Let us not make a Sphinx out of the Electoral Commission

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Electoral Commission (EC)
Electoral Commission (EC)

A feature by Dr. Prize McApreko

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”, states the preamble to the UNESCO Constitution.

This write-up is to engage from an apolitical distance, this subject on how Ghana chooses to see and portray its own state institutions, with special reference to the Electoral Commission (EC).

The overall objective is to contribute towards appropriating appertaining dignity to state institutions in whose hands and bosom lie, the greatness and sovereignty of Ghana as a state which rightly prides itself in owning a democracy which has assumed substantial international repute since the ushering of multi-party democracy.

The Presidency, Electoral Commission (EC) and the Ghana Police Service are among several state institutions whose dignity is sadly desecrated for political gains. Yet without them, the nation’s security, independence and democracy can hardly be guaranteed.

As state institutions, however, they are human institutions and therefore not infallible. It is therefore not out of place if these institutions are criticized.

In the name of peace and democracy, however, let these institutions be criticized where necessary but also in the name of public decorum, such criticisms should be done constructively and responsibly so that institutions that form the subject or objects of criticism are not unnecessarily dented beyond redeem. This is more so because occupants of these institutions will keep changing, but the institutions will remain.

It is, therefore, awe striking, the extent to which the EC, especially over the last few years, has been so incisively castigated to the extent of making the Commission look more of a sphinx through “political malapropism”.

Generally, a sphinx is portrayed as a mythical creature which possesses the head of a human and the body of a lion. In Greek mythology, however, the sphinx has more pronounced attributes: It possesses the head of a woman, the haunches of a lion and the wings of a bird, and further mysthicised as both treacherous and merciless such that, those who are unable to answer her riddles suffer the fate of being eaten up by a ravenous monster. In a slightly different variety, the Egyptian sphinx is often portrayed as a male (androsphinx), perceived as benevolent but equipped with ferocious strength comparable to that of the malevolent Greek sphinx, both of whom are thought of as “guardians”.

Named after Mrs. Malaprop (a character in Shedrian’s comedy: “The Rivals”), the word “Malapropism” traces historical underpinnings from the French expression: mal à propos which loosely translates to “inappropriate”, such as the use of incorrect or inappropriate words in place of similar-sounding words, often resulting in humorous, if not nonsensical expressions.

Sadly, these characteristics, often led by the major opposition parties, have been uncharitably attributed to the respectable EC for most part of its establishment, especially in the last few years. Thus, the public, often led by the two major opposition parties, have either praised or desecrated this important state institution depending on whether their party is in power or otherwise.

It does appear as though the parties in opposition always see the EC perhaps as the greatest “enemy” of all times while those who wield the political power of governance are touted to be in bed with the EC. Thus, like the Greek sphinx, the EC would be portrayed to possess treacherous, ugly and merciless powers, such that it is capable of influencing or determining the fate of the winning or losing party!!!

It is undisputable that the founding authority vested in the EC does not give it such sweeping powers to engineer the fate of political parties. If that were the case, then its central and auspicious responsibility in the electoral scheme of affairs would have been misplaced.

Interestingly, however, the same side of the political divide which tends to bastardize the EC would turn round to praise same when it now takes charge of the political mantle to the bitter displeasure of the other side of the political divide.

When this happens, the public is forced to be seeing the EC as a benevolent or malevolent sphinx with the capacity to make or unmake the fate of a given political party. This is a threat to peace, and disingenuous to democracy because it can only lead to a needless and unjustifiable “just war”. Besides, this could make it extremely difficult for the EC to maintain its good and trusted name.

It is important to appreciate that the EC has become one of the most significant state institutions around which the country’s evolving durable peace and democracy, together with numerous appertaining derivatives including civil liberties, expressions of human rights and the voice of the people as well as smooth power transitions revolve.

Clearly, the view that the EC has a critical role in ensuring credible elections can neither be impeached nor overemphasized. It is therefore imperative that while the EC ensures that it is seen to be maintaining its hallowed reputation, playing its key role as a trusted neutral arbiter at all times in the country’s electoral affairs, it is equally important for the public to engage the Commission in reciprocally-respectful, frank and open deliberations over all concerns.

It would do Ghana a lot of good if every citizen helps build and continuously improve state institutions by dialoguing over issues rather than attack their personalities. This way, Ghana could pride itself with its own state institutions.

Like countless human institutions, the EC is not a perfect state institution but can work collaboratively with complementary trust and respect towards ensuring and maintaining the peace the country rightly desires at all times, especially in times of elections.

Since peace is a process rather than an event, and a public good rather than a public commodity, it ought to be nurtured at all times as a collective responsibility.

As the fast ebbing era leading to the December 7 elections comes to its peak, a wide range of state and non-state actors, institutions and well-meaning individuals and civil society have justifiably made passionate calls for peaceful elections, come December 7th.

Ghana has primary responsibility to place the icing on the cake by choose peace over violence. As party flag bearers engage in the final lap of this year’s historic and unprecedented elections, selfless indulgence and commitment to the ideals of peace should be part of the flagship agenda. Delightfully, party leaders continue to make heart-warming commitments to peace. The seeming missing adjunct is for them to openly and passionately commit their supporters, especially the youth to repudiate all forms of confrontation and violence.

State security agencies should be at their utmost best in terms of professionalism. Voters have duty to uphold decorum and positive peace in their every thought, every step and every act.

In the end, should natural justice fail collective will, poetic justice will not fail to prevail.
Ghana’s responsibility in all these should no longer be hinged on the view that the world’s vision is fixated on Ghana but rather because Ghana sees the ultimate need for peace in preference for violence; that Ghana is the primary benefactor of the peace it creates; and that peace is innately associated with the Ghanaian.

This is one of the best tributes Ghana should pay to the memories of the likes of Jerry John Rawlings of blessed memories, and to all those who have directly and indirectly sacrificed for peace in mother Ghana.
Long Live Ghana’s state institutions, Long Live Democracy, Long Live Peace!

The writer is a (Peace, Conflict & Development Analyst, and Visiting Lecturer)
Institute National Polytechnique Félix Houphouët-Boigny (INP-HB), Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire.

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