Political Parties welcome electoral reforms (Monday, September 9, 2013) FRONT PAGE

After the 2012 presidential election petition hearing and the subsequent judgement, the call for electoral reforms has taken centre stage.

While the Supreme Court judges hinted of electoral reforms, even during the petition hearing, and also gave clear road maps in their judgement, the  country’s election management body, the Electoral Commission (EC), has taken the bull by the horns and written officially to all the political parties to submit proposals for reforms.

Responding  to the invitation from the EC, which states that all recommendation must be within the context of existing electoral laws and system, the parties have accepted the challenge and given indications that they are ready to contribute to strengthen the electoral system.

In separate interviews with the Daily Graphic, the leadership of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) all agreed that the call was “welcome news” and in the right direction.

They expressed their willingness to participate in any form of reform that would consolidate the country’s multi-party democracy.

The EC, in a letter dated September 5, 2012, observed that political parties were its “principal stakeholders” and urged them to submit the proposals before the end of November this year.

“The commission will, therefore, appreciate that each registered political party indicates what it considers to be the needed reforms in our electoral system. Any recommendations made must be within the context of our existing electoral laws and system,” it said.

Past Reforms
Ghana’s  electoral system has, since 1992, undergone a number of reforms, key among them being the change from the use of opaque ballot boxes to transparent ones and the use of picture identity cards.

In the 2012 elections, the use of biometric verification machines was a major reform in the electoral process.
But given that the Supreme Court dismissed the NPP’s petition concerning voting without biometric verification, it is expected that the intended proposals will focus on that system.

Registered Parties
The 23 registered political parties in the country include the NDC, the NPP, the CPP, the PNC, the PPP, the GCPP, the Democratic People’s Party (DPP), EGLE Party and the United Ghana Movement.

Others are the Ghana Democratic Republican Party (GDRP), the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP), the Reformed Patriotic Democrats (RFP), the National Reform Party (NRP), the Ghana National Party (GNP), the United Renaissance Party (URP) and the New Vision Party (NVP).

The rest are the United Love Party (ULP), the United Front Party (UFP), the United Development System Party (UDSP), the Independent People’s Party (IPP), the Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), the Yes People’s Party (YPP) and the National Democratic Party (NDP).

In spite of the long list, only seven — the NDC, the NPP, the GCPP, the CPP, the PNC, the PPP and the UFP — contested the 2012 presidential elections.

Even though the GFP, the NVP, the NDP and the IPP elected their flag bearers, they could not meet the requirements by the EC’s October 18, 2012 deadline.

Responding to the EC’s request, the Deputy General Secretary of the NDC, Mr George Lawson, said the party would meet to decide on what to put on the EC reform table and observed that it was time the EC listened more to the political parties.

He raised serious concern over the EC-parties relationship, saying, “When we talk, they rubbish what we say. Some of the things we say at IPAC meetings are not implemented.”

He, therefore, made a case for the decisions taken at IPAC meetings to become legally binding.

Mr Lawson, however, declined to indicate the specific reforms that the NDC would propose, adding that it would soon meet to decide its next line of action.

The Communications Director of the NPP, Nana Akomea, said the party’s petition to the Supreme Court had been about the irregularities, malpractices and violations that had characterised the 2012 elections and so any move to review the system with the view to correcting them was welcome.

He noted that after the election petition, electoral reforms were the least the EC would look at and said apart from some electoral issues that must be addressed, the date for elections must also be given a second look.

Nana Akomea raised concern over the limited time that would be available to a future petitioner if elections went into a run-off and suggested that all those issues must be considered and addressed.

He hinted that entries into the pink sheets must also be simplified to avoid problems, while maintaining their status as the documents for recording what transpired at polling stations.

The General Secretary of the PNC, Mr Bernard Mornah, commended the EC for responding to public calls for reforms and said it was suggested proposals from the political parties that had transformed the electoral process from voting with opaque ballot boxes and thumbprinted identity cards to the current use of transparent ballot boxes and biometric registration and verification.

He, however, cautioned that the EC must not be stampeded, especially concerning the call to give legal backing to IPAC, since IPAC comprised the political parties and civil society groups.

He explained that the current form of the IPAC was good and appropriate because it had always used moral persuasion as its tool to put across its concerns and cautioned that it must not be armed to take away the EC’s independence.

The General Secretary of the CPP, Mr Ivor Greenstreet, said it was good news for the EC to show initiative in respect of reforms.

“It is not like the past when we had to beg for IPAC meetings,” he said.

He said it was commendable that the EC had recognised its shortcomings and was willing to take steps to correct those mistakes.

Mr Greenstreet said the CPP was committed to any process that would further strengthen multi-party democracy in Ghana, adding that the party would put together it proposals to contribute to the process.

The General Secretary of the PPP, Mr Siaw Asamoah, said although the EC refused to acknowledge the party’s proposal for reforms immediately after the 2012 election, the PPP would still take the opportunity and re-send the proposal.

He said the electoral system urgently needed “total overhauling” to incorporate computer technology into the entire system to eliminate the human factor which had always been the source of misunderstanding.

He suggested that the auditing systems in the electoral process must be strengthened and reiterated the PPP’s call for electronic voting, explaining that almost all daily activities of human life had been made electronic, hence the need to introduce electronic voting.

The National Chairman of the GCPP, Dr Henry Lartey, said the call for reforms should be used as an opportunity to make the electoral process and its rules less complicated.

He said the EC must insist, with the support of the political parties, on the deepening of transparency and also make the process easy to follow and manage.


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