The electoral processes in Ghana in this 4th Republic have gone through many transformations in a bid to improve.
In 1992 when the first presidential and parliamentary elections were held after the promulgation of the current constitution, opaque ballot boxes were used. Not only were the ballot boxes opaque, they were also placed in secluded areas and rooms where the voter goes in alone to cast his/her ballot. After the closure of the polls, the ballot boxes were not opened but conveyed in vehicles (sometimes armoured cars) to district election centres for counting. In the course of transit, no one had knowledge of what happened to the contents of these boxes.
The use of manual voter’s register and thumb printed ID cards without photos for voting, was the order of the day. Many red flags were raised by opposition political parties especially the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and other civil society organisations about the dangers involved in the crude nature of conducting elections by the then Electoral Commission (EC) and the way forward in addressing same. Such procedures for elections persisted until the year 2000 when the EC heeded to calls from the masses, and prepared a photo ID card. Many other reforms including the use of transparent ballot boxes, on the spot ballot counting after polls at the polling station and declaration of results among others, were introduced, all aimed at improving the electoral process to enrich democratic credentials of the country.
In 2012, upon advice and advocacy of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to the EC, a biometric voter register was prepared for the 2012 general elections. This augmented the smooth running of the electioneering and reduced the opportunity of rigging. Previous members of the EC have taken all these steps in every election year, be it district level or general elections in collaboration with stakeholders, particularly the political parties.
But the steadfastness of the current EC, led Mrs Jean Adukwei Mensah ensured value for money to save cost in the conduct of the 2020 elections. For many years, general elections in Ghana have relied heavily on donor support but this year, the EC judiciously utilised their budget to fund the elections without donor support. The Chairperson and her other commissioners need to be commended for this.
On openness and transparency, the procurement of materials was done through competitive tendering processes to achieve the best prices. Per the information available, more than 90% of all procurements were done without sole sourcing as has been the case in the previous years. One can testify that, of all the accusations some people are leveling against the EC, no one has been able to allege any underhand deals against the commission.
The Commission in a bid to ensure free and fair elections, also adopted what it called “Let the Citizen Know” series. This was a forum it used to give periodic briefings on how far it had gotten to in its preparations towards the elections. On a number of occasions, the chairperson took time to address issues and doubts raised by stakeholders and the general public especially the presidential candidate of the NDC when he accused the commission of bias. EC, in the course of registration of voters, gave an update on total number registered for all the 16 regions on a daily basis till the last day of registration.
There was accusations and counter accusations of corruption and duplication of duties among members of the previous EC led by Madam Charlotte Osei. This created a lot of suspicion and tended to disparage the the reputation and neutrality of the commission. But since the assumption of office of the Jean Mensah, no such confusion has been reported or heard among the members. They have stayed focused on their job, proving their maturity and competence.
Mrs. Jean Adukwei Mensah in ensuring free and fair elections has been phenomenal. For the first time in history, the EC ensured that, long queues during registration and voting, were eliminated. As such, the number of polling stations were increased to more than 38,000 to make sure there was not more than 750 voters on register at any polling station.
In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic which ravaged and brought many activities to a standstill, the EC was able to prepare a new biometric voter register on schedule, removed ghosts names to do away with the bloatedness which bedeviled the old register. Just after the exhibition of the register, which has is a constitutional requirement, the Jean Mensah led EC went ahead to publish the entire register online for all citizens to know the total number of voters with the view to enhancing electoral transparency. During the voting process, no voter complained about missing names, a problem which had characterised previous elections.
Hitherto, transmission of results was from the constituency straight to the EC headquarters in Accra. But with the 2020 elections, the EC in an attempt to deepen electoral transparency and do away with any traces of potential irregularities, created another collation centre at its regional levels to increase the chain of results verification authenticity before reaching the head office.
With these measures in place, the political parties themselves, the media and other elections observers were able to track results right from the polling stations to know how each party was performing at anytime during the collation of results.
Again, immediately after declaration of the presidential results, all the statements of polls popularly known as pink sheets, have been published on the website of the EC for the perusal of the public.
These structures put in place amply demonstrates that, the current crop of EC has been the most transparent since 1992. It is however unfortunate that some sections of the public especially members of the NDC are castigating the Commission because they lost elections.
Any objective person who has followed elections in Ghana from 1992 to date will realise that, this year’s elections were organised with the best deployment of resources to ensure it was free, fair and transparent. Those making rigging claims are only being myopic and insincere.
It is good that the NDC, which is protesting the results declared through street agitations, have finally filed a petition in court. We hope that, a true verdict will be given to vindicate the selfless work of the EC.