The Case For A New Voters Register (Ghanaian Chronicle)

Two years ago, just before Togolese went to the polls to elect President Faure Gnassingbe as Head of State of the republic, there was tension in the air. As Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), President John Dramani Mahama rushed to Togo to douse the fire.

One major reason for the tension, the Ghanaian leader realized, was that the voters register had lost credibility in the eyes of the opposition parties. President Mahama put troubling minds at rest by recommending the compilation of a new register before Togolese went to the polls.

Togolese authorities took the wise counsel of the leader of ECOWAS seriously and accordingly postponed the date of the elections for the compilation of a new voters register. With a new register in place, a new date was fixed for the polls, won by the incumbent Head of State.

In Ghana, the major event trending at the moment is lack of credibility of the voters register. The largest opposition party commissioned an indepth study into the register with very shocking outcome. Last week, the New Patriotic Party held a press conference in Accra and read out a very damning report.

According to Dr. Mahamadu Bawumiah, running mate of the NPP flagbearer for the 2016 Presidential elections, as many as 76,000 names of Togolese origin were found lodged in the Ghanaians register. The same personalities were also captured in the Togolese voters register.

This was after only 10 percent of the Togolese register had been carefully studied. Names of other nationals from Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire were firmly lodged in the Ghanaian register, according to Dr. Bawumiah.

Naturally, the NPP called for the compilation of a new voters’ register. Other political parties like the Convention People’s Party and the People’s Progressive Party have added their voice for a complete overhaul of the voters register, a view echoed recently by the Chairman of the National Peace Council, Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante.

The reaction of the Electoral Commission, through a statement from its Chairperson, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, is to solicit the views of other political parties and the general populace. So far, the only dissenting views are emanating from the camp of the ruling National Democratic Congress, whose officers are mourning more than the bereaved.

General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketiah and his communication officers are dead against the compilation of a new register giving muffled and often flimsy excuses of no money, as if to do so would bring some calamity to the body politic. The NDC should not be made to stand in the way of electoral reforms recommended by the Supreme Court in their verdict on the Election Petition of 2013.

These reforms ought to begin with the discredited voters register. The register is out of date and not a representative of the voting population of this nation. At the appropriate time, The Chronicle would champion a cause demanding of officials of the Electoral Commission to account to the good people of Ghana for those foreign names and how they got to be lodged in the Ghanaian register.

At the moment, what is important is making the register credible to produce a verdict that truly reflects the views expressed in the ballot box. That is one reason The Chronicle is rooting for a new voters register. We do not buy into the bunkum that compiling a new voters’ register would be expensive and that the state of Ghana has no money.

No expense is too much in our endeavour to build a true democratic society. The experience of our immediate past, when zombies wielding guns took decisions for the large mass of our people, should inform this nation to build structures that would be an insurance against the anarchy of military dictatorship. This nation is still suffering from the misadventure of these zombies.

We cannot afford to have a voter’s register that allows foreigners to decide who should lead this nation. A new voter’s register would ensure that the outcome of the 2016 vote represents the wishes of the people. We can ill afford to compromise on the legitimacy of the vote in 2016.