2012, 2020 election petition and reforms for future elections: Has the EC learnt to avoid violence?

Following the December 2012 elections, there was a protracted election petition process at the Supreme Court challenging the declaration of the winner as the duly elected President of the Republic of Ghana.

Ghana election day

Even though the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the declared winner, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), after 8 months of 'pink sheets', it made several recommendations that paved the way for numerous interventions aimed at putting together proposals for electoral reform to fine-tune Ghana's electoral processes.

Several such reform proposals were submitted to the election management body, the Electoral Commission (EC) by the end of 2013.

Nevertheless, these were not implemented to guide the 2016 general elections.

· One may ask why were the reform proposals not implemented? And what is the way forward for future elections in the country?

Ghana's electoral processes have undergone several reforms since 1992, as a result of elite consensus and a series of submitted and implemented reform proposals.

In 1992, the parties that lost the presidential election and boycotted the subsequent parliamentary polls threatened to refrain from participating in all future elections unless there was satisfactory electoral reform.

The politically charged environment at that time threatened Ghana's drive towards democratisation, as periodic elections are crucial in any journey towards democratic maturity.

The opposition parties claimed that the electoral system and the processes used for the 1992 election gave an untrammeled advantage to the NDC.

Led by the NPP, the opposition parties launched the "Stolen verdict" campaign, presenting a compendium of electoral fraud purported to have been committed against opposition parties by agents of the NDC and the Interim National Electoral Commission (INEC).

The NPP described a litany of instances of election violence perpetrated against its candidates and officials.

All the opposition forces then laid out stringent conditions that had to be met before they would return to the electoral front.

They insisted that the electoral process should be overhauled via

i. the creation of a transitional body to supervise the electoral process,

ii. the compilation of a completely new voters’ roll and identity cards for voters, and

On the other hand, the NDC saw the prevailing electoral process as efficient and therefore made no electoral change demands.

As part of the reform process, the following steps have been taken. In 1993 the parliament passed Act 451, which established the Electoral Commission (EC), and through the EC the various reforms were initiated.

In March 1994, the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) was inaugurated as a platform for stakeholders to discuss and resolve thorny areas of the electoral processes.

The voters' register used in the 1992 elections was reformed because it contained inaccurate data.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are now held simultaneously to prevent an unfair advantage for the winning presidential candidate's party.

A proposal to use both thumbprints and photo identification cards, rather than only thumbprints, as proof of voter identity in the new register and for future elections has been implemented.

Registration officials are now trained to protect and promote the integrity of the voters' register.

Registration Review Committees have been created in all constituencies to resolve all conflicts concerning voter registration.

The opaque ballot boxes used for the 1992 elections have been replaced with transparent boxes.

Cardboard screens are now set up in the open for voters to make their decisions before depositing their thumb-printed ballot papers in the ballot box, which is located in a conspicuous place to promote transparency.

The counting of votes and declaration of results take place immediately after voting in the presence of party agents and voters.

Biometric registration and verification of voters have been introduced to halt fraud and other abuses in the electoral process and thereby enhance the credibility of the elections and their outcome.

The slogan "no verification, no vote" has been used heavily in the media and the political parties’ campaign platforms to signal the end of election fraud.

These reforms have been carried out to fine-tune the electoral processes and ensure that issues of previous elections are addressed for better election management in the future.

In 2013, several reform proposals were submitted to the EC after an eight-month election petition process at the Supreme Court filed by then-candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Dr. Mahamamudu Bawumia of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Unfortunately, the EC was unable to implement a preponderant number of these proposed reforms.

Based on comments from key political party officials, particularly those from the two main political parties in Ghana – the NDC and NPP – officials from the EC, and civil society representatives, as well as an extensive review of the state of current thinking about elections in Ghana, this explainer reviews the state of electoral reform in Ghana following 2012, 2016 and the 2020 general elections.

In recent times most elections in Africa have been fraught with post-election conflicts that have had dire consequences on citizens.

This makes post-election conflict resolution a very important aspect of the electoral process deserving enormous attention.

However, the nature of post-election conflict due to the phrase politicians normally call 'peace' resolution in Ghana's Fourth Republic has not brought any violence.

Generally, the implementation of such proposals has improved the electoral processes in Ghana and contributed to the resilience of the nation’s electoral politics and democratic march forward.

The Supreme Court upheld President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's election victory, a ruling grudgingly accepted by the runner-up John Mahama who maintained the legitimacy of his challenge over alleged irregularities in the results.

Mahama said votes were added to Nana Addo’s total in some polling stations, pushing him above the 50% threshold needed to avoid a runoff. The court said his allegations were without merit.

Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah said, "The petitioner did not demonstrate in any way how the alleged errors... affected the validity of the (results)."

But Mahama said he had to accept the judgment, but did not believe his challenge had been dealt with properly.

"As much as I'm aware that we're legally bound by the decisions of the Supreme Court, I disagree with the process of the trial and the ruling of the court," he told supporters after the ruling.

The EC after the election has applauded itself marks over the conduct of the 2020 elections.

At an IPAC meeting, the election management body made some recommendations it will apply in future elections.

The EC has proposed that polls will close at 3 pm but is that the surest and safe way to go in future elections to prevent what the losing will term rigging?

The Commission said in 2019, it announced a decision to close polls earlier in the last elections but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the safety protocols instituted at polling stations, the Commission did not implement that decision.

Mrs. Jean Mensa, the Chairperson of the EC, proposed an IPAC workshop aimed at assessing the processes leading to the 2020 election said the Commission was also proposing to do away with the system of periodic nationwide registration exercises and to institute an all-round system to allow citizens who turn 18 or persons who have not previously registered to do so at any district office with their Ghana Card or passport to register as voters.

She explained that the move would help the Commission to do away with nationwide registration exercises and reduce the cost of elections.

But the NDC said the reforms the EC proposed should be reconsidered.

The Director of Elections of the NDC, Elvis Afriyie Ankrah said the party was also proposing the adoption of an equitable voting formula for political parties at IPAC deliberations based on their representation in Parliament.

The third proposal for reform is for the EC to comply "with the use of the legally-prescribed statement of Poll/Pink Sheet (Form 8A and 8B) provided for in our Election Regulations to prevent the omission of BVD entries to preserve the ballot accounting process and makes it possible to check multiple voting, ballot stuffing, impersonation and other forms of rigging."

Pulse Editor's Opinion is the opinion of an editor of Pulse. It does not represent the opinion of the organization Pulse.

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