Afari-Gyan opposes scrapping of guarantor system

Story: News Desk

A former Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, has criticised the commission for its move to discard the guarantor system for the continuous voter registration exercise.

In a statement to the media,  he said the contention of the EC that the guarantor system was not robust and, therefore, the Ghana Card should be the sole means of registration was untenable.

According to Dr Afari-Gyan, as far as the National Identification Authority (NIA) allowed the guarantor regime in the registration for the Ghana Card, nothing prevented the EC from doing the same for the voter registration exercise and making that system more robust as it wanted it.

“What prevents the commission from instituting, in the upcoming constitutional instrument (CI), a guarantor regime as robust as or even more robust than the one being used by the NIA for doing the Ghana Card?” he queried.

In line with Article 11 (7) of the 1992 Constitution, the EC is seeking to lay a CI before Parliament to regulate the continuous voter registration exercise.

Per the article, the CI, which seeks, among other things, to make the Ghana Card the sole identification document for the exercise and the only means for registration, when laid in Parliament, will come into force after 21 sitting days, except the house annuls it by a vote of not less than two-thirds of all Members of Parliament (MPs).

Last month, the Chairperson of the EC, Jean Adukwei Mensa, told Parliament, as part of the pre-laying of the CI, that the Ghana Card as the sole registration document would ensure that only eligible Ghanaians registered as voters.

Such a move, she said, would give the country a credible voter roll and enhance its electoral process.

The EC boss said her outfit jettisoned the guarantor system because it was susceptible to abuse, which affected the credibility of the electoral roll.

“The challenges with the guarantor system are that it opens the door for registered voters or guarantor contractors to guarantee/vouch for persons who are less than 18 years and it allows the guarantors to vouch for foreigners. Such unqualified persons used the door of the guarantor system to try to get onto the register.

“Truth be told, the guarantor system was not the best under any circumstances, but we did not have other options, since a significant number of people did not possess the Ghana Card at the time. Even, then, we had 10 million Ghanaians using the Ghana Card to back their citizenship at the time of registration,” she said.

Dr Afari-Gyan is not the only person to criticise the EC over the proposed CI.

The CI has faced a backlash from the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), a civil society organisation, especially concerning the decision by the EC to throw away the guarantor system, which hitherto allowed a registered voter to vouch for the citizenship of another person seeking to register.

The NDC has described the CI as “obnoxious and a threat to the country’s democracy” and directed its MPs not to absent themselves from Parliament to enhance the fight against the proposed law.

For the CDD, the elimination of the guarantor system would make it very difficult for many Ghanaians to register and that would, ultimately, infringe on their constitutional right to vote.

“The current CI 126 allows for a guarantor to guarantee for up to five people; this can be reduced to three,” it said.

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