It all started with the stolen verdict. This was after the December 7, 1992 Elections when the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on December 29, 1992, boycotted the parliamentary elections and wrote the book “ Stolen Verdict” to register its protest against the 1992 presidential election.
The Interim National Election Commission (INEC), with 29 per cent of registered voters turning out to vote in the parliamentary election, declared the National Democratic Congress (NDC) winner of 189 of the 200 parliamentary seats which gave the NDC the mandate to govern for the next four years.
Since then, election after election, the Electoral Commission (EC) has come under severe suspicion and criticisms depending on which political party is in opposition.
Under the Fourth Republican dispensation, we have had elections in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 and none has seen the EC not coming under intense scrutiny, suspicion and mistrust especially from the two dominant political forces, the NPP and the NDC.
Interestingly, our two foremost political parties have all won “clean elections” and come into political office under the same electoral management of the EC. The NDC won the 1992, 1996, 2008 and the 2012 polls with the NPP winning the 2000, 2004 and 2016 polls.
Actions/inactions of EC
Indeed, the actions and inactions of this same EC have ushered in new governments under Ghana’s Fourth Republican dispensation.
Why is it then that the two parties when in opposition view the EC with suspicion and tend to have issues with every step of the election management body? Currently, the EC faces the same integrity issue going into the 2020 polls, with the NDC breathing heavily on its neck alleging that the EC is planning to rig the polls in favour of the ruling party, the NPP.
But the key question to ask is, can the EC ever rig any elections in the country? Has there been an occasion it has proven that the EC ever rigged an election in favour of any political party?
Rigging an election
Responding to a question on the 2016 polls, the former chairperson of the Commission, Mrs Charlotte Osei said: “It is just not possible under the system.”
She said to rig an election will require getting the support and active involvement of her six co-commissioners, her 10 regional directors, the 200-plus District Electoral Officers, the 275 Returning Officers and their two assistants.
She said it will also involve getting the party agents at the collation centres to toe the line.
“All these people must actively be working and changing the documents for Charlotte Osei to rig the elections.”
“So I need to convince 500,000-plus people to skew the system in favour of one person. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet and it is not even a part of my value system that I will do that. Basically, it is impossible,” she said.
The current EC chair, Mrs Jean Mensa, on multiple occasions has also articulated similar sentiments. So why is it that political parties in opposition will continue to disbelieve the EC even though the electoral management of the process by the same EC has more than twice favoured parties in opposition.
A former chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan has often said that elections are won at the polling station and that a well-organised political party can know its overall performance in an election from the polling station results provided by its agents.
With each election coming off smoothly even if with some hitches, it must increasingly be clear to all stakeholders that no EC has what it takes to rig elections in favour of any political party. Otherwise no ruling political party or incumbent government will ever lose an election.
Time to trust EC
I honestly think it is time to trust the EC and support it to deliver a world-class election whose outcome will be acceptable to all competing interests.
This phenomenon where political parties in opposition always allege that the commission is planning the electoral process in favour of the ruling party must be a thing of the past.
After 28years of democratic practice under the current dispensation, we rather have to support efforts at strengthening the EC to perform creditably.
There are whole measures that we need to put in place to strengthen our electoral process. For instance, I am looking forward to a day we will not need party polling agents at our polling stations across the country. This will considerably reduce the huge financial burden that faces our political parties in deploying party agents across the country.
I am looking forward to the day, where the registration of new voters will be an ongoing everyday activity instead of the current situation where opportunities are given to registrants only when there is going to be an election.
Political parties must also know that what really wins an election requires vigilance. In 2008 for instance, in spite of suspicions of rigging, mistrust and incessant demands from the opposition NDC, they eventually won that election primarily because they remained vigilant at the polling stations. In that general election, the ruling NPP candidate Nana Akufo-
Addo conceded to losing in the closely contested presidential election run-off amid accusations of vote rigging.
Similarly, in the 2016 Election, despite their demands for a new voters’ register, the opposition party then, the NPP, emerged victorious as a result of their vigilance at the polls.
They had occasions where knowledgeable and experienced persons such as Professor Kwabena Frimpong Boateng and Mr Boakye Agyarko were polling station agents.
Training of party officials to understand electoral matters is therefore paramount as safeguards to winning an election.