing our own."

He pointed out that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) have filed candidates for the parliamentary elections in all the 275 constituencies. Also, the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP) has 211 candidates, National Democratic Party (NDP) 155, Convention Peoples Party (CPP) 145, Peoples National Convention (PNC) 94, and Democratic People's Party (DPP) 16.

The others are Independent Peoples Party (IPP) 5, United Renaissance Party (URP) and New Vision Party (NVP) has 4 each, Ghana Freedom Party (GFP) 3, Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) 2, and Yes People's Party (YPP) 1. There are also 120 independents candidates across the country.

The EC chairman indicated that his outfit has done what is humanly possible to rectify all deficiencies associated with the collection of data, exhibition and verification, thus was ready to conduct the elections come December 7, 2012.

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