The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) has called on lawyers in the country to help explain the electoral laws to prospective voters in a bid to ensure November’s presidential, legislative and local elections are transparent and credible.
Some civil society organizations had expressed concern that a lot of people are not aware of their rights and responsibilities during elections as required by law. They also called for intensified voter education campaigns across the country.
In his New Year message, Nene Amegatcher, president of the GBA, called on members of the group to volunteer to educate Ghanaians ahead of the election. This after it was reported that some electoral officials were not entirely conversant with the electoral laws governing elections.
Tony Forson, spokesman for the GBA, says the organization is ready to partner with the electoral commission in the electoral body’s quest to administer credible elections.
Call for help
“Everyone is expectant that this year’s election would be credible because of what happened in the 2012 election that went to court and the recommendations, which were made by the Supreme Court,” said Forson.
“The call is for the individual lawyers to help. Those who are politically aligned could help their own political party in the training of their polling agents [and] members could help the electoral commission. But the view is towards having a credible election… That was the mindset of the president in making the call that lawyers should avail themselves of this opportunity to help make the 2016 election credible.”
Some critics say it appears members of the GBA have demonstrated their political bias over the years, which they said, could undermine the call of the group’s president to educate Ghanaians. They argued that it is the duty of the electoral commission and the National Commission for Civic Education to educate prospective Ghanaian voters ahead of the election.
Forson disagreed that GBA’s help is not needed in the education campaign ahead of the poll.
“I don’t believe that helping is not needed. I believe that every little thing helps... So, we believe that, in view of the kind of criticisms that were leveled against the electoral officers, we thought that that is one area in terms of personnel that the GBA, with the expertise that it has, would help,” said Forson. “I believe that everybody can help towards making Ghana become a beacon of Africa ...That is my belief.”
His comments came after former president Jerry Rawlings called on former military personnel to help with their experience to ensure the November vote is peaceful and credible.
Forson says the GBA plans to take its education campaign to all media organizations including on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. He also called on the political parties to encourage their supporters not to engage in acts of violence in the run up to the elections.
“Some of these basic concepts are not understood by a majority of the people, even people who are educated, because these are issues which border on law. And education is the only way to go. So, yes on Twitter and Facebook, anything that would help so that people would understand and appreciate; one, the problem, and two, how to go about solving the problem,” said Forson.
“The most important message would be that of political tolerance and understanding, because it is a competition of idea. The GBA would want to believe that everyone should have that heart to listen to the other side of every political debate so that, together, we build a happy and prosperous nation.”