Mixed reactions greet appointment of Ghana?s new electoral boss

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Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei
Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama?s appointment late Thursday of a new electoral boss has met with mixed reactions from a cross-section of the public.

Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei
Charlotte Kesson-Smith Osei
Both sides of the country?s political divide seem agreed on the appointment and competence of Charlotte Osei as the new chair of the country?s Electoral Commission (EC).

Osei is a lawyer with considerable experience in public service management, institutional reform. She also has expertise in corporate law, banking, insurance, project financing and public-private partnerships.

She holds a Masters in Law (LLM) from Queen?s University, Kingston, Canada and a Masters in Business Leadership from the University of South Africa, Pretoria. She obtained an LLB (Hons) from the University of Ghana in 1992.
Osei replaces Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, former EC boss, who retired on June 18, this year, after over two decades of presiding over several elections since 1992 when Ghana was ushered into constitutional democracy.

It is not known what will happens next as, prior to the appointment, a Ghanaian citizen had sent the issue to the country?s Supreme Court seeking interpretation on the appointment of a new electoral boss.

The writ by Richard Dela Sky, also a journalist, is again praying the Justices of the Supreme Court to give judicial definition of the process for appointing a replacement for Afari- Gyan.

Article 70(2) of Ghana?s 1992 Constitution empowers the president of Ghana to appoint the EC chairman and commissioners in consultation with the Council of State.

But the Member of Parliament (MP) for Effutu, Alexander Afenyo Markin, says the president?s decision to appoint a new EC chair undermines the authority of the Supreme Court.

?As far as I?m concerned, the president was in a rush, knowing very well that the appointment is being challenged in court. All I can say is that I?m very disappointed, but we will all be schooled when next we return to court,? he stated on Adom FM’s Dwaso Nsem morning show on Friday.

Professor Stephen Kwaku Asare, a constitutional lawyer, has also challenged the appointment of Charlotte Osei as the new EC chair, arguing that the process leading to her selection ?lacked transparency and verifiability?.
Speaking on local radio, Kasapa FM, Prof. Asare demanded that the Council of State should, as a matter of urgency, come out to clarify their constitutional role in the new appointment.

However, the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has lauded Osei?s appointment as the new Electoral Commissioner.

Director of Elections of the NPP, Martin Adjei Mensah Korsah, congratulated the new EC boss and expressed confidence in her ability to deliver.
?One cannot question her competence, her abilities. She has been involved in public administration for some time,? he told local radio Joy News.

He was however worried that President Mahama did not address key recommendations in the Constitutional Review Committee report before appointing the new EC boss.

?The Constitutional Review Committee report sought a move away from the indefinite tenure of (Electoral Commissioners) to some limited tenure for election administration,? he noted, but said Ghana remained arguably the only odd one in this process of an indefinite tenure.

?But all of these, I don?t think, have been properly addressed. For now we can say congratulations to her. One cannot challenge her competence,? he said.

Ghana?s 2012 presidential election results were hotly contested at the Supreme Court after the presidential candidate of the main opposition NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and two others had challenged the results.
The EC had declared Mahama winner of the presidential poll with 50.7 percent of the total votes cast as against 47.74 percent by Nana Akufo-Addo.

The Court, in its ruling after an eight-month battle, upheld the results declared by the EC.
But even before Osei settles down, the pressure group ?Let My Vote Count? is asking her to, among others, implement all electoral reforms to which various major stakeholders have signed up.

A statement signed by convener of the group, David Asante, Friday also called on the new Chair to work out a new voters? register before the next election in 2016.

?We want to see the register purged of the millions of people who registered using NHIS cards and another opportunity given them to register again using any other legitimate means of establishing their eligibility,? he said.

The group charged Osei not to risk the peace, stability and growth of the country?s democracy and expressed the hope that ?she has the courage and morality to stand up to what is true, just and right?.

Until her new appointment, Osei was the Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education.
?Indeed, we welcome the fact that a woman has been appointed to this most important and highly sensitive position and Ghanaian women look up to her to restore the dignity of that high office.

?She should not risk the peace, stability and growth of Ghana?s democracy. We only pray that she has the courage and morality to stand up to what is true, just and right,? the statement added.

Osei will certainly need tons of courage, tolerance, assertiveness and a strong sense of duty and conviction to keep up with the challenges of this very high office. Enditem

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