Ghana's Electoral Commission (EC) says it's put structures
in place to ensure transparency in the voting on December 7, when Ghanaians go
to the polls to elect a new president and 230 new members parliament. The
Electoral Commission is mandated by the Constitution to conduct elections in
Ghana. Voice of America English to Africa reporter, Joana Mantey, in Accra,
spoke with the director of elections, Albert Arhin, who says the commission is
working to ensure that voting takes place in all regions, including remote
areas accessible only by bicycles and canoes:
"We used to have boxes which were opaque. We now use
transparent boxes. Voting also takes place in the open. We involve the
political parties in the printing of ballot papers. We get them involved in
whatever we do at the printing houses," he says.
Getting all the parties involved is a way of building trust and
openness in the activities of the EC. Members of the political parties belong
to a body known as an Inter Party Advisory Committee, IPAC. Since its formation
in 1994, IPAC has helped develop a code of ethics for political parties to
follow during election periods. It also influenced the adoption of optical mark
readers, scanning devices that can read pencil marks on ballot papers. The
number of those read by the scanner will be matched later against those in the
ballot boxes. If a ballot box has extra ballots, fraud can be suspected.
But the voter register is
alleged to be bloated, including more voters than exist in the country. Arhin
attributed this to statistical error and double registration by some people:
registration that we did recently, people who had their names on the register
but have lost their cards came and registered again. People were bringing in
minors because they thought that numbers [would give their vote added weight]
during elections. We are now compiling the names of those who registered [more
than once], and we are preparing to send their names to the police for
prosecution," Arhin said.
An estimated 12.5 million voters are expected to cast their
ballots on Dec. 7. Arhin is confident
that enough provisions have been made to forestall any shortage of ballot
papers. Provisions have also been made for any run-offs. While parliamentarians
are elected by simple majority, the top two presidential candidates face a
run-off if no one gains more than 50 % of the votes cast in the first round.
Arhin said counting of votes starts at the polling stations
before the public to help allay fears about swapping or stuffing of ballot
boxes [before they are] transported to constituency counting centers:
"The public is invited to the counting. We don't go and hide in a room
to count and come and paste the results for people to see. If a ballot is in
dispute, the people are there to see, and we give details of the results to the
candidates at the polling station. By this we are saying that integrity starts
from there and ends at the headquarters of the commission," he says.
are 16 registered parties in Ghana. Arhin said eight are taking part in the
presidential election and 12 in the parliamentary election.