On the Issue of the Voters' Register in Ghana
Ever since the 2012 general elections, following the death of former president John Evans Atta Mills and the election of John Dramani Mahama, Ghana has been on the slippery slope of political and socioeconomic decline. The country is on the verge of returning to Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status, which shows that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) – the party elected in 2008 on promises to make the government more efficient – has failed to deliver. In other words, Ghana is actively regressing to the circumstances that plagued its people under John Agyekum Kufuor's New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration.
The constant lack of reliable electricity has severely damaged Ghana’s economic and business potential – the effects of which have been felt from the small and medium enterprise (SME) level all the way up to the multinationals investing and producing within its borders. The country's volatile currency has only contributed to the unstable business climate. Finally, since politics is nothing without a dose of corruption, Ghana has judges who occupy some of the highest judicial positions in the land being accused and charged with corruption and abuse of office.
To make matters worse, the integrity of Ghana’s democratic system is being called into question, as the country has reached a critical point in its democracy. Here, the issue stands as such: 76,000 potentially fraudulent Togolese voters were found on the Ghanaian voters’ register – ultimately, a breach of Ghana’s sovereignty and a defilement of the heart of its democratic system. Supposedly, there could be more nestled within the database. Although this issue was brought to the forefront by the main opposition, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), it is far from a partisan matter. Therefore, the solution must be a collective one with the Mahama administration and the Electoral Commission leading the way.
As the beacon of democratic ideals within the African continent, Ghana must step up to the plate and preserve the virtues its ancestors fought for so valiantly. The calls for a new voters’ register in the country are indicative of something greater than the simple need for a re-tally. These calls question the integrity and robustness of Ghana’s democratic system, as well as its leadership's ability to promote the people’s best interests. The relative unresponsiveness of both parties to the issue has quite frankly been a disappointment. After all, when the same issue came up in Togo, John Mahama (as ECOWAS president) advocated and helped broker the postponement of the general elections in order to dig deeper into the issue and preserve the integrity of Togo's democracy. Ironically, on home soil, the Ghanaian government is hiding behind the NDC to refute the NPP's claims, while the Electoral Commission is dragging its feet by thus far only calling for the political parties to submit proposals on a way forward.
Chairwoman Charlotte Osei and the Electoral Commission must be precise in their independent investigation and more decisive in their response. Furthermore, the investigation must be unbiased in its scrutiny in order to make necessary changes. The EC, as an independent regulator of the electoral process is – and without question, must be – loyal only to the masses and to the ideals it is mandated to uphold. Thus, the Commission must show that it has the capacity to stand on its own two feet through strong leadership to conduct honest independent affairs while withstanding external pressure from both sides of the aisle. Since the government has continually reaffirmed its inability to stand up for the people, the EC must be firm and resolute in its demand for a new voters’ register.
It is imperative that Ghana gets a fresh start when the dust settles after this ongoing debacle. A new voters’ register, or at the very least, a reformed voters’ register, is necessary for ensuring the future security and stability of the nation ahead of the upcoming 2016 general elections. The Electoral Commission and the government must lead from the front to ensure that the inadequacies of Ghana’s democratic system do not undermine its development efforts in any way, shape, or form.
At the very least, the Ghanaian people deserve to have the peace of mind and staunch faith in their electoral system as a guarantor of free and fair elections – and as a guarantor of liberty. The masses need to be assured through strong leadership and a fair response that their opinions are undiluted and that their voices are heard loud and clear.