6 December 2012

ECOWAS Poll Observers Deploy in Ghana

press release

Accra - Ghana — Members of the 250-strong ECOWAS Observation Mission for Ghana's 7th December 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections have been deployed across the country's 10 administrative regions to monitor the conduct of the polls. While some the observers will operate from Accra, which will serve as the Mission's headquarters and Situation Room, others have been deployed in the far Wa Municipal District of the Upper West region, more than 800-km from the nation's capital. Kumasi, Tamale and Bolgatanga will serve as the Mission's sub-stations for effective coverage of most of the 26,000 polling stations to be used by the National Electoral Commission for the election in which 14.7 million biometric- registered Ghanaians will cast their ballots on Friday.

Addressing the regional observers in Accra ahead of the deployment on Wednesday 5th December 2012, Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission, Nigeria's former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo urged them "to be friendly, but impartial, neutral and objective." "The eyes of the world and Africa will be on Ghana and on the Observer Mission in the next five days," he said, adding that the observers' key function "is to observe how the electorate, politicians, electoral officials, the security task force, and other stakeholders conduct themselves before, during and after the polls." The head of the observation mission also reminded the observers that they are to contribute to an atmosphere of peace and trust, which is a prerequisite for peaceful, transparent and credible elections, and the strengthening of democracy in the region.

Speaking in the same vein, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, enjoined the observers to adhere strictly to the provisions of the observation guidelines. She said that ECOWAS is encouraged and remains hopeful that the exercise would go well, given Ghana's tradition of peaceful elections since 1992. The Deputy Head of the ECOWAS Observation Mission, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, who is also Chairperson of Sierra Leone's Electoral Commission and head of the Network of Electoral Commissions in West Africa (ECONEC), urged the observers to pay great attention to the technical aspects of the electoral process. In particular, she said they should take note of the fact that this is the first time Ghana would be using the biometric system for the exercise.

Dr. Thorpe revealed that some of the key benefits derived from this system, which Sierra Leone used for its recent elections, included about 10 percent increase in the votes, and a significant reduction in cases of irregularity compared to non-biometric system used in the past. ECOWAS Director of Political Affairs, Dr. Abdel-Fatau Musah, presented an overview of electoral dynamics in Ghana and ECOWAS' engagement within the context of providing support to Member States holding elections, as part of efforts to deepen democracy and good governance in the region to the observers, some of whom fielded questions on details of their tasks and were provided explanations by ECOWAS officials.

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