Friday, December 26, 2008

NDC demands Dec. 23 Special Voting scrapped

The National Democratic Congress has asked the Electoral Commission to scrap the special voting exercise of December 23, part of the presidential election runoff, for widespread irregularities.

Alex Segbefia, campaign coordinator of the NDC, made the submission on Joy FM's current affairs programme, Front Page, appearing with other guests including the EC's Director of Public Affairs, Christian Owusu Parry.

"Nothing here that has been said today, convinces me about what happened in the special voting as a credible voting. We would appeal to the Electoral Commission to consider scrapping the whole of the special voting throughout the country and let us, everybody, vote again…because we have real concerns. We are saying this at this stage, we are still waiting for final figures.

"We have sent letters to the EC across the country as to how many people voted in the special voting and then based on that we can make a conclusive analysis of the situation as to what happened. We have the rest of today and tomorrow (to go to the runoff proper) but as it stands at the moment based on what happened in Ashanti, let us make it clear; we think that it would be better to totally scrap the special voting exercise across the country…"

The programme, hosted by Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, discussed the success or otherwise of the early voting exercise, protests arriving from the exercise and the December 28 presidential runoff and prospects.

Also in attendance were Mr. John Larvie, elections coordinator of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Mr. Bright Simons, a policy analyst associated with IMANI Ghana and Mr. Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, Campaign Chairman of the New Patriotic Party. Pollster, Ben Ephson and Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey, Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Governance, contributed via phone.

Alex Segbefia alleged very serious shortcomings recorded during the exercise have undermined its credibility and the results should not stand. He said in specific constituencies in Kumasi and other parts of the Ashanti Region, no lists existed of voters eligible to vote in the exercise, and in one instance, the electoral officers exhausted a supply of 2000 ballots and requested for another 1000.

He had early on alleged that figures obtained in constituencies in the region were too curious to be accepted as credible.

Segbefia said for instance at the Bantama constituency, 350 people voted in the earlier special voting on December 2, but by 3pm on December 23, 2000 people had voted already while EC officials could not tell how many people were expected to vote there.

At Manhyia, 208 persons voted on December 2, but by 3pm last Tuesday, 2000 had already voted and EC officials had ordered for another 1,000 ballot papers, also unable to tell how many people were expected.
Similar 'huge' figures turned up at Subin where 1500 voted on December 2, but 2796 people had voted while the exercise was yet to close and at Asante Akim North, 485 voted on December 2, as against 1,223 on December 23 while Ejisu Juaben recorded 286 in the first instance against 526.

"Now contrast this with our constituency, the one we won in Ashanti, Asawase; 137 to 167… Go and check Ketu North, Ketu South, Keta; increases of 10, 30, 40, that's Volta Region. Ashanti stands out on its own, with 300, 400 percent increases in some areas and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever, as to what occurred and the basis upon which they occurred..."

Owusu-Parry explained however that the special voting lists are generated at the constituency level and anybody appearing to vote would have spoken to the returning officer and that the returning officer has actually given his permission to be put on the special voters' list so people don't just walk to the polling centre for special voting.

"Obviously the Returning Officer must be in the know and they may have spoken to the Returning Officer and the question that we need to ask is whether those people qualify to be placed on the special voters' list and …anybody whose duty would not allow him to be at his original polling station on election day, can apply to be placed on special voters' list."

He explained that the commission's own staff, political party agents and election observers requested to be placed on the special voters list and that explains the rise in numbers registered for the special exercise.

What diligence, EC?
Jake Obetsebi Lamptey said the NPP had their own concern of significant increases in the numbers, but explained that it could be because a lot more people are taking the voting exercise more seriously and therefore turned out in their numbers to vote.

"I know that in Accra for instance there were many places where the figures were significantly increased on special voting day. I don't have all the figures and since I don't have all the figures nationally, I don't want to just talk round and say in this area or in this region or whatever and I'm saying that ultimately our view has been that the people of this country are taking this second round very, very seriously…"

"I am an official of the NPP and I want to vote, I want to vote early to be free from 5 o'clock in the morning (of runoff) to be touring around and not have to do it at any time during the day so I can also go and vote and a lot of people took advantage of that because this time round the monitoring is going to be very heightened and so the people who are going to be involved in that monitoring have taken the trouble to make sure that they are free of any incumbencies and they can work and they can concentrate on monitoring the voting that day.

"For me it's a good sign for our country, it shows the commitment of our people to get involved in the democratic process. Let's applaud some of these things instead of always beating a particular drum; it's Ashanti, it's Ashanti, it's Ashanti, ... It's not only Ashanti, lots of places they had much higher figures than they did in the first round."

Mr. John Larvie however was concerned if the names of all those who voted in the special voting can be cleaned from the voters register to prevent double voting.

"If you do special voting it means you should not do Election Day voting. Which means your name should be absent from your original register. Is the Electoral Commission ready to prove that all those whose names came on the special voters' list are going to be absent in their original registers …what diligence is there to show that these people are not going to double vote?"

Ben Ephson said "Given the figures and problems Alex has indicated, I believe that the two parties in the Ashanti Region can request the list from the EC and between the two parties, tick all the numbers who have voted so that the various polling stations, anybody who goes there, polling agents of the two parties will have between them a common list where all those who voted the numbers have been ticked. I think that that should be a quite a nice way to try and solve the increased numbers, wherever they came from so that the possibility of double voting does not arise."

Ben Ephson also suggested that given the entrenched disagreements between the NDC and NPP, the two parties might want to consider agreeing to have the special voting exercise in the Ashanti and Volta regions counted ahead of Sunday so that the ballots could properly be accounted for.

Dr. Emmanuel Akwetey said the Electoral Commission owes the populace an explanation on how the special voting went in the Ashanti Region and it would be a helpful exercise if the explanation came ahead of the Sunday special voting, explaining that from monitored radio reports, it appeared there were problems there.

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