The Governance Commission (GC) has indicated that recent recommendations made to the Supreme Court and the National Elections were done in good faith and it is unfortunate that they have been misconstrued and are being argued out of context.
Dr. Amos C. Sawyer, head of the Governance Commission, has come under criticisms in the past few weeks for what is being considered as “controversial recommendations” contained in the GC’s recent annual report, which placed much emphasis on the October 2017 elections.
Among other things, the GC recommended that the NEC and the Supreme Court declare the Code of Conduct’s (CoC) “exclusion rule” inapplicable. Part 5, Sections 5.1 and 5.2 of the CoC seeks to exclude from candidacy ranking officials of the Executive Branch of Government who did not resign from their positions within a given time frame before elections.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Observer on Friday, Dr. Sawyer indicated that the sections mentioned above should be considered inapplicable to the 2017 elections.
“We want this done in the same manner and spirit the 10-year constitutional provision was considered inapplicable to the 2005 and 2011 elections. These recommendations are meant to avoid some pitfalls that would likely haunt the electioneering process. There are a lot of things that will come up that would stall the process if some of these recommendations are not considered,” he said.
Dr. Sawyer: “In the GC’s annual report, we decided to focus on the elections because this is one of the critical moments of our history and this process should be important to all of us.”
The consultation processes, he noted, started with the relevant stakeholders, including NEC, Supreme Court, political actors, stakeholders and CSOs, early last year. “At the end of the consultations, we had a draft. It was a draft to be taken for validation. We invited political parties, NEC, international partners but it will interest you to know that only our international partners showed up,” he said. “This is where most of the critical issues should have been discussed and well understood.”
“Political parties were going to conventions. Unity Party has gone to convention and chose their party officials. So we at the GC decided to come up with recommendations, because the process was already underway. We believe that since you have not done anything, let this provision be inapplicable. Later the Supreme Court came up with the ruling and said the law is constitutional. In our revision, we say the Supreme Court has ruled and we stand by the Supreme Court’s decision,” he said.
Dr. Sawyer said with the Supreme Court’s declaration of Sections 5.1, 5.2 of the CoC as legal and constitutional widens the horizon of the number of people that would be affected.
“This time it will not be only presidential appointees who are named in the CoC, but everyone appointed by the president. This now means that every person appointed by the president, be it District Commissioners, Township Commissioners, City Mayors and others. We feel this is worrisome,” Dr. Sawyer said.
Where the fear lies now, from the GC’s perspective, is the huge number of cases that would be brought before the Ombudsman’s office for investigations and onward recommendations to relevant institutions for final adjudication.
This, according to the GC Chairman, will further lead to more of those officials who would be denied filing writs of prohibitions on the elections until their cases are addressed.
“This is where our fear comes from. Everyone will be filing for a writ of prohibition and we won’t be able to go ahead with the elections. I’m afraid this is a question that will be difficult for me to answer. It will take a long time to be addressed and we don’t have a luxury of time.”
Dr. Sawyer made reference to the 2014 Senatorial election disputes that took almost two years to settle. “The Supreme Court’s elections’ disputes of 2014 went up to 2016. Now we are coming to big elections. So by February, we say look, there is a problem here and start discussing with various actors, stakeholders and the rest of the people,” he said.
In the same vein, he said, people who may be affected by the CoC will go through due process to face the NEC. “We will still be going down the road and still have to ensure that this process works well. We wish the Ombudsman’s office would have been established earlier,” Dr. Sawyer said, adding that the purpose of the GC report was to draw attention to all the roadblocks ahead.
“If you read the report, it says you must be a citizen in order to participate in the election. We don’t have any national identity card so how are we deciding who is a citizen? We put this burden on the elections commission and the NEC takes one person to register. We need to have a national identity card before getting into this,” he said.
The GC Report, he said, calls attention to many of these things, including NEC’s own budget. “Even the election’s own budget, when we were writing this report, NEC has not received all its money. The government budgeted NEC’s money in two budgets, and we are still struggling with this year’s budget. We are saying that NEC should receive their budget the year before elections. It must not compete with other priority issues.”