Lecturers issue public warning over new voters’ register
The group of academics, calling themselves ‘Concerned University Lecturers, Ghana’ have reminded the Electoral Commission that most election disputes in the region have resulted in the loss of millions of lives in other countries in the sub-region, and called for a compromise to avoid a political crisis in the country.
In an open letter to the chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Jean Mensah, they said lessons from electoral violence from other countries in the region should guide the EC “to avoid belligerent decisions and intransigent and bellicose positions”.
“We are particularly worried about the decision to compile a completely new voters’ register given that our country’s constitutionally scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections are about six months away,” they said
The academics said the decision was puzzling because the existing register has been used by the EC to conduct the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections. It was also used for the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections as well as a referendum to create six new administrative regions in 2018. In addition, it was the same register that was used for a by-election at the Ayawaso West Wuogon constituency in Accra, and for district assembly elections last year.
“So far, we have not seen any evidence to suggest that an updated version of the existing register cannot perform the same role in the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections, as the outcomes of these elections have been described by your office and other stakeholders as some of the most credible elections in our country’s history,” the letter said.
They expressed worry over the country’s international image, and that the new register will violate the protocol of the Economic Community of West African States’ ‘Democracy and Good Governance’, which forbids member states from making extensive changes to electoral regimes in the six months before elections.
They also argued that, with the outbreak of COVID-19, there is the likelihood that any process of voter registration will defeat the principles of social distancing and compromise the health of many citizens.
“Our nation is already compelled to shoulder unexpected financial burdens arising from the outbreak of the pandemic, and it will be an act of wisdom not to engage in activities that will exacerbate that burden,” they said, adding that, “nothing should take precedence over healthy human lives, and so it is our considered view that the existing voters register is updated as was done prior to both the recent referendum and District Assembly elections to pave the way for first time voters to exercise their rights to participate in the electoral processes”.
“This letter is necessitated by our concern for free, fair, and transparent elections and the need to ensure that events leading to, during, and after the elections conform to best and widely accepted practices in electoral management,” they said.
However, it was noted that, “in the last several months, we have observed with utmost concern that public conversations on matters relating to the impending 2020 elections have been characterized by a series of controversies that have the potential to completely erode the trust and confidence the Electoral Commission has jealously guarded over more than a quarter of a century since ushering in our new political dispensation.”
Stating that they were mindful of the commission’s constitutionally guaranteed independence, the lecturers said they were also aware that “the exercise of that independence over the years has been cognizant of the commission’s inter-dependent relationship with the political parties, other stakeholders and the citizenry at large”.
“Your current unilateral departure from the previous approach to decision making by the commission has poisoned the electoral environment, and has the potential to undermine the credibility of the 2020 elections,” they added.