The ECOWAS Election Observation Mission has urged stakeholders to resort only to legal means to seek redress for any grievances emanating from the electoral process.
In its preliminary findings, the Mission led by Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said the preparation of the 2020 elections, the conduct of the electioneering campaigns, as well as the processes on Election Day, up until the release of the results by the responsible officials at the polling stations, were relatively free, fair and credible.
“ECOWAS wishes to congratulate the peace-loving people of Ghana for their exemplary comportment, tenacity, determination, sense of moderation and patriotism demonstrated in their quest to deepen Ghana’s enviable democratic credentials,” it said.
The Mission also commended the National Electoral Commission, the security agencies and all stakeholders for their invaluable contribution to the success so far achieved, and urged them to pursue the process to its logical conclusion with the same determination, zeal and commitment.
In pursuant to the provisions of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), and within the framework of the of support to Member States organizing elections, the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, deployed an Election Observation Mission (EOM) to observe the general elections in Ghana.
The Mission, which is made up of a total of 125 Observers, comprises 12 Long Term Observers (LTOs) and 113 Short term Observers (STOs), including delegations drawn from the West African Ambassadors accredited to ECOWAS, the ECOWAS Court of Justice and the ECOWAS Community Parliament.
It also includes experts drawn from the relevant Ministries and Electoral Management Bodies of Member States, Civil Society Organizations, experts trained by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) and the Media.
The 125 members of the ECOWAS Observers were grouped into 48 teams and dispatched to the 16 regions, spreading across constituencies in Ghana.
While in the field, observers maintained constant contact with the Mission’s Situation Room based in Accra and with other international and local observer missions to collect and consolidate information related to the polls.
On Election Day, across the 85 per cent observed polling stations, voters turned up early and the voting started at the official opening time of 7:00 am.
It said there was a high presence of women and youth as voters and polling/party agents and security agents were present at 91 per cent of the polling stations that the observers visited.
“Our observers also noted that whereas there was at least one static security officer at most polling stations, in other polling centres the security officers were on mobile patrol moving from one center to another,” it said.
The Mission said overall, the political parties and their followers respected the prohibition of the display of party colors and symbols in and around polling stations on Election Day.
The COVID-19 protocols, including the availability of hand sanitizers, social distancing and the wearing of face masks were adhered to at the polling centers and by the voters.
Party agents, particularly of the NPP and NDC, were equally present at most polling stations observed. In addition, some party agents of other political parties were present in some of the polling stations, in particular the Convention People’s Party, and the People’s National Convention (PNC).
At the stations visited during the opening of polls, Polling Officials largely maintained order, particularly with the support of the security on duty.
Voters in queues comported themselves and stayed calm until they had their turns, except in a few places that experienced initial chaos, but the situation gradually stabilized with time.
Also, arrangements were made in polling stations to facilitate and ease the voting by vulnerable individuals such as the physically challenged, the aged, pregnant women and mothers with infants and young children.
Despite the few challenges observed, voters exhibited maximum patience and perseverance in their determination to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities.
The polling officials demonstrated adequate professionalism in carrying out their duties and responsibilities while party agents ably watched over their party and candidates’ interests.
International and local observers were present in most polling centers visited. These included, besides ECOWAS observers, African Union (AU), the Commonwealth and the European Union. There was an effective presence of Local Observers, particularly CODEO and WANEP.
In most polling stations observed, the polls closed at the official time of 5:00 pm, because most voters had finished casting their votes.
The sorting, counting, tallying, and reconciliation of the ballots, as well as the declaration and certification of results at the polling stations, were carried out in a professional, transparent and credible manner, and under the watchful eyes of party agents and observers.
On challenges, the ECOWAS Observation Mission said it noted few isolated incidents that could have marred the smooth and peaceful conduct of the polls, including issues around the strict respect for secrecy of vote in a few polling stations visited; double voting at Standards Education Centre Polling Centre at Asylum Down, Accra, arrest of two electoral commission officers for tampering with presidential ballot at Awutu Senya West and Bawku Central.
“On the whole, the voting process took place in an orderly, transparent and professional manner, and secrecy of the ballot was generally observed. It is the view of the ECOWAS Observation Mission that the afore-mentioned challenges observed did not undermine the transparency, fairness and the credibility of the electoral process at this point in time,” it said.