Friday, August 8, 2008

No complacency, Nigerian EC Commissioner warns

The chairman of the independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria, Professor Maurice M. lwu, has cautioned Ghana not to be complacent but remain focused to sustain the good democratic credentials it has won for itself.

He said Ghana was so strategically important to the peace and stability of the West African sub-region that every effort must be made by all actors in the electoral process to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections in December.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Accra, Prof. Iwu said; "Elections in Ghana are no longer a Ghanaian affair because they will attract the attention of both friends and enemies of the country, so we should not be naive to think that everybody wishes us well."

Prof. Iwu was in Ghana to deliver a paper on: "Reflections from the 2007 Nigerian Elections – Lessons", at the Third Daily Graphic Governance Dialogue, which was held at the Accra International Conference Centre on Tuesday, August 5, 2008 and Wednesday, August 6, 2008. It was on the general theme: "Effective Democratic Governance: The Role of Stakeholders".

Before his departure to Nigeria on Thursday, Prof Iwu told the Daily Graphic that free, fair and peaceful elections could be ensured, if the country had a well prepared and ready Electoral Commission, as well as an informed electorate.

He said there was also the need to have a more transparent electoral process to inject trust and confidence in the whole exercise of electoral management.

Sharing his view on the alleged registration of minors, double or multiple registration and other electoral abuses in the on-going limited registration exercise, Prof Iwu said, "It is unfortunate because the Ghanaian society has been praised globally as a country where the rule of law and good governance has been entrenched".

He called for an intensified voter and civic education for those involved to realise the damage they were doing to the country's hard won image in democratic accountability and good governance.

"I am, however, glad the issue is already in the public domain and people are talking about it and frowning at it", he stated and called for strict enforcement of laid down rules and regulations guiding the electoral process.

"Any rule or regulation that does not have sanctions will be difficult to enforce; enforcement of rules is part of the democratic process because you want to show that nobody is above the law," he stressed.

Fortunately, he said, Ghana had in place a system where a voter could only vote once, "so if somebody goes to do multiple registration, he is only going to swell the voter register unnecessarily because he would only have the opportunity to vote once".

The INEC Chairman said Ghana was lucky to have an effective and efficient Electoral Commission capable of delivering credible elections and, therefore, "we are very confident that the EC of Ghana is up to the task because it is one of the best in the world".

Prof. Iwu was confident that at the end of the elections in December, the intent of voters would be expressed and captured, stressing, "that is what is important".

He, however, frowned on Africa's over-reliance on foreign observers to pronounce their verdict on the credibility or otherwise of our elections. "I am particularly concerned where the credibility of elections was judged by the views of foreign observers who are not necessarily impartial," he said.

Source: Daily Graphic

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