Groups call for independent committee to resolve voters register controversy

Maj. Nii Carl Cole - CFI
Maj-Gen (Rtd). Nii Carl Coleman – CFI

The Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) and the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI) have requested the establishment of an independent, impartial technical committee by the Electoral Commission (EC), to scientifically resolve the controversy over the current biometric voters register.

IDEG and the CFI noted at a press conference Tuesday September 8, 2015, that though the “recurring but rotating allegation” of a bloated voters register between the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has stirred controversy in every parliamentary and presidential elections since 1992, past solutions to the problem have not been permanent but have only been “one-election fixers.”

They are both requesting that the EC sets up an impartial task force of eminent experts and individuals, with the requisite experience and knowledge to resolve the issue “dispassionately”.

IDEG and the CFI believe that while it is in the national interest to break the cycle of temporary fixes to the voters register and adopt “sound, practical and lasting solutions” to the problem, neither the claims by the NPP nor the counter-claims of the NDC provide “a sufficient and sound basis” for any course of action.

“Their allegations and counter-claims are yet to be substantiated and therefore do not provide the sound basis required for making a clear determination of the best way to secure a voters register suitable for credible and peaceful elections in 2016”, Major General Nii Carl Coleman (Rtd), Chairman of the CFI said..

“The way forward is for the EC to task a committee of experienced and reputable experts to scientifically ad impartially assess the accuracy of the existing voters register. The committee should also verify the counter-claims and report on the overall health and suitability of the existing voters register for the 2016 elections”, he said.

Responding to scepticism surrounding the call for the establishment of yet another committee, its neutrality and the availability of its findings and reports, Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director of IDEG, dismissed the idea of partisanship as a stumbling block to the committee, adding that a consideration of the membership size of political parties provides room for optimism that neutral persons such as will be needed can be found.

The opposition NPP made the case for a new voters register three weeks ago, presenting “evidence” of bloating to the EC and following it with a press conference on August 18, where Vice Presidential Candidate Dr Mahamudu Bawumia announced that with investigations still incomplete, the NPP had uncovered 76,286 Togolese nationals on Ghana’s voters register using facial biometric recognition technology to determine that.

The incumbent NDC countered the claims of the NPP in a press conference the very next day describing them as “fraudulent and frivolous”, and “a gratuitous attack on the people of the Volta and Brong Ahafo Regions.”

The NDC also questioned why the NPP did not follow laid down procedures in the Public Elections Regulations 2012 (CI 72) to address their claims and why Dr Bawumia was exhibiting a “sudden belief in and reliance” on data by the Ghana Statistical Service to back his claims.

By Emmanuel Odonkor

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