Home Opinion Featured Articles Election 2024:  EC, public trust and clean election

Election 2024:  EC, public trust and clean election

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“Elections without integrity cannot provide the winners with legitimacy, the losers with

Security and the public with confidence in their leaders and institutions”. – Kofi A. Annan

This year 2024 is globally touted as the Ultimate Election Year, as many countries are expected to hold national elections. Ghana is no exception as it is gearing up for its ninth election in 32 years since the advent of its Fourth Republic on December 7.

Bastion

The alternation in power brought about by the elections (2000, 2008, 2016) from an incumbent government to an opposition party solidified the country’s enviable position in the democratic community. It also showed that the country’s electoral infrastructure is a bastion of democratic pluralism.

Election authorities

The 1992 Constitution establishes an independent Electoral Commission (EC) for public elections, ensuring fairness and professionalism despite external influences from the ruling party.

In developed countries like the US and the UK, elections are administered by government agencies, and nobody seems to care who appointed the election authorities charged with the electoral responsibilities that are needed to ensure credible elections.

In this part of our world, however, the election authorities are appointed by the President, and they are supposed to be non-partisan, independent, and impartial in their work.

According to some observers, this appointment by the President compromises the EC’s neutrality and potentially causes conflicts with the main stakeholders, particularly opposition parties.

It stands to reason that when political parties do not have confidence in the EC, any action or conduct of the EC, however genuine, is viewed with distrust and suspicion.

Electoral integrity is critical to maintaining public confidence in the electoral process.

The lack of trust in election management could potentially undermine the integrity of election outcomes and the legitimacy of the winner.

Election disputes are a part of democracies and, if not handled well, have plunged many countries into chaos and anarchy. Sadly, the year 2020 witnessed the loss of eight lives in election-related conflicts, marring our democratic standing as a symbol of hope for Africa.

Public scrutiny

Never before has the EC come under more serious public scrutiny than at any other time in history. Either stakes are very high or trust is very low. The incumbent party seeks to retain power, while the main opposition party aims to capture it.

In fact, even the most ardent defenders of the EC would concede that the EC’s handling of the missing biometric verification devices (BVDs) did not help matters.

The EC’s efforts to explain its operations for transparency are commendable, but concerns arise about the number of press statements released regarding the limited voter registration exercise.

Fraud-free elections

The EC alone cannot ensure fraud-free elections. It must involve all stakeholders to support the process’s integrity, demand appropriate information, and maintain electoral management’s independence.

But the onus lies on political parties to institute a regime of surveillance that allows them to closely monitor the entire electoral process, step by step. Their vigilant presence keeps the election authorities on their toes. For instance, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) scrutinized the EC’s registered voter count, resulting in discrepancies in the total number of registered individuals during the limited voter registration exercise.

 Transparency

Building the integrity of the electoral process takes time. The transparency in election administration is viewed as a confidence-building measure.

The EC’s credibility in citizens’ eyes is based on its perceived openness, transparency, and independence in addressing external challenges.

The EC should prioritize transparency by thoroughly communicating each stage of the process to key stakeholders, ultimately fostering trust among citizens and ensuring smooth acceptance of election outcomes.

The appointment process should be non-partisan, with officials appointed by consensus from all major parties or parliament to ensure an even playing field for all.

The EC should maintain accountability and the timely release of election-related information to enhance public confidence in the electoral process.

 

George Oko Mensah

The writer is a peace practitioner.

Email: okomensah12@gmail.com

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