The Northern Sector Action on Awareness Center(NORSAAC), a national advocacy organization has held a post referendum engagement with stakeholders in the Upper East Region to disseminate their findings during the referendum to create new regions.
The engagement, which brought together state institutions, Civil Society Organizations, Security services, political party functionaries, the media among others was to afford NORSAAC the opportunity to make known their findings with regards to the referendum held to create the six new regions.
It was further to influence discussions that would lead to improvement in the electoral system and deepen the democratic credentials of the country.
NORSAAC, which is operating in the Northern Region with communities, community-based structures and likeminded organizations to build the capacity of community members, especially women and children to live dignified lives, has the mission of contributing to sustaining democratic governance in the country.
Mr Issah Aminu Danaa, Monitoring and Evaluation Manager of NORSAAC, explained that before the referendum, NORSAAC had financial support from STAR Ghana Foundation to conduct a survey on the affected areas and other stakeholders to ascertain people’s interest, knowledge and awareness level about the elections and the processes leading to the referendum.
The Manager said his outfit was to share with the stakeholders the report of their observations in order to take inputs that could contribute to improving the electoral processes and democracy in future.
Mr Danaa noted that even though the election on the referendum was generally peaceful and the election materials were also available in adequacy and voting started on time, there were few instances that needed improvement in future elections.
“A worrying trend that greeted the observation team was the handling of electoral materials prior to official start of polls. The electoral materials were handed to individual electoral officers to convey them to the various polling stations without security escorts, “he said.
“In about 90 percent of the polling stations observed, the electoral officers were not only spotted campaigning openly for the ‘Yes’ but were openly commanding people to go and vote for the yellow, which represented yes”.
According to the Manager, “at some polling stations, the presiding officer himself went to the queue to tell them why voting yellow will bring development including jobs for their children”
Mr Danaa lamented that state officials including Ministers of state, Municipal and District Chief Executives who were members of the proposed regions were spotted in their campaign attires and it was also common to see three or four persons at the voting booth at a time trying to assist a voter.
The report therefore, advocated professional conduct from all stakeholders during any elections in order to ensure free, eligible, fair and peaceful processes.
He said the ‘partisan’ behaviour by traditional leaders and overt bias of public officials, all in favour of the creation of the new regions meant that a true level playing field was not achieved, which was worrying for a solid democratic nation such as Ghana.
“This could affect the attitude of the citizens towards subsequent elections including the district assembly and the general elections.” He explained.
The stakeholders at the programme lauded the organization and its partners for helping to deepen public education and promote democratic governance.
Mr Eric K. Amoh, the Chairman of the Upper East Region Branch of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), noted that the report and recommendations from the referendum by NORSAAC could be used as a benchmark to improve upon elections in the country, especially the forthcoming elections of the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives in September.