Elections are the vehicles that drive a democracy. Getting them right is an indication that your democracy is on course. Getting them wrong puts the democracy in harm’s way with dire consequences if the wrong is not corrected early and surgically removed to ensure it is not repeated.
At the centre of it all is the election management body, in our case, the Electoral Commission (EC), that must be open, accountable, unbiased, persuasive, stern and independent in terms of being shielded from wanton stakeholders who would want to control and bully the EC into directions inconsistent with our democratic values and aspirations.
There is a conventional wisdom in Ghana that spans the duopoly and much of public opinion. That the EC colludes at all times, with the party in power to rig elections. This traditional wisdom emanates from the fact that the incumbent President, who is also a contestant in the next election, being human would appoint a head of the EC, who would in turn show appreciation to the President through conduct that give meaning to the conventional wisdom.
This suspicion that the head of the EC could be influenced to rig elections in favour of some candidate(s) has resulted in tensions among stakeholders in the electoral system at every election cycle. Sometimes it has manifested in political violence. Until the public fights broke between current Chairman of the EC, Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, the brokenness of the EC was thought to be limited to the area of election fraud and rigging.
If those were the only problems, then the suggestion for amendment of the constitution to allow for an appointment procedure outside the powers of the President would suffice by way of solution. On the contrary, the open fights have brought into the public space allegations and counter allegations of both electoral and financial malpractices by the three top officials of Ghana’s EC. All along the EC officials have been unanimous in their stand against election fraud. They have held consistently that it was not possible for any election to be rigged. At least, not when they are in charge of managing the process, they would insist vehemently. What has changed? And what could be responsible for the accusations and counter accusations of election rigging between and among the three top officials of the EC besides financial malfeasance? Is it the leadership failure?
When the EC chair assumed office one of the first things she did was to change the EC’s logo at an awful cost to the taxpayer, in the name of rebranding the organisation. Public Relations (PR) 101 emphasises developing and maintaining cordial relationship with “publics” or stakeholders. There was nothing like that. What we had was “We liked it. We picked it. It makes us happy” infantile response, when she was asked about the relevance of the logo. Scriptures say “woe to you, O land, when your king is a child, and your princes eat in the morning”—Ecclesiastes 10:16. Published exchanges between and among the three leaders indicate leadership failure.
Now that the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has forwarded the petition seeking the impeachment of the EC chair to the Chief Justice in accordance with directions spelt out in Article 146 of the 1992 Constitution, Parliament must stay away from the process and let the Chief Justice’s Committee investigate the matter. There are many other equally important investigations that Parliament may want to undertake in the interest of Ghana.
When all is said and done, there would be need for an EC chair to be appointed. Given our experiences up to this low point, it is important to go for the comprehensive reforms that were proposed prior to the 2016 election which the EC and the previous administration failed to implement for want of time. Of particular interest is the proposed reform that takes away the powers of appointment of the EC chair, from the President.
Yes, the EC is obviously broken but if we fail to understand why it is broken the solutions we provide would be wrong. We would find ourselves in the same situation sooner than later. I am trusting that the President in his wisdom and as a lawyer of high repute would support the reforms that take away the EC chair’s appointment from the Presidency to make the appointment independent of the incumbent upfront!
The Last Uprising
…with William Dowokpor