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Ghana Electoral Commission Works to Keep Polls Honest

  • Joana Mantey

Poster of Ghana presidential candidates. (Reuters)

Poster of Ghana presidential candidates. (Reuters)

The Electoral Commission of Ghana says all registered voter will be allowed to cast their ballots during general elections on December 7. But critics argue that some may be prevented from voting because of a flawed law passed by parliament that created 45 new constituencies.

The EC is mandated by parliament to create new constituencies if needed to ensure the people are properly represented in parliament.

However, some argue a new law passed by parliament could do the opposite.
Critics say it eliminates some polling stations within the new constituencies, meaning some voters living in those areas will likely have trouble casting their ballots.
Electoral officials says that will not be the case.

Christian Owusu Pare, the Electoral Commission’s acting director of public affairs said “every constituency is made up of a certain number of polling stations. All the people in the constituency have the right and are entitled to vote in that constituency”.

There are also efforts to keep the elections honest.

Out of a population of 24 million, about 14 million Ghanaians are eligible to vote. And for the very first time, the country is adopting the biometric system of voting. The government says the technology includes computers, fingerprint scanners and digital cameras to help identify each voter.

Owusu-Pare says all polling stations in the country will have adequate equipment for biometric verification. And he said Ghana has back-up equipment.

"Since 1992," he said, "the commission has always been able to meet all the deadlines and ensure that all the materials are available for voting. We are not going to falter in that regard.”

Competing candidates and polling agents have been issued guidelines on proper conduct, including warnings against the use of inflammatory speech. Owusu-Pare said all political parties are free to campaign across the country, but he warned against multiple voting.

“The punishment is clear," he said. "You know it goes with either a fine or imprisonment or both. People can be imprisoned if they violate the electoral rules. The objective is [an] incident-free election so people can exercise their franchise in an atmosphere devoid of intimidation”

In Ghana, ballots are counted and results declared at polling stations in the full view of party agents. Mike Ocquaye with the New Patriotic Party said it is important that practice continues.

“The EC," he said, "must ensure that they put in a fair system, the votes are counted, collated properly, the results are declared at the polling station. Then when they get to the strong room everything goes on accordingly."

Election observers will include a coalition from Ghana, the regional bloc ECOWAS and the United Nations. The European Union says it will not be part of the monitoring process because Ghana is capable of organizing free, fair, transparent and credible elections without the involvement of the international community.

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