After the registration fiasco last August, the Electoral Commission has truly won back my respect for all it has done to ensure that Sunday’s elections pass off with as few glitches as possible. No matter what anyone says, I believe strongly that the EC is one of the most competent agencies in the country today and I have every confidence that they are going to handle these elections as professionally as they can.
But can we trust the EC not to rig the election for any particular party?
Yes, we can and here is why.
The EC is led by a no-nonsense man with a reputation to protect. Kwadjo Afari-Gyan has supervised three elections which met almost all the international standards for free and fair polls. Around the world, he is known to be one of the most competent election administrators on this planet. I don’t think he is foolish enough to tarnish such a sterling reputation by making our elections a sham just to please a political party or some individuals. I have no doubt that he will do what is right and at the end of the day, we will pat him on the back for a job well done.
Dr. Afari-Gyan is assisted by a competent corps of lieutenants who have also proven time and again that they are up to the task. Of course, they do not always get it right – as happened last August – but they hardly ever botch it.
The EC has also worked very closely with the political parties to fashion out an electoral system we should all have confidence in. It’s not perfect. But it’s almost as good as the system in the most advanced, enlightened countries. Through the Inter-Parties Advisory Committee (IPAC), the Electoral Commission meets regularly with the political parties to discuss the challenges facing our system and how to overcome them. Over the years, the IPAC consultations have resulted in the establishment of what I believe is a dependable, transparent and just system for electing public officers.
Take the use of polling agents as an example. These are men and women appointed by the candidates (or their parties) to literally keep an eye on the process to make sure that there is no ‘kululu’ anywhere. These agents are supposed to be on hand at all times – right from the factories where the ballot papers were printed to the polling centres and even to the EC’s main operations room where the national ballots will be collated. If elections are being conducted under such watchful eyes, I don’t see why and how the results can be manipulated or cooked up to favour any party.
Maybe I am too dumb to know but as far as my fickle mind can tell, I think the network of polling agents should help prevent another ‘Stolen Verdict’.
We can also trust the EC because they seem to have prepared quite remarkably well for these elections. For example, they started dispatching the electoral materials more than a week before the day of polling. Hopefully on Sunday, we will not have many reports of ballot papers arriving late as was the case during the voter registration exercise in August. That’s not to say that everything will be honky-dory on Sunday. There might be isolated incidents but these will be so isolated, they won’t have much impact on the results of the poll.
There has also been a lot of talk about the so-called “bloated register” and this has been cited as a possible avenue for rigging. The EC concedes that the voter numbers might be higher than normal largely because of the disgraceful registration fiasco in August. But the commission is quick to point out that the excess number voters might be minors and foreigners who were encouraged by the various parties to register. I also believe that the register might be bloated because a large number of people registered for the second (or more) time in August because they had either lost their voters ID cards or had moved to different localities and didn’t want to go through the tedium of transferring votes. The EC claims to have removed some of the excess names from the register. But that doesn’t mean the register is as ‘clean’ as it should be. However, with the photo ID cards and the use of the indelible ink (coupled with the presence of the polling agents) even those whose names appear more than once in the register cannot vote twice on December 7. This time around, voters will be required to dip a whole finger in the ink. Anyone with intentions of voting twice will have to chop off the inky finger first.
This has been a tough year for the EC and I will be among the first to berate their incompetence (which was on embarrassing display in August). But I think they’ve recovered quite well and we should have confidence in their ability to deliver. No matter what anyone says, I don’t think the EC has any intention of stealing this election for any party. The people’s verdict will surely stand.