NDC AND IPRAN WRITE TO ECOWAS, AFRICAN UNION AND UNITED NATIONS
INTER-PARTY RESISTANCE AGAINST NEW VOTER REGISTER OF GHANA
C/O P.0. Box AN 5825, Accra- Ghana
27th May, 2020
Hon. Jean-Claude Kassi Brou
President of the ECOWAS Commission ECOWAS Secretariat
114Yakubu Gowon Cres,
Asokoro, Abuja, Nigeria
PETITION AGAINST BREACH OF SECTION II ARTICLE 2 (1) OF PROTOCOL A/SP1/12/01 ON DEMOCRACY AND GOOD GOVERNANCE BY THE DECISION OF THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF GHANA TO COMPILE A NEW BIOMETRIC VOTERS REGISTER LESS THAN SIX MONTHS TO ELECTIONS
We the undersigned leaders of six major and active political parties in Ghana, now constituting the Inter-Party Resistance Against New Voter Register (IPRAN) wish to draw the attention of the Economic Commission of West Africa (ECOWAS) to:
1. The biased and partisan conduct of the Electoral Commission of Ghana
2. The imminent violation of Section II Article 2 (1) of Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security which precludes Members States from making any substantial modification to electoral laws in the last six (6) months before elections, except with the consent of a majority of Political actors. We therefore wish to urgently
invite the proactive intervention of ECOWAS to use its protocols and mechanisms to compel the Electoral Commission of Ghana to use dialogue and consensus- building on such an important matter as Voters Register to avert conflict and chaos in Ghana.
Ghana is constitutionally scheduled to hold both Parliamentary and Presidential election on December 7, 2020 having recently conducted national referendum and nationwide District, Municipal and Metropolitan elections in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The country has over the years developed both formal and informal mechanisms for consensus-building among the major political parties on issues relating to electoral reform, and that approach has been instrumental in foisting a culture of peace and tolerance among various political actors and institutions.
With Presidential and Parliamentary elections approaching, we woke up to an announcement from our country’s Electoral Commission that it has decided to compile a new Voters’ Register for the 2020 elections. This decision is puzzling for two reasons: first it ignored the time-honoured approach of thorough deliberation and consensus-building among the political parties and other stakeholders; and second, it is an afront to and complete disregard for provisions of the Section II Article 2 (1) of Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance as noted above. In addition, in the wake of the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, we are deeply concerned the process of compiling a new biometric Voters Register risks putting the citizens of our country under needless major life-threatening risks.
Since the announcement by the Electoral Commission, millions of Ghanaian citizens have expressed their disapproval of the decision through demonstrations and mass protests among others in various parts of the country. Several prominent citizens and civil society organizations have also openly noted with concern the potential dangers of a national crisis if the belligerent attitude of the Electoral Commission is not checked. So far, the operations of the Electoral Commission has been opaque, incoherent, and a flagrant disregard for the long-established Inter- Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) has in previous years served as the forum of deliberations on major electoral matters including compilation of registers.
To avert major national crisis, we the leaders of the undersigned political parties acting on behalf of the general membership of our respective political parties and other Ghanaian citizens, are of the strong belief that the existing Voters’ Register, which was used for several major national elections since 2012 without any problems, challenges and difficulties, is fit for purpose and must be maintained the scheduled December 7, 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
Given the high tensions and mutual suspicions presently among the stakeholders, we wish to urgently invite ECOWAS to dispatch a fact finding and mediation team to Ghana to engage with the stakeholders especially political parties and the Electoral Commission and Civil Society Organizations as part of pre-emptive
measures targeted at preventing the potential plunge of the country into unnecessary conflict, confusion, and anarchy. We have attached to this petition, a background document that further explains our position for your review.
Yours in the service of good governance
Hon. Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo
National Chairman, National Democratic Congress (NDC)
Dr. Hassan Ayariga
Leader & Founder, All Peoples Congress (APC)
For and on behalf of:
Comrade Bernard Mornah
National Chairman, People National Convention (PNC)
Comrade Nana Agyenim Boateng
Founder & Leader, United Freedom Party (UFP)
Comrade Jessica Glah
General Secretary, EGLE Party
Comrade Bukari Kuoro General Secretary, UPP
INTER-PARTY RESISTANCE AGAINST NEW VOTER REGISTER, GHANA POSITION PAPER
Peoples National Convention (PNC) National Democratic Congress
All Peoples Congress (APC)
United Freedom Party (UFP)
United Progressive Party
It is our position that Ghana’s current register is credible, reliable and tested. This position has been confirmed by the EC itself. The concerns raised by the EC can be addressed by upgrading the current register and not compiling a new register.
The US$140 million expected to be used to compile a new register of over 18 million voters can be used by government to address more pressing needs of Ghanaians.
The EC must allow for further dialogue and consensus building on such a crucial matter affecting the conduct of the upcoming Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
The EC must conduct the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary elections using the current biometric voters’ register as modified by the upcoming limited registration to bring on board those who have now attained the age of 18 and those who for whatever reason do not have their names on the current register.
That is the only way to create a peaceful atmosphere for the conduct of free, fair and credible elections whose outcome will be acceptable to all.
We call on the ECOWAS to draw the attention of the Government of Ghana and the Electoral Commission of the dangerous path it is treading and the likely negative outcome of their actions.
We also call on the ECOWAS to draw the attention of the Government of Ghana to its likely violations of the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance No. A/SP1/12/01, supplementary to the ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security
2. Basis & Rationale
Ghana’s electoral system has undergone several reforms since 1992. The system has delivered elections that have been considered generally free, fair and credible. Following advocacy for a biometric voters’ register prior to the 2012 elections, the EC upon extensive consultations with key stakeholders and the establishment of a technical team with representation from political parties compiled a new biometric register with a verification system in 2012. As such, the existing Biometric Voters’ Register is a product of a process guided by (a) transparency and stakeholder participation, (b) informed public, (c) accessibility, (d) inclusiveness, (e) comprehensiveness, (f) accuracy and (g) integrity. The compilation of the existing Biometric Voters’ Register witnessed t active participation of all major political parties as well as other stakeholders including CDD, FGJ, IEA, CPR, IDEG, Development Challenge, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and former Presidents of Ghana among others. In addition, international observer missions such as the Commonwealth Observer Mission and the African Union Observer Mission that participated in the compilation of the existing Biometric Voters’ Register and Ghana’s own Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) concluded that the 2012 Biometric Voters’ Register solved the problems of multiple registration, and automatically eliminates the deceased through the biometric requirements.
The ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance No. A/SP1/12/01, supplementary to the ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict
Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security in Section II Article 2 states inter alia as follows:
1. No substantial modification shall be made to the electoral laws in the last six (6) months before the elections, except with the consent of the majority of Political actors.
2. All the elections shall be organised on the dates or at periods fixed by the Constitution or the electoral laws.
It is our contention that the EC’s indicative time table leading to the final register will violate at least Article 2.2 of the ECOWAS Protocol since their inability to abide by the timelines contained in the relevant Constitutional Instruments will amount to the elections not being organised on the dates or at periods fixed by the electoral laws.
b. Ghana’s Current Biometric Register
The 2012 Biometric Voters’ Register is the first biometric register to have been compiled by the Electoral Commission and since its compilation, coming into force, it has been used in the conduct of the following major national elections related activities from 2012 to 2019 without any challenges. Particularly in respect of Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, the 2012 Biometric Register was the document used in elections that involved change of governments from one party to another. Below is a list if the major election related activities successfully undertaken so far with the 2012 Biometric Voters’ Register:
● The 2012 Presidential
● The 2012 Parliamentary Elections
● The 2015 District Level Elections
● The 2016 Presidential
● The 2012 Parliamentary Elections
● The 2018 limited registration and exhibition exercises
● The 2018 referendum for the creation of new regions
● The 2019 limited registration and exhibition exercises
● A number of by-elections; and
● The December 2019 District Level Elections.
Over the years, the Electoral Commission obtained budgetary approval from Parliament to maintain and improve the quality, efficiency and reliability of the register. The 2012 election was won by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by John Dramani Mahama and the 2016 election was won by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the current President. The EC itself expressed satisfaction with the register and the functionality of the biometric devices used in the December 2019 District Level Elections, describing the register as “very credible”.
According to the EC, the proposed new register is expected to eliminate about 72,000 manual verifications recorded in the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. It is however important to note that the current register has about 17 million registered voters. The recorded number of those who were manually verified in 2016 is therefore only 0.6 per cent of the total number of registered voters. Manual verification is allowed by the law because some persons due to the nature of their work, accidents or other physical disability have lost their fingerprints and cannot therefore be biometrically verified. This percentage of manual verification is not so significant as to dent the credibility of the register. It is our considered opinion that instead of replacing the entire current register for the above reason, it can be upgraded to incorporate facial recognition technology for such persons which is what the EC says it wants.
c. Decision on the New Biometric Register
One unique feature of Ghana’s democratic success has been the development of dependable conventions and the ability of the various stakeholders to work together to build trust along the various phases of elections. The Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) is one such convention that has been touted as a best practice in building consensus, transparency and ensuring free, fair and credible elections in Ghana. Unfortunately, the current EC has failed to be transparent with political parties in its decision to compile a new voters’ register and has completely marginalized the IPAC in its decision-making processes. The EC has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate bad faith and lack of transparency in its decision to compile a new register. One such example was the decision of the EC to initiate procurement processes for a new register when it had not engaged IPAC to build consensus on the proposed new register.
d. Cost of compiling a New Voters’ Register
Despite our concerns, the EC in December 2019 sought approval from Parliament to spend close to Gh₡767 million (about US$140 million) to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections which was eventually approved by the NPP majority as the minority NDC boycotted the parliamentary approval process. We are deeply concerned about this exorbitant cost. The cost of Ghana’s elections is the second highest in Africa after Kenya with an average of US$12 per voter. Addressing the 17th International Electoral Affairs Symposium in January 2019, the Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, Mrs. Jean Mensa, observed that: “Our elections are fast becoming very expensive ventures and we constantly rely on our development partners to partly fund our elections thereby compromising our independence”.
It is therefore strange that the same EC Chairperson is leading a profligate, wasteful and needless election expenditure under the guise of replacing a 7-year old biometric voters’ register at the cost of about Gh₡767 million when the evidence available does not support the need for a new register. Timing of the New Register in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
We are concerned that the EC is adamant in its unilateral decision to compile a new biometric voter register even in the face of the global Covid-19 Pandemic with Ghana recording over 5,735 infections as at 17th May, 2020. There is no doubt that the biometric registration of about 18 million Ghanaians has the potential of increasing the rate of infections which may eventually lead to a major health crisis in Ghana. Again, Ghana’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections is scheduled to take place on 7th December 2020 which per our understanding of Article 63 (2) of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and Section II Article 2 (2) of the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance cannot be changed.
With the increasing rate of infections of Covid-19 in Ghana currently, there is a ban on public gatherings and therefore the EC is unable to proceed with the compilation of a new biometric register. At a video conference of ECOWAS Network of Electoral Commissions (ECONEC) held on 15th April, 2020, Ghana’s Electoral Commission gave the indication that it will embark on the compilation of the new voter register between June and July, 2020. This registration will require the EC to make a substantive change to the laws of Ghana through the passage of a Constitutional Instrument for this purpose. Unfortunately, the process is so close to the December elections and aside the potential of creating chaos leading to conflict since this is a new system, the compilation of a new register in any time
after June, 2020 through the enactment of a Constitutional Instrument breaches Section II, Article 2 (1) and (2) of the Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance moreso where the EC has failed to build consensus and rather ignored the IPAC in the processes. Again, contrary to earlier announcements by the EC that it will not discard the current biometric data, the draft CI it has laid before parliament substantially changes the requirements for voter registration by eliminating the use of the existing voter ID card as a breeder document for the compilation of the proposed new register.
Ghana is presently in election mode with parties’ campaign across the country prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As always, the processes of electioneering campaigns usually involved tensions and sporadic outbreak of tensions, conflicts and violence. The Very idea of compiling voters register in the midst of an ongoing presidential and parliamentary elections campaigns risk exacerbating the tensions by placing the activities of the Electoral Commission in the firing line of the insults, vilification and innuendoes; the violence that occasionally erupt at campaign rallies – all these contribute to the tension, overwork the security agencies and sometimes clog the judicial system. The compilation of a new register so close to the elections is another source of tension that should not be allowed.
f. The Alleged Bloated Register and the Issue of Under-aged Voters
The Electoral Commission has alleged that the current register is bloated. However, IPRAN of the view that the issues of dead persons and impersonation do not create real problems for a biometric register because those categories of persons will not be verified by the biometric equipment. The real problem with the alleged bloated register therefore arises with under-aged persons who registered in 2012 and the subsequent limited registration exercises. But a 10-year old person who registered in 2012 would have reached the voting age of 18 in 2020. Thus by effluxion of time and through a process of self-correction, the so-called bloated register would largely have cured itself by now. However, an attempt to compile a new voters’ register will resurrect the whole phenomenon of under-aged persons registering and therefore make the new register even more bloated than the one it will be seeking to replace.
g. Partisanship & Impartiality of the EC
The circumstances under which the current EC Chairperson and her two Deputies came into office are too well-known to be recounted here. Indeed, this is what the United States of America’s ‘Ghana 2018 Human Rights Report’ had to say on the subject of the current Chairperson of the EC:
“The June ouster of the Electoral Commission Chairperson and the President’s stacking of the Electoral Commission with persons considered to be biased in favour of the ruling party raised questions about whether the body might be used to stifle voter registration among the opposition’s base”.
Therein lies the whole basis of the suspicion that there is a plan to use the compilation of a new voters’ register to suppress voter numbers in the strongholds of the NDC and to bloat voter numbers in the strongholds of the NPP. This will not only subvert the hard-won reputation of the otherwise respected Electoral Commission but will also be the spark that will ignite the conflict, confusion and anarchy.