JOHN MAHAMA ON THE INTEGRITY OF GHANA’S VOTER REGISTER
Countrymen and women
My brothers and sisters
Two days ago, my Running Mate, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang and I, suspended our regional tours in the wake of widespread anomalies identified in the ongoing voter register exhibition exercise.
This matter is of grave concern and at the heart of the integrity of the upcoming December 7 elections, and threatens our democracy.
Let me state at the outset that my Party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and I have an unflinching commitment to our democracy. We will do everything in our power to ensure it continues to be the anchor of this country’s much-vaunted peace and stability.
Let me also remind you that in the past few years we have repeatedly drawn attention to a considerable number of unacceptable steps taken by the Electoral Commission, as presently constituted. These steps have the potential to wreck the democratic architecture that has seen the conduct of seven successful elections.
You will recall the numerous disagreements with the Electoral Commission (EC) regarding its mandate and relations with the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC). For the past twenty or more years, IPAC, a committee of representatives of all political parties, has assisted the EC to carry out its constitutional duties to the satisfaction of all.
That collaboration has enabled the EC to improve on its transparency, credibility and confidence building systems in electoral management. This is what has also ensured the general acceptance of election results.
Unfortunately, the EC as presently constituted has ignored valuable advice and the consensus building approach that has inured so well to the sustenance of multiparty democracy in our dear country.
Earlier this year, despite widespread protests against the compilation of a new voter register, the EC proceeded, headstrong and against all sound advice.
The Commission also resisted all attempts to include the birth certificate of an applicant as one of the basic and well-recognised documents for a citizen’s registration into the new voter register.
The voter registration exercise itself was characterized by bigotry and exclusion, where many citizens were crudely prevented from registering on the pretext that they were not Ghanaians. These acts of intimidation were perpetrated by the state security apparatus, which is now filled with vigilante elements loyal to the ruling NPP, with an impunity reminiscent of events at Ayawaso West Wuogon early last year.
What was worse and a danger to our democracy, was that in spite of the glaring evidence available, the President of the Republic denied knowledge of the occurrence of these events. He has also failed to take any action to forestall the recurrence of such acts of political thuggery.
My brothers and sisters, I regret to note that these irregularities, inconsistencies and intimidations are generating anxiety among the Ghanaian public that the upcoming elections may not be free and fair. It is deeply troubling that the ongoing exhibition of the voters’ register has revealed significant omissions and in some other cases the deletion of the names of registered voters on a wide scale. There are also instances in which the gender, name and registration centre have been transposed.
As an interested party in the December elections, we want to state and strongly that these alarming warning signs do not bode well for a free and fair election. To quote what many others have said in their commentary on the current developments on social media, of what use is democracy, if technicalities will be deployed to steal the mandate of the people?
Sovereign power emanates from the people. It must be protected and jealously guarded at all times.
Ladies and gentlemen, the EC and our opponents suggest that these concerns are an exaggeration. So, I would like to take some time, at this point, to walk you through just a few of the numerous examples available to us.
In the Binduri Constituency of the Upper East Region, many cases of omission have been detected. At the Narang-Saago Primary School, not a single person out of four hundred and forty-four (444) registered could find their names on the register. At both the Tempielim Primary School and Kumpalgooga registration centres, no name was found on the voters register despite the registration of 428 and 392 people respectively.
In 18 other centres in the same constituency, 6,341 names were omitted from the registration.
In Jirapa in the Upper West Region, a total of 2,057 names were nowhere to be found on the voters register in five centres.
At Klottey Korle in Greater Accra, 2,054 people who registered in some 12 centres, did not find their names.
In Krowor, also in Greater Accra, cases of duplicated card numbers were recorded in as many as eight centres and this affected 2,453 people.
In Ashaiman, the vigilance of our MP, Hon. Ernest Norgbey, and other NDC executives ensured the detection of the omission of over 21,000 names from the register, including that of the MP. In response to this, the EC presented a new register which was still short of 7,000 names, albeit this time with the name of the MP. In a clear case of subterfuge, the EC then presented another register with the name of the MP as though it was the earlier defective register.
In the Central Region, glaring cases of duplication of card numbers were also recorded in 14 centres in the Komenda Edna Eguafo Abrem Constituency. One such case involved my Running Mate, Prof. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang.
In the Volta Region, significant numbers of names were missing on the registers in some Constituencies.
In Ketu South, 6,158 names were missing. In Anlo, 984 names could not be found. In Akatsi South, 426 names were omitted while in Ketu North, 260 names were not found.
Again, in Keta, 275 people could not find their names on the register.
In the Northern Region, instances of missing names have been recorded in Karaga, Tamale South and Tolon Constituencies respectively, which yield a total of 2,173 so far.
Yet another anomaly that has been detected, revolves around the appearance of additional names on the register which have served to swell it.
In Asawase in the Ashanti Region, 907 additional names have mysteriously appeared on the register.
Ladies and gentlemen, I need to stress that these examples are but a fraction of the magnitude of the problems encountered so far with the exhibition exercise.
Even though the occurrence of anomalies during voter exhibition exercises is not new, the sheer volumes and magnitude of the recorded anomalies in the ongoing voter’s exhibition exercise are unusual, unprecedented and give us genuine cause for concern about the credibility of the register and the integrity of the electoral process.
This is particularly so given the limited amount of time that we have for the resolution of these major challenges. It is obvious that the EC, despite the desperate public relations attempts, recognises its failures and the potential challenges to the electoral process, of its actions.
We believe that the decision to extend the exhibition period to Sunday September 27 vindicates the position of the NDC. We, however, think that a two-day extension is inadequate to address the magnitude of issues to be resolved.
The NDC wishes to recommend to the EC, once again, to begin a regular, comprehensive and transparent dialogue with IPAC.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is trite knowledge that a major requirement and prerequisite for the conduct of free and fair elections is the availability of a credible voters register. As many have observed, the EC announced the exhibition of the voters register to take place between the 18th and 25th September 2020.
The EC has itself publicly admitted errors in the register that is currently being exhibited, but there are procedural concerns too.
Regulation 23(3) of CI 91, as amended, requires the publication of the provisional register on the EC website. To date the EC has failed to comply with this requirement. De-duplication, an integral part of the voter registration process, which should have been completed before exhibiting the provisional register was abandoned midway.
This will severely affect the integrity of the register.
We wish to remind the EC that presidential and parliamentary candidates need the voters register for the purposes of filing their nominations.
Any associated breach by candidates can result in dire consequences, including disqualification. How can we achieve this with a register riddled with such inaccuracies and irregularities?
My brothers and sisters, one of the more startling revelations in respect of the ongoing exhibition exercise is a viral video of some EC officials secretly printing new voter ID cards for unknown registrants. This irregular conduct of the EC, which it has finally admitted to, casts a dark cloud over an already compromised process, and is against the law.
Already, the NDC has raised a number of important questions, in a letter to the EC Chairperson, that must be answered urgently and candidly.
When did it come to the attention of the EC that some of the Voter ID cards issued to registrants during the recent voter registration exercise had duplicate ID numbers and therefore were defective?
Why did the EC not inform the political parties, who are major stakeholders in our electoral process in the spirit of fairness and transparency and in line with our established electoral practice?
Indeed, the normal process would have been to invite political parties to deploy their agents to monitor any such process in accordance with our electoral laws and conventions.
In its reaction to the viral video, the EC itself stated that this problem has been identified in as many as 100 districts throughout the country.
I reiterate the demand of the General Secretary for the EC to publish in full the names and particulars of all persons issued with defective voter ID cards. In addition to these very disturbing developments, we have noticed that the Commission failed to deploy Biometric Verification Devices (BVDs) to all exhibition centers to allow for confirmatory fingerprint verification during the exhibition exercise.
We further found out in some areas that there were huge differences between the total number of registrants as issued in the daily registration print-out to our agents and the total number of registrants contained in the provisional register at the same centers.
As one of its main arguments for the compilation of a new voter register the Commission asserted that the methods and systems to be adopted for the compilation will eliminate the process of manual verification.
In view of this, Parliament approved a huge budget for the acquisition of 75,000 BVDs for all registration centers. One would think that these BVDs would have been deployed to each of the over 33,000 exhibition centers across the country to test the efficacy of the machines.
As it is, only 5,000 have been deployed nationwide, thus raising the possibility of widespread manual verification of voters on election day. All these matters, among others, must be discussed as part of a dialogue between the EC and IPAC about the way forward.
Finally, I wish to make an appeal to the international community and its election observers. Given all that has gone amiss with the electoral process and the likelihood of continued greater challenges ahead of the election, I would like to urge them to focus their lenses on Ghana and arrive earlier in-country than ever before.
This will enable them to engage the EC, IPAC and all stakeholders as part of efforts to resolve these major problems with the register.
My brothers and sisters, it matters very little whether the situation confronting us is a product of incompetence, malice or both. Our demands are the same regardless. We want to see fairness, transparency and integrity in the processes leading up to the election, including in this exhibition exercise.
We expect that when such monumental breaches are pointed out, the EC will take responsibility and act in good faith.
We in the NDC have exhibited restraint at all times in this electoral process, even now, and we are committed to doing so. But let me serve notice once again that we will not accept the result of a flawed election. We will certainly not look on, neither will we shirk our civic responsibility and allow the EC- whether by ill intent or sheer incompetence- to usurp the people’s mandate in the December 7 polls.
The Electoral Commission must take immediate steps to rectify and sanitise the register, and re-exhibit it to afford the voting public and all stakeholders an opportunity to verify their particulars in the voters register before it is finalised.
My brothers and sisters, this moment demands of us, to act with patriotic zeal to preserve the peace and stability of our beloved Ghana.
The true will of the people must triumph.
Thank you, and may God Bless us all.