Polling agents not mandatory – Dr Afari Gyan

EC Chairman - Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan
EC Chairman – Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan

Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan, Chairman of the Electoral Commission and witness for the second respondent on Thursday stated that appointing polling agents by political parties in an election is not mandatory.

He explained that, it is a right and that parties can choose to utilize that right or not.

Dr Afari Gyan made the disclosure when Mr Philip Addison, Counsel for the petitioners continued with his cross-examination of the witness at the on-going election petition case at the Supreme Court.

When asked by Mr Addison as to who protects the interest of the individual voter at the polling station,

Dr Afari Gyan answered that individual voters’ interest is protected by election officers and the security personnel at the polling station.

When the witness was asked again whether parties without polling agents were disadvantaged, he replied “no”, explaining that in some areas, parties did not fill a parliamentary candidate so they did not require their polling agents to be present there.

He said parties that do not present polling agents can make complains after elections, so far as they have a genuine case.

Dr Afari Gyan also denied assertions by Mr Addison that there is a requirement that any one challenging the election must have a polling agent.

Dr Afari Gyan said the EC recruited about 130,000 election officials selected from different categories of people and that the returning officers were interviewed directly by the national officers at the EC Headquarters whilst presiding officers were selected at the district level.

When the witness was asked whether there was any back ground checks done before they were recruited, Dr Afari Gyan answered that certain level of checks was made, adding that, the presiding officers must be “reasonably well educated” and must not be seen to be affiliated to any of the parties.

He said one thing that the EC frowns upon is to involve the political parties in the selection of election officials because the parties might infiltrate the selection with their own people.

He further stated that the lists of temporary staff were made available to the parties so that they can raise objections where necessary.

When Mr Addison suggested to the witness that the 2012 elections were completely left in the hands of temporary staff, but Dr Afari Gyan replied that in all elections, the temporary staff played crucial roles.

He denied claims by Mr Addison that the EC is seeking to put the blame of the errors in the elections on the temporary staff, and that in spite of the errors the EC would take ultimate responsibility for its errors and the parties must do same for their errors.

The judges at one point asked Mr Addison whether he has concluded his cross examination on issues that do not bother on pink sheets, which are being audited.

Mr Addison replied that he would cross examine the witness on the voters register, which Dr Afari Gyan was asked to produce today, and continue the rest after the KPMG audit has been done.

The judges also conferred with the registrar to find out how long it would take the KPMG to finish the audit, after which the registrar said it would take a week and some few days to complete.

Consequently, Justice William Atuguba adjourned the hearing of the case to June 24, 2013 by which time KPMG would have concluded the audit.

Source: GNA

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