The global nature of COVID-19 has disrupted so much of life’s normal routine. It has brought into sharp focus how life in itself is not absolute as things can change in a split second. Almost everything that makes life feels like it has come to a halt, except for frontline health workers who are in a desperate search for a virus that continues to spread. The world has been battered severely as economies are struggling on their knees. To the millennials and generation z, this is the world’s most-biggest disruption. Something they have never experienced before except those captured in history books.
The last count of countries to have received a share of the spread was over 150. With more than two-million confirmed cases and over one hundred and sixty-thousand deaths recorded worldwide, the need for a vaccine is becoming a topmost priority for the world. The race for a cure will save the world from an impending apocalypse threatening the sanity of the human race.
The nature of the coronavirus as has become part of our daily language is no respecter of status, gender, and location. A menace that put over seven billion lives at risk. Life after COVID-19, therefore, cannot be business as usual for the world, especially for developing countries. Although Africa so far has received a minimal impact of the coronavirus infections and deaths, this perhaps will serve as a wake-up call to leaders on the continent.
The rippling effect of the disease continues to be assessed. The assessment so far points to a cataclysmic trajectory for social life, education, economic and health. The disease has unearthed an overlooked aspect of life- the need for strong social protection and care for the frail and vulnerable in society.
Perhaps, this is our chance to right the wrongs in our system. To seek justice and proper lasting care for the street children, the homeless, the mentally challenged, the ‘Kayayei’ who braze the weather in search of greener pastures. So I ask with a searching soul, should it take a pandemic ‘an epidemic’ in our case to see the need to provide the for poor, socially excluded and the vulnerable? Maybe this should be our ‘never again’.
As Ghana implement measures to curb the spread of the virus, an impending general election hangs in a tilted balance. The debate in some sections of the media over the weeks has been what this pandemic could mean for the general election slated for December 2020. Perhaps not many have averted their minds to it, but the impact of the virus on the civic responsibility holds great potential for Ghana’s constitutional path.
With no clear stipulation in the constitution to dealt with situations like this, the cloud of speculation and permutation has taken order of the day. As lawyers and constitutional experts postulate what the near future could hold, Ghana’s democratic practice heads under a dark tunnel. Except with few pockets of violence and misunderstandings, elections under the 1992 constitution has been largely peaceful over the years.
Ghana has barely eight months to hold its eighth presidential elections and as usual, the stakes are high. However, the pandemic has watered down the ‘heat’ of the moment. The politics that grace election years seem inexistent. With no end in sight for the spread of the virus, could Ghana be at a crossroads when it comes to the pending general election? What does this mean for the calendar of the electoral commission and the call for a new voter register? How will social distancing affect people queuing to vote should COVID-19 lingers on?
The disease has brought to rest the much talked about new voter register, at least for now as both ‘for and against’ arguments have vanished into thin air. But one thing is certain, election 2020 will be held else we create a huge constitutional vacuum that the drafters of the constitution may not have anticipated.
The common-sense approach from some experts suggests that the Electoral Commission should make do with the current voter register as that is the most viable option available. While this is a call in the right direction, what happens to its credibility? The commission has stated time without number the difficulties it has with the current system and how it could not guarantee a credible election with it. So will the use of it now bring any different outcome? Will the poo-poo system work alright without any major challenge at the national poll?
These are the difficult questions that stare in the face of many forward thinkers who cherish our ever-growing democracy and constitutional practice. The Electoral Commission and for that matter the Country finds itself between the rock and a hard place. Perchance this should not be a protracted issue to occupy airwaves and the mind Ghanaians for long but the nature of Ghana politics should leave many concerned citizens to start building the needed consensus towards the election.
As the date for the election draws closer with no clear way forward, the need for national consensus becomes paramount. Perhaps the season for national peace council is nigh, their services would be much needed sooner than later.
Constitutional Demand and Scenarios
As stated in Articles 63 and 112 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the timelines for presidential and parliamentary elections are specified clearly. Article 63(2)(a) requires the presidential election to take place “…not earlier than four months nor later than a month before the term of office expires,” while, per article 112 (4), parliamentary elections must be held ‘within thirty days before the expiration of a Session of Parliament.’
The outbreak of the virus and the continuous spread of same which has brought to a halt the activities of the body mandated to conduct elections in the country could complicate Ghana’s impending election.
The scenarios as outlined by Kojo Pumpuni Asante (Ph.D.) of CDD-Ghana in an article leaves little or no room for the electoral commission to travel the path it has chosen for itself. As portions of the article portray how handicapped the electoral commission is at the moment.
“An optimal scenario was for the EC to start registration in April. That option is obviously off the table now, leaving only a second-best and a worst-case scenario to consider. A second-best scenario envisages the EC starting in May 2020. The EC would be time-pressed but it can still pull it off, albeit with very little room to make mistakes and correct them in time or to deal with legal challenges. The EC could utilize the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to build consensus and understanding and thus minimize the risk of litigation.” portions of the article read.
The article further states that “In the “worst-case” scenario, registration will begin in June 2020. In that event, the EC will have to consider seriously an alternative to its plan to compile a new register. This could mean a much more limited voter registration exercise, one that is likely restricted to first-time eligible voters and other first-timers. With that, the EC can estimate to add about one to one and half million voters to the current register. This limited registration could take 10 to 14 days.”
In times like this, national unity, consensus, and togetherness are what will get us over the line. Ghana has come a long way to back. The political future of the country is in the hands of the electoral commission, civil society, political parties, and stakeholders as well as citizenry.
Ghana needs a credible, free and fair elections in December, but how clear and trustworthy is the process leading to same going to be?
God bless our homeland Ghana.