Enhancing Citizen Participation in the 2015 Local Government/District AssemblyElections: Deepening Ghana’s Decentralization Process
With less than four days until the March 3, 2015 District Level Elections, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) is pleased to release its fourth pre-election environment observation statement. The pre-election observation exercise forms part of CODEO’s comprehensive project to observe the impending District Assembly and Unit Committee Elections. The report captures observations made by CODEO’s 86 long term pre-election observers and peer educators, all of whom are women, during the latter part of January and the month of February. CODEO observers are deployed to 86 purposefully selected districts in all ten regions of the country (see appendix A below for the list of districts). They submit observation reports fortnightly to CODEO’s secretariat in Accra.
Summary of Findings
· The Electoral Commission (EC) has conducted pilot voting in some communities to test its equipment and preparations towards the election;
· The EC mounted platforms for all aspiring assembly members in some of the districts observed;
· The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE)continued with the education of the general public on the need to encourage marginalized groups such as Persons with Disability (PwDs) and women, to be part of the local governance process;
· CODEO conducted capacity building workshops on effective campaigning for targeted groups (women, youth and PwD) throughout the country;
· There has been a rise in media interest in the lead up to the District Assembly elections;
· Campaigning is in full gear by all candidates including PwDs and female aspirants; and
· Defacement of campaign posters continued in selected districts observed
· There has been an increase in political parties’clandestine support for preferred candidates.
· Activities by the Electoral Commission
During the period of observation, CODEO observers reported that the EC undertook preparatory activities before the March 3rd election day exercise. For instance, at Ofankor, in the Greater Accra Region, the EC conducted a pilot voting exercise on the February14th, 2015 to test run their machines. In furtherance to that, the EC organised a technical training exercise on the biometric verification device for about 1500 staff at Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region.
In the month of February 2015, the EC conducted training exercises for its polling officials on how to complete the declaration of results sheets and other forms, including the tally sheets. In other districts, the EC distributed election manuals that contained detailed information about the elections.
CODEO observers also reported seeing platforms being mounted by the EC. In the Ledzokuku Krowor District, Greater Accra Region, the EC organized platforms for the aspirants at a date suitable for them. As part of its sensitization activities, the EC officers took turns to caution candidates and their supporters on the type of questions they would ask the various candidates during the platform mounting and that the questions, statements and responses should be issue-based, devoid of personality attacks.
Furthermore, the EC has posted notices of polls which indicate how the various aspirants will be arranged on the ballot paper. This led to the realisation of a female aspirant in the Adansi South District of the Ashanti Region that her gender had been incorrectly marked on the paper. Also, some candidates in the Beppoh and No. 3 Compound electoral area in the Ashanti Region have complained of their pictures being unclear.
· NCCE and Civic Education
During the period of observation, CODEO observers reported that the NCCE has intensified its sensitization activities across the country. As the election draws closer, the NCCE has adopted a collaborative approach to reach out to voters and aspirants’ alike.For example, on February 6th2015, the NCCE organized a forum at Kasapin in the Asunafo North District, Brong Ahafo Region. The aim was to fuel the interest of participants and subsequently, the generality of Ghanaians, to participate fully in the up-coming election. The organiser’s focus was on issues that could entice registered voters to turn out and vote in their numbers. Ways of ensuring sanity on campaign platforms to promote peaceful and violence free elections and identifying threats to peace and ways to nib such threats in the bud were identified and deliberated upon during the event. At Hohoe in the Volta Region, the NCCE has mounted platforms for the aspirants of three electoral areas; Gbi-Kpeme electoral area, Gbi-Bla and Gbi Abansi for them to reach out to the public for familiarization and to sell their campaign messages.
The NCCE has also been meeting with groups to educate them on the upcoming local level elections in the country. CODEO observers reported that the NCCE met with the Federation of the Disabled and Pentecost Women Movement at Saltpond in the Central Region to encourage them to go out and support the female and PWD aspirant and to help improve their representation at the district assembly and promote local governance.
In order to reach out a large audience of the population, the NCCE has been using radio programmes to disseminate information concerning the March 3rd district level elections. As well as the use of radio, information vans are another important tool the commission has been using in the Asante Akim North District, Ashanti Region..
· Election Campaign and activities of Candidates
CODEO observers reported that the campaign is in full gear by all aspiring assembly members throughout the country. Over and above the usual door to door visits, radio announcements, street announcements and community gatherings, use of sound systems and bands, banners, stickers, and fliers are being utilized as ways of mobilization supporters. Some aspirants are also maximizing the opportunity provided by the platforms mounted by the EC for all aspiring assembly members in the various electoral areas in the country.These campaign platforms are meant for all candidates to deliver their campaign messages publicly and for the voter to interrogate each campaign massage further.
However, some aspirants and opinion leaders are using these platforms to demean their opponents. This behavior is especially prevalent among the youth. At a platform mounted by the EC at Eshiem in the Birim Central Municipal in the Eastern Region, for example, the incumbent referred to the youth who were contesting him as ’children who do not have any experience’. At Akroso, also in the Birim Central Municipal, the chairman of the platform, who happens to be the chief of the town, during his closing remarks, also said the District Assembly is not for children and it is not as the youth see it. He also claimed that the youth rushing into it and that their inexperience cannot fit in the assembly.
CODEO observers also reported that aspirants are using various promises to persuade voters to vote for them. In the KEEA district in the Central Region, aspirants are assuring electorate of an end to teenage pregnancy in the community. At Shama in the Western Region,other candidates promise they will use their office to get the community additional transformers to reduce power shedding.
· CODEO organizes Capacity Building Workshops for Targeted Aspirants
Prior to the EC mounting platforms for aspirants, CODEO, as part of its comprehensive observation support for the District Assembly Elections, organized capacity building workshops on effective campaigning for women, PwDs and youth aspirants. The workshops took place in all 10 regions and attracted over 3000 aspirants. The main objective of the workshops was to equip the targeted aspirants with the skills required to contest for election and campaign effectively.
· Defacement of Campaign Posters
CODEO observers once again reported incidence of defacement of aspirants’ campaign posters. . CODEO observers reported that certain people were engaged in the defacing of the posters and other paraphernalia of their opponents. For instance, in the Gbi-Ahado electoral area in the Hohoe district of the Volta region, Nsuaem/Darmang electoral area in the Western Region, Nkran/Ngresi electoral area also in the Western Region, Dzen Ayor(Ogbojo), Nii Ashaley, Adenta housing and Otanor all in the Adenta Municipal in Greater Accra Region, the posters of some candidates are being defaced. Also, in the Nkwanta District in the Volta Region, posters of some aspirants have been destroyed and replaced with funeral posters. In Ledzokuku Krowor District of the Greater Accra Region, some aspirants have destroyed the paraphernalia of certain candidates and at Nkor area in the Ledzokuku Krowor District in the Greater Accra Region candidates have plastered their posters on top of those of their opponents.
· Activities of Civil Society and Media
On the issue of civil society and media interest in the upcoming District Assembly Election, CODEO observers reported that in the Yendi District in the Northern Region, Parambo-Sawaba Youth Associations were engaged in educating the public on the election. Likewise, in Binduri in the Upper East Region, Zuuri Organic Vegetable Farmers Association (ZOVFA) and (EDEG) have been involved in sensitizing electorates to participate in the upcoming District Assembly Elections. Furthermore, CODEO observers reported that the media coverage is on the rise. Radio gruuni in Bolgatanga, in the Upper East Region, Lorlornyo FM and Heritage FM both in the Hohoe District in the Volta Region play jingles and hold talk shows discussing the election. Also, in the Awutu Senya District in the Central Region Enyidado FM is involved in the education of electorates whilst in the Pru District in the Brong Ahafo Region, Alive FM has designed a programme called ‘Assemblymen Corner,’ where aspirants are given the opportunity to promote their campaign messages.
· Promotion of Issues Affecting Women, Youth and PwDs
In the Awutu Senya District in the Central Region, Abantu for Development and partners, have printed and distributed stickers encouraging the electorate to vote for women in the District Assembly election. At Teshie in the Greater Accra Region a durbar was held at the Teshie Presbyterian Church by Peace Women Association, Hope for the Living “PWDs”, Ghana National Association of Garages, Teshie Presbyterian SHS and Teshie Central Mosque to discuss issues about the upcoming election. The aim of the activity was to strengthen community action and remove barriers to participation faced by women, PWD’s and other marginalized groups in the DLEs.
· Undercover Political Party intrusion in the District Assembly elections
CODEO observers reported that some aspiring assembly members are engaged in the practice of getting assistance from political parties. Political parties, for example, have been observed secretly assisting and campaigning for their preferred candidates throughout the country.. In the Binduri District of the Upper East Region, it was observed that political parties were providing direct support to their preferred candidates. Likewise, in Ledzokuku Krowor in the Greater Accra Region, there were reports that some contestants were asked to step aside for others, who are believed to be sharing similar political party sympathy, to contest. In some instances, political leaders have sent delegation to pressurize specific candidates to withdraw their candidature and allow a particular aspirant to contest. Also, some aspirants have nicknamed themselves with political party’s candidates. In the Gbortsui electoral area in Ablekuma in the Greater Accra Region, for example, a candidate nicknamed himself one of the presidential hopefuls whilst campaigning.
The EC and NCCE, in particular, are to be commended for continuing with the education of the electorates, especially in their work encouraging marginalized groups like women and PwDs to contest to be voted for in the impending district level elections. CODEO also commends the media and civil society organizations that have increased their advocacy activities to stimulate the interest of the general public in the district assembly elections.
Towards March 3, 2015
CODEO will deploy close to 700 of its observers to sampled polling stations in the 86 selected districts throughout the country on election day as poll watchers. These observers will be both stationary and roaming. CODEO will observe the set-up, voting and counting process and votes cast while taking note of any incidences that might occur. CODEO Observers will transmit its observation via SMS to the CODEO Observation Center (COC). CODEO will issue periodic statements during the voting process as well as a preliminary statement after the polling process.
CODEO will continue to observe the pre-election environment and inform the general public through regular media releases regarding the elections.
CODEO’s comprehensive observation of the 2015 local government elections has been made possible with the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Ghana.
Mr. Albert Kofi Arhin
(For and on behalf of CODEO)
Friday, February 27, 2015
Source: Chris Joe Quaicoe/ email:[email protected]
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