Elections are a fundamental building block of democracy. Free and fair elections are central to the legitimacy of a democratic government. Free means, voters can support the candidate or party of their choice without fear of intimidation or violence. Fair means that elections are conducted on an open and level playing field for all candidates and according to the law.
The Voters’ Register, an official list of persons who are eligible to vote in an election to which the list relates, is a crucial feature of free and fair elections.The credibility of the Voters’ Register is a critical variable to conducting a free and fair election.
The Voter’s Register is designed to enable all eligible citizens to be included, to prevent electoral abuse and fraud by individuals, special interest groups, political parties and governments, and to be widely accepted as an authoritative and legitimate means of cataloguing the electoral population.
Undoubtedly, the voters’ register in Ghana is a fertile source of dispute. From 1992 to date, the register continues to be a subject of controversy. In spite of the improvements made in compilation of the voters’ register, the Electoral Commission (EC) has often been criticised for its inability to prevent the registration of unqualified voters, impersonation as well as multiple registrations, resulting in an over bloated register. Thus, the failure of the EC to produce a voter’s register that is regarded by all stakeholders as credible has remained a major setback in election administration in Ghana over the years.
Undeniably, voter registration is one of the stages at which there are significant opportunities to manipulate election results. For this reason special efforts are made to ensure that the voters’ register is accurate and reliable. Accuracy in this case means that all eligible voters are listed; they are listed only once; and only eligible persons are listed.
Following the landmark election petition at the Supreme Court, there is an ongoing effort by the Electoral Commission to reform the country’s electoral process to make it more transparent, open and trustworthy. In view of this, some major political parties and many other well-meaning Ghanaians have shown genuine concern over the voters’ register. Some have called for a comprehensive audit of the 2012 voters’ register to guarantee its credibility. Others have also asked for an entirely new voters' register be compiled by the EC for the 2016 elections.
We at CiPED believe that public perception of bloated voters’ register undermines public confidence in the electoral process. Bloated voters’ register is largely use to manipulate election result.
We therefore urge the Electoral Commission to take steps to ensure that the voters’ register is credible and acceptable by all the political parties ahead of the 2016 general elections.
We urge the National Peace Council, the Christian Council, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the Muslims Council, Development Partners, Civil Society Organisations, Political Parties and all other relevant stakeholders to work together with the EC to resolve the controversy surrounding the 2012 voters’ register timeously ahead of 2016 general elections.
Professional and transparent administration of the electoral process is an essential ingredient for building trust. Decision-making and operations of the EC should be as accurate and transparent as possible. Officials of the EC should also comport themselves in such a way that the EC is perceived as independent and impartial; otherwise, it will lose credibility.
The Electoral Commission must ensure that the on-going electoral reforms enhance transparency and credibility in our electoral processes in order to avoid tension and ridiculous violence that have characterized our elections over the years.
A disputed election in 2016 will cause this country more, than an exercise by the Electoral Commission to enhance the credibility of the Voters’ Register.
Source: Modern Ghana
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