14 August 2014

Ghana: Voters' Register Must Be Audited - Oquaye

A FORMER Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Professor Mike Oquaye, has called for a comprehensive audit to be conducted into the current voter register.

Such an exercise, he argued, would restore credibility to the register, thus ensuring transparent and acceptable elections, devoid of bickering in the future. He further called for the amendment of the public election registration of voters' regulation 2012, CI 72, to ensure that political parties receive copies of the final register the EC would be using in the conduct of elections, at least, 21-days before the election day.

Prof. Oquaye made this call in a paper delivered on his behalf by Mr. Peter Mac Manu, a former Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), at a National Stakeholder Workshop on Electoral Reform, organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in Accra, yesterday.

Raising concerns about the mode of appointment of the EC Chairman, Prof. Oquaye contended that the system, where the appointment of the EC Chairman was solely the responsibility of the President of the Republic, was not the best. The current system, where sometimes the President is also a candidate in presidential elections and appoints the "Umpire without any input from the other side is dangerous," he argued.

Citing the Sudanese example, where the President appoints the EC Chairman, and approved by a two-thirds majority of all members of parliament, Prof. Ocquaye argued that it was unwise for the president alone to continuously appoint a chairman for the Electoral Commission.

The majority approval of the EC Chairman will strengthen and uphold the independence of the Electoral Commission, he insisted, adding that the EC Chairman "should be given a fixed tenure... say six years," as is being practised in Kenya and other African countries.

"Accountability mechanisms must be established to regulate the EC's administrative machinery; the number of errors, acts of omissions which the EC Chairman himself admitted in court as administrative lapses cannot be ignored," Prof. Oquaye added.

The Supreme Court of Ghana recommended some electoral reforms after ruling on the election petition brought before it by the main opposition New Patriotic Party in the 2012 presidential election, which announced President John Dramani Mahama as the winner.

Past Reforms Ghana's electoral system has, since 1992, undergone a number of reforms, key among them being the change from the use of opaque ballot boxes to transparent ones, and the use of picture identity cards. In the 2012 elections, the use of biometric verification machines was a major reform in the electoral process.

But, given that the Supreme Court dismissed the NPP's petition concerning voting without biometric verification, it is expected that the intended proposals will focus on that system.

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