10 December 2012

Preliminary Declaration On the Elections in Ghana

SPONSOR WIRE

Accra - Ghana — I. INTRODUCTION

1. Pursuant to the Constitutional Convergence Principles of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), and within the framework of the Program of Assistance to Member States organizing elections, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, deployed an ECOWAS Observation Mission (EOM) to monitor the conduct of the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in Ghana on 7 December 2012.

2. The ECOWAS EOM, made up of 250 observers, is led by H.E Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, GCFR, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He is supported by Dr. Christiana Thorpe, Chief Electoral Commissioner of the Sierra Leone National Electoral Commission and Chairperson of the ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions, as Deputy and, the President of the ECOWAS Commission. The Mission includes delegations from the ECOWAS Council of the Wise, West African Ambassadors accredited to Abuja, and the Community Parliament and Court of Justice. It also includes experts drawn from the relevant Ministries and Electoral Management Bodies of Member States, Civil Society Organizations, and the Media. It is supported by a 22-member technical team from the Commission.

3. Prior to the deployment, ECOWAS had been monitoring the political and security situation in the country in the build-up to the elections through its Early Warning Mechanism. Furthermore, in October 2012, the President of the Commission dispatched a Fact-Finding Mission to the country to interact with the principal stakeholders in the electoral process, with a view to assessing the state of preparedness for the elections.

II. BACKGROUND

4. The 7 December 2012 General Elections in Ghana were the sixth to be conducted since 1992 under the Fourth Republic. The previous elections had seen three alternations of power between the two leading political parties - the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP). The elections took place against the background of the sudden death of the sitting President, H.E. John Evans Atta Mills, on 24 July 2012. In addition, the Electoral Commission was introducing the biometric registration and verification system for the first time in electoral administration in the country. All this added up to a highly competitive electoral process.

III. ARRIVAL AND DEPLOYMENT

5. The ECOWAS Observer Mission began arriving in the country on 28 November 2012. On arrival, the Mission maintained contacts with the State authorities; interacted with political party leaders, the Judiciary, the Electoral Commission, security agencies, and the media; and held consultations with other observation missions, including the African Union, the Commonwealth, the European Union Delegation and Civil Society Organizations. It also monitored the concluding phase of the electioneering campaign.

6. Following a briefing and orientation session on 5 December 2012, 125 teams of ECOWAS observers were deployed to Districts throughout the ten administrative Regions of Ghana to monitor proceedings on Election Day as follows: 12 Districts in Greater Accra Region; 13 in Volta Region; 12 in Eastern Region; 25 in Central Region; 18 in Western Region; 19 in Ashanti Region; 19 in Brong Ahafo Region; 17 in Northern Region; 7 in Upper West Region; and 10 in Upper East Region.

7. Having closely monitored the preparations towards the elections, analyzed the reports and feedbacks from Team leaders in the field, and after a debriefing session with returning observers, the ECOWAS Observer Mission to the 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Ghana makes a Preliminary Declaration as follows:

IV. THE PREPARATIONS

A. The Legal Framework

8. The 1992 Constitution provides the framework and basis for the laws governing the conduct of inclusive elections at all levels, consistent with regional and international standards. However, the decision of the Electoral Commission to create 45 new Constituencies following the late publication of the 2010 Census in May 2012, barely six months to the polls, caused tensions in the run-up to the elections. On the whole, electoral adjudication provisions are quite elaborate and the Electoral Adjudication Manual provides a useful guide to procedural matters regarding disputes.

B. The Electoral Commission

9. The Electoral Commission exhibited financial and operational autonomy as well as credibility in the preparations of the 2012 elections. The decision to go biometric in the registration exercise in order to improve efficiency and cut down fraud were commendable.

C. The Biometric System and the Registration Exercise

10. The introduction of the biometric registration system greatly improved the security of the registration exercise through multiple and complementary identification (Photo ID, finger-prints and secure barcodes and serial numbers). It also reduced the incidence of double registration in comparison to the manual registration exercise. However, the novelty of the equipment and lack of ample testing and training time resulted in hitches and the late publication of the Consolidated Voters Register, only two weeks to the election.

D. Women's Participation in the Electoral Process

11. Women constitute 51.2 percent of the population. However, while women's participation as voters in the electoral process was massively impressive, their aspirations for elective positions in the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections were severely limited. There were no women among the seven candidates in the Presidential election. Of the 1, 332 candidates vying for the 275 parliamentary seats, only 134 were women, constituting a paltry 10.06 percent.

E. Conflict Management Mechanism

12. Ghana is endowed with an internal conflict management and resolution architecture, a best practice example applicable also to electoral disputes. The National Peace Council (NPC), originally composed of faith groups and civil society organizations for Track II conflict resolution, was enacted into law in May 2011 under Act 811, with plans to develop a similar mechanism at the regional and district levels. The NPC was instrumental, alongside the traditional Manshia Palace and CSOs, in bringing the major party leaders to sign up to a non-violence pact - the Kumasi Declaration - on 27 November 2012. The Observer Team visited and held discussions with members of the Council before the elections. The Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), though not regularly convened, also played a major role in electoral dispute resolution and consensus building in the run-up to the elections.

V. ELECTIONEERING CAMPAIGN

13. In the main, the electioneering campaign did not witness any major incident and generally passed-off peacefully.

VI. ELECTION DAY

A. Arrival of Stakeholders at Polling Centers

14. 7 December 2012 began with long and meandering queues of enthusiastic and expectant voters of all categories - women, youth, the aged, nursing mothers, and the physically challenged - some of whom had arrived at the polling centers as early as 01:00 am. By the official opening time of 07:00 am, the centers were filled to capacity. The demographic spread among the voters showed a good mix of women, youth and the elderly.

15. At most of the polling centers observed, electoral officials and materials, in sufficient quantities, arrived by the official opening time, allowing voting to commence within one hour of the official time of 07:00 am. In a number of centers across the country, however, voting was delayed by between two and five hours due to the late arrival of electoral officials and/or materials. These include Golden Gate Regi Manel and Manet Court Estates, and Atta Oko Forward polling Centers in Accra;

16. Security at the centers was provided by the Ghana Police Service, supplemented by the Prison, Ambulance and Fire Services, and other para- security agencies. Security was considered inadequate at some centers with large numbers of voters.

17. In most of the polling centres visited, agents of the two main parties were present in addition to, the occasional presence of the representatives of the other parties. Observers from the African Union, the Commonwealth, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, were observed in some of the polling stations.

18. At a number of polling stations, inadequate measures to refer voters to designated polling stations, coupled with the inability of queue control officials to perform their functions satisfactorily, led to restlessness and agitation within the queue. From the observations of the Mission, the absence of trained queue control officials and the absence of directions to lead voters to their designated polling stations created confusion and tensions in some polling stations, particularly at the commencement of voting.

19. The situation was made worse at some polling stations across the country, in particular parts of the Greater Accra, Northern, Upper East and West Regions, where electoral officials and/or materials did not arrive for several hours.

20. The arrangements at the polling stations guaranteed the secrecy of the ballot; however, the layout of the polling booths in some stations had the effect of compromising the secrecy of the ballot.

21. The improper functioning of the Biometric Verification Machines (BVMs) and inadequate training of some BVM operators caused the incomplete identification of voters, delays in the voting process, and at times the disenfranchisement of duly-registered voters due to contradictory interpretation of the procedures by the Electoral omission officials.

22. In some polling centers, however, the BVMs completely broke down. In the absence of back-up BVMs or their early replacement, voting was suspended for several hours or postponed till the next day.

23. As a consequence, tension and disturbances were recorded at a number of polling centers. These include centers in Ayawaso Central and Ablekuma South; Dzorwwolu J.H.S. 2 (CO 61402); Madina Local Government Training School in the Okaikwei Constituency; Salaga EA Primary School HO 60201 and New Market Centre HO 60402 (East Gonja District) in Northern Region.

24. Where voting did take place, the process followed the rules, guaranteeing the transparency and credibility of the process. The polling officials demonstrated adequate efficiency and professionalism in carrying out their duties while party agents ably watched over their party and candidates' interests.

25. ECOWAS observers observed cases of suspected underage voting in some polling stations. This was however not material enough to affect the credibility of the elections.

26. At several polling centers observed, the physically challenged, the aged and nursing mothers, were supported in accessing polling stations and in exercising their franchise. In others, the special needs voters, particularly nursing mothers, were treated just like the other voters.

27. Polls closed at the official time of 5:00 pm at several polling stations where there were no glitches and delays. However, at a few stations, the presiding officials insisted on ending the voting at the prescribed time despite the presence of voters on the queue and contrary to laid down regulations.

28. In spite of the late closing of polls in many Polling Stations, the tallying and certification processes at the polling stations were carried out in a professional, transparent and credible manner, and under the watch of party agents and observers, even though there were challenges of adequate lighting where there was no electricity. VII. PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

29. In light of the preceding observations and analysis, and the fact that voting has unusually extended into a second day for reasons enumerated above, the ECOWAS Observer Mission to the 2012 General Elections wishes to make the following preliminary conclusions:

30. The ECOWAS Observation Mission notes the delays caused by the late delivery/non-delivery of electoral materials and the malfunctioning of the Biometric Verification Machines in some cases.

31. Against this background, the Mission notes that the decision to exclusively use the BVMs for voter identification without a fallback manual identification mechanism based on the physical Voter IDs and the Manual Voters Register, was arrived at by the majority of stakeholders, including most of the political parties and civil society within the framework of IPAC consultations. The adopted slogan "No Verification, No Vote" was, therefore, a collective decision.

32. The ECOWAS Mission has so far found no reason to suspect that the breakdown of the biometric identification mechanism was deliberate. The Mission therefore urges all the stakeholders in the process, in particular the party leaders and the media, to exercise restraint and demonstrate a high sense of patriotism as the Electoral Commission endeavors to rectify the situation and bring the electoral process to a successful end.

33. Ghana has come a long way since 1992 in her commendable efforts to ensure transparent and credible electoral management processes, and strengthen democratic culture. All stakeholders therefore have a responsibility to preserve these achievements.

34. Against this background, 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. In the main, the electoral process was peaceful and transparent.

35. While appealing to political parties and candidates to accept the eventual verdict that would emerge from the poll, it does not exclude the possibility of disputes. In that event, ECOWAS enjoins all aggrieved parties to resort to only legal means in seeking redress. 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 EC and should the need arise, will not hesitate to make further declarations.

36. The ECOWAS Observer Mission warmly congratulates the electorate of Ghana for their courage, patience, determination and commitment in the face of the challenges enumerated earlier and appeals to them to maintain the same spirit till the end of the process. It also congratulates the security agencies for their commendable role in ensuring election security.

37. The ECOWAS Observer Mission urges the EC to expedite action on the proclamation of the provisional results, to prevent further anxiety within the polity.

VIII. RECOMMENDATIONS

38. In the light of the challenges identified by the ECOWAS Observers in the field, the ECOWAS EOM makes the following recommendations: A. The Electoral Commission

39. Despite the challenges, the ECOWAS EOM recognizes the advantages of the Biometric Electoral Process. In that regard, the Mission urges the Electoral Commission to continue perfecting the equipment through their use in lesser elections, including the District Assembly Polls.

40. The Electoral Commission, in cooperation with the National Commission on Civic Education, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Civil Society Organizations and the Media should intensify the education of all the stakeholders involved in the electoral process, particularly electoral officials and the electorate on the evolving electoral process in the country.

41. The Electoral Commission should 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.

42. The ECOWAS Observer Mission encourages the Electoral Commission to review the distribution of electorates among the polling centres to minimize the wide disparity in numbers assigned to polling stations across the country and to fine-tune the system of distribution of voters at polling stations as the alphabetical order system created a lot of disaffection.

B. The Media

43. The ECOWAS Mission urges 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.

C. Women's Participation

44. The ECOWAS Mission urges 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.

D. Inter-Party Advisory Committee

45. The in-coming Parliament may consider endowing the Inter-Party Advisory Committee with the mandate of an autonomous statutory state body as a platform for regular and predictable consultations among the stakeholders in the electoral process, during and in-between elections.

E. The Judiciary

46. The ECOWAS EOM encourages the incoming parliament and the judiciary to review the legal framework governing elections with a view to minimizing the incidents of litigations designed to unduly delay the preparation and conduct of elections in the country.

Done at Accra, this 8th Day of December 2012

The Head of the ECOWAS Observer Mission

Copyright © 2012 Economic Community of West African States. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.