The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to fall back on the old voter register if it is challenged to compile a new one ahead of election 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ghana.
National Coordinator of CODEO, Albert Arhin believes the EC may have no other alternative given the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and the impact it is likely to have on the compilation of a new register.
The Electoral Commission suspended its planned compilation of a new voters’ register over the ban on public gatherings imposed on Ghanaians as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease that has bedevilled the country.
While many continue to cast doubts on the ability of the Electoral Commission to compile a new voters’ register ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections, there have been proposals to the EC to begin the voters’ registration exercise in places outside the partial lockdown.
But speaking on Eyewitness News, Mr. Arhin maintained that all other things being equal, the EC may have to reconsider its decision on the new register and settle on the old electoral roll.
“Even if this thing subsides and there is not ample evidence to show clearly that it is gone, then definitely there is going to be some opposition facing the EC. So it is not going to be easy at all. If we are not able to do the election, there might be a constitutional crisis. But I think by now, constitutional experts mare thinking of a way out. The other option is that, if the compilation is not able to take place then maybe, they could use the old register. But even there, how do you conduct the election if the pandemic hasn’t abated maybe by September or thereabout. It is readily even dicey because the owners of the register don’t want to use it so maybe a way has to be found to do the new register.”
On the issue of the registration in areas outside the lockdown, Mr. Arhin expressed fears over its feasibility and reasonability because of the already disregard for social distancing protocol and other safety precautions in stemming the spread of the virus.
“The problem I envisage is the way the Ghanaian is going to conduct himself or herself. Look at the food that we are distributing, the queues, pandemonium, panic, and the rush, so if it is going to be done areas that have not been affected, my problem is how the Ghanaian is going to behave in the rush to get registered. That is the fear that I have. If in those areas they are going to adhere by keeping the distances, then probably they can go ahead and do it. But where is the guarantee that there is not going to be a stampede? It’s really a dicey issue.”
New voters register shaky
The conduct of the December 7, 2020 polls remains uncertain given the fact that many of the electoral activities in the build-up to the polls have been put on hold until further notice as a result of the pandemic.
Electoral management body, the EC was seeking to on April 18, 2020 begin processes to replace its biometric machines to better address verification challenges that could occur during the elections.
Although the EC has said it wants to ensure that the register that is used on the election day is more credible and efficient than the existing one hence the need for a new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS), no new date has been announced for the registration exercise after the suspension was announced in March 2020.
The move for the new register has however been met with opposition from key political stakeholders, including themain opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Registration in non-lockdown areas premature – John Boadu
General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), John Boadu has rejected calls for the Electoral Commission (EC) to start the new voters’ registration in areas outside the lockdown.
“Apart from private funerals that are permitted with a limited number, it will be difficult to encourage the public gathering of people which I believe will include the registration exercise particularly. And also in the non-lockdown areas, it seems to be that the EC will be studying these things in relation with affected regions and constituencies so at the end of the day it is the people we are protecting against this COVID-19. So it’s an issue that needs further discussion but I believe as we speak now and listening to the reasons given by the EC I think that there is the need for us to give ourselves some time for all of us to support the measures that government has put in place to protect all of us,” he noted on Eyewitness News.