Wednesday, August 6, 2008

NPP, PNC call for extension of voter registration exercise

The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the People's National Convention (PNC) on Tuesday appealed to the Electoral Commission (EC) to extend the on-going limited voter registration exercise due to operational lapses over the past six days. The lapses include shortage of registration Form A and compliant forms, alleged registration of minors and foreigners, slow pace of the registration process, movement of registration team, and intimidation of NPP agents.

"Our monitoring and assessment of the registration exercises since its inception on July 31st indicate that, EC has failed to provide adequate registration materials at some electoral centres, particularly strongholds of the party, registration of minors and intimidation tactics by the operatives of the National Democratic Congress (NDC)," Nana Ohene Ntow, NPP General Secretary, stated in Accra. Nana Ohene Ntow at press conference organized to express the party's concern about the current registration exercise also tasked the EC to take more stringent measures to check the registration of minors and foreigners and ensure availability of adequate registration materials at all centres.

Meanwhile, the PNC flag bearer, Dr. Edward Mahama in an electronic mail from the United State of America to the Ghana News Agency, commended the EC and the media for whipping-up enthusiasm in the registration exercise leading to high turn-out at the centres. "In view of the unanticipated high turn-out the PNC calls on the EC to either extend the 11-day period or increase the number of registration officials to ensure that the youth who qualify to register do so." The PNC also appealed to the electoral administrative body to ensure that all Ghanaians who were eligible to register were not denied the right to vote.

The NPP said the EC's timetable for the movement of registration team from one centre to the other reduced the actual working period at a particular centre for the 11-day duration. "EC's arrangement was that the registration team stays in one electoral area between five and six days then moves to another centre for the rest of the period. With this kind of arrangement the registration centre is opened only for about five or six days and not eleven days as the EC had indicated," the NPP General Secretary explained.

The NPP also noted that the shortage of registration materials at some centres, especially within the strongholds of the NPP particularly Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Eastern regions were unacceptable developments, as the EC made all Ghanaians to understand that it was fully prepared by way of logistics, and that their budget for the registration exercise had been fully met by the government. "If today we are finding shortages of materials then obviously this will be resulting more from EC's own operational lapses rather than inadequate budgetary allocations from government.clearly the political parties or government cannot be blamed for such a situation," Nana Ohene Ntow stated. The party called on parents to prevent their children under the voting age from registering as the act constituted an electoral offence. "The NPP has tasked its agents to compile names of minors who register and would initiate the necessary actions against them." The NPP accused NDC of registering minors in the Northern and Volta regions and said "we call on our agents to use all legitimate means to prevent their registration."

In spite of the challenges the NPP pledged its commitment to the rule of law, to abide by the laws, rules and regulations regarding elections and the entire electoral process to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections in December. It also pledged to avoid acts of lawlessness, intimidation and violence that may have the potential to mar the beauty of the nation's fledging democratic experience. The NPP also encouraged Ghanaians who have attained the voting age to register and vote.

The EC on July 31 started the first phase of processes for the revision of the voters' register to ensure that all eligible voters are captured for the December polls. The 11-day nationwide voters' registration exercises seeks to capture mainly the youth who have attained the voting age of 18 years and above, and people who could not register during the last exercise in 2006.

A visit by GNA to some of the electoral areas across the country revealed that anxious youth reporting in their numbers to register. The development is in sharp contrast to the usual registration apathy experienced in the past. In an interview with the GNA, Mrs. Philomena Edusei, Deputy Regional Director, explained that applicants who were 20 years and above and were not registered would have to give reasons why they did not register in 2004 or 2006, when they were given the opportunity to do so.

The registration of such persons would entail the administration of a declaration or undertaking form in addition to the normal registration procedures. She said each registration centre would be manned by a minimum of four officials -- a registration officer, a shader, a laminator and a workshop operator. On the role of Party Agents, Mrs. Edusei said the EC, in collaboration with the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) agreed that they should not interfere in the registration process. "A Party Agent can be asked to leave the registration centre if the Registration Officer feels the Agent is obstructing the registration process."

Mrs. Edusei said the Party Agents were also forbidden from talking directly to persons who turned up to register. They cannot recruit people or campaign for their parties while at the registration centre and cannot touch any registration document without the permission of the Registration Officer.

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