5 December 2012

Ghana: Commonwealth Observer Group Bemoans Low Number of Women in Politics

The Commonwealth Observer Group has expressed concern about the low number of women contesting this year's general election in Ghana.

The group is in the country at the invitation of the Electoral Commission to observe Ghana's 6th elections since returning to constitutional rule for the fourth time in 1992.

"You have few women representation, over 1,000 people contesting, you have only a few women. So encourage more women to come forward and stand for elections and serve their people in those important areas," the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Dr Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili has said.

The group, which has already met with some political parties, including the ruling National Democratic Congress, the New Patriotic Party, the Convention People's Party and the Progressive People's Party, as well as some civil society groups and Commonwealth foreign missions in the country, says the various bodies have also pledged their confidence in the Electoral Commission (EC) to preside over free and fair elections.

"We have been here for a few days but we are very much encouraged to hear that there is a lot of confidence from the whole players and other people in the Electoral Commission. That is a source of comfort to us that the people in Ghana represented by other people feel that the EC is equal to the task of delivering a clear election."

Dr Mosisili was speaking in an exclusive interview with African Elections Project.

"It is an observer mission and the management of the elections is entirely in the hands of the Electoral Commission of Ghana. Ours is to observe that Ghana plays by the rules," Dr Mosisili added.

"We are encouraged by and wholeheartedly support the recent peace accord signed by the political leaders and various calls by civil society groups and community leaders for peaceful elections," he said.

The group, he explained, would deploy personnel to various locations to observe the voting, counting and results processes and come up with a report.

He said the group would coordinate with other observers in the field in order to maximise its overview of the process and come up with an interim statement after the elections, to be followed later by a final report.

"Our task as the Commonwealth Observer Group is to consider all the factors impinging on the credibility of the electoral process as a whole and assess whether the elections have been conducted according to the standards for democratic elections to which Ghana has committed itself, with reference to its own election-related legislation, as well as relevant regional, Commonwealth and other international commitments," he said.

Dr Mosisili, who is presently a Member of Parliament in Lesotho's opposition Democratic Congress Party, also said "in conducting our duties and undertaking our assessment, we will be impartial, objective and independent".

He added that, "the assessment by the group will be its own, and not that of any member of government," he said.

The Commonwealth Observer Group is expecting to see the people of Ghana wake up early and queue up in large numbers, peacefully and execute their important task of electing their representatives and sit and wait for the EC to count and announce the result. The group also expects Ghanaians to do the honourable thing of accepting the will of the people as expressed by the ballot box.

"I wish that the people of Ghana continue to make Ghanaians, Africa, the Commonwealth and the world proud of them as an exemplary country," he prayed.

Dr Mosisili however, advised that Ghana continue to examine its systems and work to improve it because even if it is good, there is always room for improvement.

The group comprises Mr Shahed Akhtar, a diplomat from Bangladesh; Ms Rochelle Lashley, a lawyer from Barbados; Mrs Josephine Tamai, the chief elections officer of Belize; Justice Tom Foulds of the Ontario Court of Justice in Canada and Dr Joseph Misoi of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) in Kenya.

Others are Ms Koki Muli Grignon, an elections expert from Kenya; Mr Alberto Francisco Manhique of the Electoral Observatory in Mozambique; Dr Emmanuel Terwar Akem, the Director of the National Electoral Commission, Nigeria; Ms Cynthia Barrow-Giles, a member of the Constitutional Reform Commission at the University of the West Indies in St Lucia; Mr Vuyisile Sikelela Hlatshwayo, the director of the Swaziland-based Media Institute of Southern Africa; Mr Max Marshall Caller, the Chairman of the Local Government Boundary Commission for England, and Mrs Priscilla Isaac of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

The Commonwealth has a long tradition of support for elections in Ghana, including observing the 2008 polls. The group has been in the country since November 30 and is expected to leave by December 14, 2012.

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