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The Electoral Reform Committee: Do We Need Politicians Or Technocrats?   
 
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07-May-2015  
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Elections are by definition divisive. They involve individuals or groups with opposing views about how best a country can be managed to achieve a desired end-state.

While in any polity all citizens are in agreement about what they need and expect from those whom they elect to lead and represent them, consensus often eludes us on the critical issue of the means we use in achieving this end-state.

The differences in the means to achieve an efficient and effective governance is the essence of ideologies which are a set of economic, political and social ideas which purport to harness the resources of a society in reaching the shared values and norms of the citizenry.

It is in fact needless to say that it is the divisive nature of elections that led many immediate post-independence leaders of Africa who ostensibly sought to integrate the disparate ethnic identities into one national identity to frown upon elections as a feature of multiparty democracy.

Even though in our country the conduct of the Electoral Commission (EC) in our last two parliamentary and presidential elections has contributed to casting a dark cloud of doubt over the integrity of this crucial institution, its decision to set up the Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) should be welcomed by every well-meaning Ghanaian.

It is true that the decision to set up the ERC is the outcome of the Supreme Court’s directive to the EC to embark on these reforms following tales of irregularities that were the bane of the 2012 elections.

The skepticism around the work of the Committee by many of our compatriots arises from the fact that since the EC’s inception in 1992 every reform it has instituted has been foisted on it by a doubting public.

But let us take this one as a Trojan gift horse because the stakes are high this time round; it may not be the best yet it is worth trying. Let us give the EC the benefit of the doubt that after subjecting itself to so much public ridicule. Perhaps because of his imminent retirement, Dr Afari Gyan who has become a personification of the institution is now sincerely concerned about his legacy for posterity.

Having said this let me hasten to say that the success of the work of the committee is going to depend largely on its membership, i.e. are members of the committee going to come from political groupings in the country, technocrats or a judicious combination of the two groups of Ghanaians?

I am aware that the issue of the membership of the Electoral Reform Committee may be moot given that the Committee has already been constituted, as evidenced by the exclusion of some political parties and their threats to go to court over the matter.

However, given that the stakes are high for next year’s elections, it is my hope that as a nation we can rethink this issue of the membership of the committee and make the necessary changes for the sake of Ghana.

While it is not my intention to be prescriptive about the membership of the committee, I invite the entire nation to make this decision by considering the two fundamental tasks that face a committee of this nature. The first task that faces the committee is that of ensuring that we have a credible voters’ register, while the second task is the management of the election results at the end of the day.

As far as the first task is concerned, the first sign that the work of the Committee is likely to be hijacked by politicians was some two months ago when Nana Akufo-Addo, in a speech to a group of Ghanaians in the UK alluded to the fact that our voters’ register is bloated.

Nana Akufo-Addo’s point was that it could not be right for a developing country like Ghana in which children who are not eligible to vote are in the majority to have more than half (56%) of its total population to be in the voters’ register so our voters’ register.

Thus, the voters’ register is bloated, to say the least.
Even though the response to Nana Akufo-Addo’s questioning of our voters’ register was supposed to come from the Electoral Commission that has the constitutional mandate for these matters, surprisingly it came from Mr. Asiedu Nketia, the General Secretary of the ruling National Democratic Congress.

Briefly, Asiedu Nketia retorted that it is not the competence of Nana Akufo-Addo to talk about the voters’ register since he knows nothing about the population dynamics which ultimately affect the figures in the voters’ register.

But the fact of the matter is that even Nana Akufo-Addo’s figure of 56% is inaccurate because the proportion of the population that is classified as adults, and thus eligible to vote (those aged 18 years and above) is 59%, according to my calculations from the 2010 population census which is now available in the public domain.

My calculation is based on allowing persons who were aged 16 and 17 years in 2010 to transition to age 18 years and above in 2012 when the register was compiled for that year’s elections.

But, be that as it may, as a Sociologist who does social demographic analysis daily, I couldn’t agree more with Asiedu Nketia’s position because clearly this is the competence of technocrats like demographers and statisticians.

So, I asked myself: But is this the competence of Asiedu Nketia? Is the man a demographer or statistician? What does he know about population dynamics?

The point I am trying to make is that even though Asiedu Nketia is not a demographer or a statistician his response to Nana Akufo-Addo’s concerns about the voters’ register provided a vital clue as to who should be on the Electoral Reform Committee: Technocrats and statesmen, and not politicians in the classic sense of the word.

So, the questions we must pose to whoever was responsible for the constitution of the membership of the Committee is: do the members on the committee have the requisite technical knowledge to accomplish this crucial national task? Is the Government Statistician who is a demographer on the Committee?

If the answers to the two questions above are not in the affirmative, then we must not only question the raison d’etre of the Committee but the very role of the Government Statistician. The Electoral Reform Committee must not be seen as yet another political circus in the country because the implications of its work are going to be very grave for the country next year.

As far as the role of the Government Statistician is concerned, her absence on the Committee would create the impression that this national institution is being politicized given the circumstances under which the present occupant came into office.

Dr Nyarko came into office just when the previous occupant, Dr. Grace Bediako, who came into office during President Kufour’s administration, was just about to execute the crucial 2010 Population and Housing Census. This apparent politicization of this national institution gave rise to a lot of concerns to those of us in academia who work with reliable and valid demographic data.

In fact, the deafening silence of Dr Nyarko over the exchanges between Nana Akuffo-Addo and Mr. Asiedu Nketia over the figures in the voters’ register is surprising because her outfit is supposed to have the final word on these matters.

She is supposed to educate the country about the “population dynamics” that explain the presence of 59% of our total population on the voters’ register.

To the extent that the 2010 Population Census affected the voters’ register for the 2012 elections, she and her outfit must be able to provide the country with information about such population dynamics as the age distribution of the population by 2012, the proportion of the population who were children in 2010 but became “adults” and therefore eligible to vote in 2012, the age-specific deaths, age-specific migrations etc.

These are the population dynamics that have implications for the figures in the voters’ register and this is information the Government Statistician should provide the nation to stop people like Asiedu Nketia from throwing dust into the public’s eyes.

The second task facing the Electoral Reform Committee which has implications for who should be on the Committee is the management of election results. Our system of voting has evolved over the years into more and more technologically sophisticated system.

However, as we all learned from the proceedings of the 2012 election petition hearings, electoral technologies like biometric voting or even e-voting as some people are now calling for do not guarantee anything.

In fact, it has recently emerged that an IT company based in South Africa was hired by powerful economic interests in that country with business interests in Guinea to manipulate the outcome of the second round of Guinea’s elections in favor of the incumbent.

What does this tell us? It simply means that we need people not only with IT expertise but also competent to be involved in the discussions about which company is contracted by the EC to handle the management of the election results. The committee must be involved in every contractual agreement by the EC.

Professor Acheampong Yaw Amoateng is a Research Professor of Sociology based in South Africa and was a member of the AU team that assessed Zambia for good governance under the African Peer Review Mechanism in 2011.



 
 
Source: Prof Acheampong Yaw Amoateng
 
 

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