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Ghana Electoral Commission Ordered to Clean Up Voter Lists

FILE - The Ghana national flag (C) flies in front of the Supreme Court building in the city of Accra, Ghana. The court has ordered the electoral commission to compile new, credible voter list for this year's elections.

Ghana’s Supreme Court has ordered the country's electoral commission to immediately clean up the voter list to be used in this year’s presidential, legislative and local elections. The court said the current voter list is not credible for use at the polls.

Abu Ramadan of the opposition People's National Convention (PNC), and Evans Nimako, a farmer from Ghana’s Eastern region, petitioned the Supreme Court, saying the voter list contains non-citizens and minors. The two asked the court to instruct the electoral commission to compile a new voter list to be used for the elections.

The court also urged the electoral commission to ensure it consults all political stakeholders in electoral administration processes.

In an interview with VOA shortly after the verdict, Nimako said the main reason for taking the matter to the Supreme Court was to ensure the credibility of the upcoming polls is not undermined by the bloated register. He welcomed Thursday’s ruling as a victory for Ghana’s burgeoning democracy.

“We had gone to court with one objective, to ensure that as Ghana, we are able to have a voters register that is credible, that does not have names of foreigners so that when it gets to the stage of Ghanaians voting, it is Ghanaians alone who are voting for their leadership," he said.

Some Ghanaians express concern the ruling could derail the electoral commission’s planned activities as part of the process to administer the polls. They contend the electoral body might not have the needed time to clean up the voter list as ordered by the Supreme Court in time for the elections.

Critics also accused both Ramadan and Nimako of doing the bidding of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Backed by other opposition parties and some civil society groups, the NPP had petitioned the electoral commission, saying it has evidence the current voter list includes minors and non-citizens. The opposition party maintained the credibility of the elections will be undermined if the current voter list is not discarded and a new one compiled.

Nimako sharply denied that he is doing the bidding of the NPP. He said the critics failed to realize that Ramadan is a member of the PNC, but not NPP. He said the electoral commission doesn’t have any excuse, since he said the electoral body took only 10 days to register qualified Ghanaians when it compiled the voter list used for the 2012 elections.

Nimako added that it would be disastrous for the electoral commission to say that it would not be able to organize the elections because of the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court was explicit; take immediate steps to clean up the register immediately,” said Nimako. "So it is for the EC to say these are the modalities. But we have given them a very simple option and the option is, validate. Let the people who have their names on the register come and validate as a way of getting themselves included in the register ... So the issue of time is neither here nor there."

Nimako said he has a "political interest" and is "entitled to pursue whatever idea I feel I can pursue to ensure that Ghana’s democracy is well consolidated."

"What is important today," he added, "is that the court has ordered the EC that you have to be serious. Go and delete the names of those who are not qualified to be on the register so that Ghana can go into an election with a credible register. And this one is a problem for those who call themselves critics of Evans? I don’t think so.”