Danquah Institute calls for firm direction from EC on new register

The Electoral Commission is not executing its mandate with clarity, says the liberal think tank – and that is polarising reactions to its work

The Danquah Institute (DI) has declared that even though it supports the Electoral Commission’s move to compile a new voters’ register, the electoral management body must be more decisive.

Speaking at a press conference in Accra on Monday 1 June, Richard Ahiagbah, acting executive director of the liberal think tank, cited public education by the EC as one example of the difficulty. The public education programme – or, sometimes, the lack of one – is a significant reason why some Ghanaians are sceptical about the idea of compiling a new voter’s register.

“The EC’s public relations has also failed to give comfort to a coalition of civil society organisations and political parties,” Ahiagbah said.

Push for consensus

Ahiagbah focused on the EC’s decision to exclude the current voter identity card from the list of documents that it accepts as valid proof of qualification to vote. The move led to controversy and attracted widespread disapproval.

“This should not have happened if the EC was minded to inform Ghanaians that the voter ID card’s exclusion as a form of qualification is directed by the Supreme Court of Ghana,” Ahiagbah said.

The Danquah Institute director also urged the Commission to engage with recommendations made by civil society organisations and members of the Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and assess them objectively.

“They raised concerns to do with the cost of compiling a new register, procurement issues, technical concerns,” Ahiagbah recalled. “Others, too, have raised concerns about time and COVID-19 as reasons why the EC should not compile a new register.

“But given the overriding constitutional, legal and process irregularities advanced thus far . . . we believe that the EC can achieve consensus with all interest groups to engage the concerns about cost, procurement, technical, time and COVID-19,” he said. “This will then become part of the Commission’s processes towards compiling a new voters’ register.”

A sacred right

Ahiagbah described the case for a new register on constitutional legal grounds as unshakeable. He however urged the EC to be guided by the Supreme Court legal interpretation to the effect that the Commission’s mandate to compile the electoral roll implies a duty to compile a register that is reasonably accurate and credible.

“This is important because the right to vote is sacred and exclusive to Ghanaians,” Ahiagbah said. “The EC must indulge all measures to ensure that all eligible Ghanaians get the opportunity to register.”

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