For quite some time now the Daily Observer has been sounding the alarm bells over the missteps been taken at the National Elections Commission (NEC) and what appears to be sheer incompetence on the part of the leadership of that body that makes prospects for elections gloomier by the day.
In its August 14, 2020 editorial headlined “A GLOOMY FORECAST HANGING OVER THE DECEMBER SENATORIAL ELECTIONS” the Daily Observer highlighted public concerns about the current Voters Registry (VR) which was declared compromised by the Supreme Court in 2017.
This newspaper notes that the problems with the VR began when Mr. Jerome Korkoyah was appointed Chairman of the electoral body. Under his watch, a top ranked government official were caught red-handed producing fake Voters Registration cards. Nothing happened to him, likewise others who were also nabbed red-handed in illegal registration activities.
That set a precedent, a very bad one indeed, that there is nothing wrong nor immoral about officials engaging in illegal voting activities. The act itself of appointing an individual known to hold foreign (US) nationality to chair the Commission was a violation of our laws.
And despite the avalanche of public opinion condemning his appointment, the former President had appeared unmoved and instead maintained him as Chairman of NEC. Korkoyah’s first test as Chairman came during the 2014 elections.
For the first time in the country’s recent history and never before had so many elections complaints and disputes been brought before the Supreme Court. And as opined by many, those elections were a precursor to the 2017 elections and therefore it came as no surprise that the 2017 elections proved to be so contentious to the point where foreign interlocutors became involved.
The major bone of contention centered around the elections results which, according to opposition political parties were influenced by a compromised Voters Registry. The matter eventually landed at the Supreme Court. The Court agreed with opposition claims of fraud in the elections but however opined that the fraud was not of the magnitude to warrant an annulment of the results.
The Court went one step further by ordering a “clean-up” of the VR before the holding of the runoff elections. But the leadership of the NEC simply ignored the Supreme Court’s mandate with impunity and went ahead to hold the elections using the VR which the Supreme Court had declared compromised.
Fast forward to 2020, where senatorial elections scheduled to have been held in October in keeping with the Constitution have been rescheduled to December. This was because holding the elections anytime after December 2020 would be very problematic as it would undermine the legitimacy of the government.
Why? It is because the Senate would be lacking a quorum as the tenure of some senators would have expired by then. And the lack of a quorum in the Senate would render it incapable of sitting when it returns to session in January, meaning that the Legislature would be incomplete. And it also means that the government would be incapable of carrying out its normal functions.
And now with the elections due in about three (3) months, it appears that the NEC may not be able to adhere to its own timeline. For example, the NEC chairperson is reportedly at odds with staffers of NEC who, according to reports, whose suggestion to conduct stationary Voters Roll update has been overruled by Chairperson Lansannah, who insists that the VR update be conducted by mobile teams moving around the country.
But it appears the Chairperson must be suffering from amnesia because the experience garnered from the 2014 senatorial elections during which time the experiment with mobile VR update proved disastrous. And it must not be forgotten that the failed exercise was conducted during the dry season when the country’s roads were in better conditions.
Now with the rainy season at its peak, the NEC Chairperson is insisting on a mobile VR process which she very well knows will be another disaster given the very bad road conditions at this time of the year. With this in mind, it appears the Chairperson is either being duplicitous and deceptive or she does not know or fully understand just what she is doing or is supposed to be doing.
What the Chairperson apparently fails to realize or comprehend is the link between elections and peace and incidentally, this August marks the month during which the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed that marked an official end to nearly 15 years of violent conflict.
Although the country has since managed to successfully hold 3 peaceful elections, it is yet, for all purposes, still in transition. However, what appears to be machinations and deliberate attempts to alter the course of elections or steal the December elections results are becoming more and more apparent by the day.
Judging from credible reports from various sources, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah appears to have taken the lead in efforts to stymie the work of the NEC simply by withholding critically needed funding support to the electoral body. But what he apparently fails to realize is the enormity and gravity of what he is playing with.
This kind of situation reduces the concept of elections to a no holds barred contest in which victory by any means, foul or legitimate, is considered acceptable. This is why suggestions being hinted, apparently from NEC that political parties are being invited to assist in the clean-up of the Voters Registry (VR) are considered laughable and inane.
This makes the prospect of holding elections on time based on a sanitized VR almost impossible never mind the grandstanding of NEC officials. NEC Chairperson Lansannah should be or is fully aware that the figure she now touts as the elections budget is completely unrealistic.
This is because since over a year ago she was appointed by her predecessor to provide oversight for the December 2020 senatorial elections. Her initial submission was a US$26 million budget, which was revised downwards to US$23 million and later to US$17 million and now to US$13.5 million, which is insufficient to cover actual costs.
Chairperson Browne is playing with fire and she must beware.