Ghana, like many democratic countries have time without number assented to International instruments, treaties and declarations for democratic elections; pledging to apply at all times integrity on democratic principles that guide electoral processes. Although there is no universally accepted definition of what electoral integrity is, elections whatever they represent must be carried out before, during and after under democratic principles, rules and regulations.
Integrity depends on public confidence in electoral and political processes and this is shaped by the machinery that conducts and announces the results of the elections. The precepts of democratic elections itself is enshrined in Article 21 of the Universal declaration of human rights and article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as other international human right instruments.
Elections are a way to ascertain and honour the peoples’ will to determine who is to occupy an elected office and govern in the people’s best interest. Hence, the Pillars of effective electoral process cannot preclude the factors that assist in ensuring that elections are carried out freely and fairly, and the results are accepted by all stakeholders.
Unlike before, the core of our democracy in Ghana is knotted on the Electoral Commission. This body therefore, ought to be as neutral and as credible as possible to be trusted as a fair arbiter in our electoral eco-system. The ten factors listed below support electoral processes in our country and it is imperative to accurately align them on the modus operandi of the Electoral Commission:
1. People: The biggest stakeholder in any electoral process or event is the people. Genuine elections must take into consideration international and recognized human and political rights including: the right to register when one is of voting age, the right to associate with political organization of choice, the right to meetings and assemblies that are peaceful, the right to move freely and build electoral support, the right to be free from violence thus, to be protected by the state, the right to hold political opinions without interference and the right to freedom of expression. Largely, the setups for these factors have been put in place already by our Electoral machinery, and there are laws governing the process although there is still much to handle. What will be needed in this electoral process is the addition of new voters into the electoral system, especially the many who will soon turn eighteen. Respecting the sanctity of choices of the people is supreme in an electoral project;
2. Political Parties: Political parties shape public opinions ideologically and are critical stakeholders in every election. The electoral commission has to liaise with them before, during and after elections to be able to coordinate the electoral process effectively and efficiently in a transparent manner. There will be no Electoral Commission without political parties. In other words, the commission derives its importance from the political parties. Leaders, active members and followers of all parties need to be involved in the electoral process coordinated by the E.C and all political parties must adhere to the rules of the game. Consensus building plays a cardinal role within the decision making process;
3. Constitution: The constitution mandates the parties and the Electoral Commission. Decisions therefore must only be carried out based on what the constitution stipulates. However, emerging operational concerns must be properly managed to mitigate mistrust;
4. Independent Electoral commission: an electoral commission that is perceived to be controlled by the a single party may lack integrity and would not easily be trusted. Nations that have trodden such a lane end up with disputes and sometimes protracted conflicts. To improve on the quality of elections, the Electoral Commission must be Independent but, must install the atmosphere to work in collaboration with the stakeholders, in a bid to making the elections successful and acceptable to everyone. The role and functions of the Electoral Commission are huge and need time, efficient personnel and huge funding. They include but not limited to: the creating new constituency boundaries based on population census, conducting referenda, registering eligible voters under the principle of universal adult suffrage or one man one vote, organizing and supervising local government, parliamentary and presidential elections on time, ensuring that the voters’ register is updated and verified, providing logistics during elections such as polling booths at designated polling-stations, providing vehicles to ferry returning officers, remunerating polling assistants co-opted and recruited for the exercise, accrediting external and internal monitors and polling agents, receiving of electoral petitions and referring them to the courts, registering of political parties or disqualifying them, organizing voter’s education and sensitization, acting as referee and umpire in the election exercise, and many other critical responsibilities;
5. Operations: The Electoral Commission, as the backbone of a successful electoral process in Ghana must make sure necessary logistics get to their destinations on time and there is effective data management, up to date equipment and well serviced vehicles etc. it is important to procure equipment or refurbish those that can still be reused on time;
6. Security: Mechanism for the protection of elections and voting infrastructures from cyber-attacks or cyber threats – including the tampering with or infiltration of voting machines and equipment; election office networks and practices, and voter registration databases should be proactively put in place and measures be taken to counter any manipulations. Alternatives should be reserved and the E.C body be alert at all times. Not only data, the personnel need corporeal security as well;
7. Time: To maintain the sanctity and integrity of the process, the Electoral commission cannot be seen rushing in administering this crucial exercise. Time is a very crucial component in administering the entire electoral process. Timely planning helps to mitigate electoral excesses and eventualities; there could be runoffs and so, preemptive measures need to be put in place on time, and this need to be factored on the electoral budget. The time that is left until the next general elections in Ghana is quite exiguous and yet, there is much to handle. It gives me reason to doubt if the Electoral commission will meet the deadline in delivering on schedule.
8. Quantity: Total quality control, which involves security features, management of data and tools needed for the process helps in quantifying election quality; critical control measures should be harnessed to the fullest;
9. Quality: Elections must be transparent, inclusive, and accountable, with equitable opportunities to compete. To maintain the integrity of the process requires that the voters’ qualification be considered and the number of voters be reflective of the population in the communities; this requires sensitization on the importance of the exercise as well. The number of people who successfully participate and the mode of operation from beginning to the end define the quality of the election. However, no matter the electioneering machinery put in place, the most important aspect in the process is the fairness of the election. Electoral integrity should be quantified in the freedom and fairness of every electoral process; this should be in synergy with the rest of the points and factors listed above.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
The Cost for delivering every project is tight to time and projects get derailed or fail if time is not taken into serious consideration. Time and cost seriously impact the quality and the quantity of any election and definitely plays a big role in giving the election the integrity and credibility it ought to have.
The Electoral Commission is crowded with so many programs within the same year in 2020 and this gives any technical mind the reason to question how efficient and effective the body will be in delivering expected results. At the same time, the National Identification Authority is also going through challenges to meet the demand of the people.
I will recommend a re-examination of the process in consultation with the various stakeholders; taking these critical issues into consideration, to save money and protect the integrity of the process. Entrenched positions will not benefit the E.C and would not help the country either.
Notwithstanding the good platform and strides already in place on the current electoral preparations, I strongly believe the timing calls for concern and the probability for a failure is high; with extreme ramifications. Our democracy is still fragile and care must be taken to deepen it tenets.
Let's appreciate the fact that, without these variables, we cannot have a robust Electoral Commission and the electoral process could always be flawed. It is our duty as patriots to let it remain the epic center of our multiparty democracy.
Dr. Donald Agumenu