Ghana's Electoral Process Peaceful, Transparent - ECOWAS Poll Observer Mission

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Accra - Ghana — The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Ghana's 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary elections led by Nigeria's former President Chief Olusegun Obasanjo has described the electoral process as generally peaceful and transparent and appealed to political parties and candidates to accept the eventual verdict that would emerge from the poll.

"The ECOWAS Mission is of the view that apart from the logistical challenges that caused undue delays in completing the electoral process, the Electoral Commission provided the necessary environment and facilities to eligible Ghanaians to exercise their franchise in a secure and transparent manner and ECOWAS expects this spirit to continue till the concluding phase of the electoral process," the Mission said in its 46-point Preliminary Declaration issued in Accra on Saturday 8th December 2012.

In the statement read by the Deputy Head of the 250-strong observer Mission, Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Chairperson of Sierra Leone's Electoral Commission, the declaration congratulated the electorate of Ghana for their courage, patience, determination and commitment in the face of challenges and appealed to them to maintain the same spirit till the end of the process," The Mission also congratulated the country's security agencies for "their commendable role in ensuring election security It urged the Electoral Commission "to expedite action on the proclamation of the provisional results, to prevent further anxiety within the polity."  It also "enjoins all aggrieved parties to resort to only legal means in seeking redress."

The Declaration said the ECOWAS Observer Mission "will continue to closely monitor the concluding phases of the electoral process, in particular the voting process in the extended ballots, as well as the tallying and declaration of provisional results by the Electoral Commission (EC) and should the need arise, will not hesitate to make further declarations." While lauding the Electoral Commission for exhibiting financial and operational autonomy as well as credibility in the preparations for the 7th December 2012 polls, which were extended to Sunday 8th December, the Mission also described as commendable the Commission's decision to introduce the biometric registration and verification system for the first time in electoral administration in Ghana.

However, the regional observers noted the delays caused by the late delivery/non-delivery of electoral materials and the malfunctioning of the Biometric Verification Machines (BVMs) in some cases. "In the absence of back-up BVMs or their early replacement, voting was suspended for several hours or postponed till the next day," the Declaration said, and this resulted in "tension and disturbances" at a number of polling centers. While noting that the adopted slogan "No Verification, No Vote" was a collective decision the stakeholders including the political parties, the ECOWAS Mission said it "has so far found no reason to suspect that the breakdown of the biometric identification mechanism was deliberate." Stakeholders, in particular the party leaders and the media, were urged "to exercise restraint and demonstrate a high sense of patriotism as the Electoral Commission endeavours to rectify the situation and bring the electoral process to a successful end," noted the declaration.

Despite the challenges, the ECOWAS Mission "recognizes the advantages of the Biometric Electoral Process and called on the Electoral Commission to continue perfecting the equipment through their use in lesser elections, including the District Assembly Polls." The Electoral Commission is also enjoined to seriously consider the adoption of a viable back-up verification mechanism to the BVM, by exploring the alternative use of voter IDs and the manual voters register. While women constitute 51.2 percent of Ghana's population and participated massively in the electoral process, the declaration noted that women's aspirations for elective positions in the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections were "severely limited" with no woman among the seven candidates in the Presidential election.

Of the 1,332 candidates vying for the 275 parliamentary seats only 134 were women, constituting only 10.06 percent of the total. The statement urged the in-coming administration and Parliament to consider the adoption of affirmative action to enhance the capacity of women particularly their participation in the elected positions in the country through special support to women, as well as political parties that promote the active role of women in the leadership within their parties and as candidates in future elections.

It also called on the in-coming Parliament to expedite action on the adoption of a media regulatory framework capable of checking the excesses observed in the course of the electoral process. Also present at the declaration were the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo and the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman as well as representatives of other observer missions.

ECOWAS deployed the observer mission to Ghana pursuant to the Constitutional Convergence Principles of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), and within the framework of the Programme of Assistance to Member States organizing elections.

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