EC’s Comedy Of Errors

The Fourth Republican Constitutional era which began on a very shaky process has come to stay and even become the icon of democracy in the West African Sub-region. The whole world is praising us for our achievements so far. I began by saying a shaky process because in 1992 when the process towards a return to constitutional multiparty democracy began, the ruling PNDC which metamorphosed into the NDC, manipulated the process to its advantage in such a crude manner. First in the absence of the Constitution in force, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was put in place, chaired then by the late Justice Josiah Boateng. What happened to the processes and the outcome of the elections, is part of our history. Ever since the current EC came into being, a lot of progress has been made through the Inter –Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) as regards processes before, during and after elections. The co-operation and understanding between the EC and the IPAC through mutual respect is in fact the basis for the stable democratic environment we are all proud of, the EC therefore is very much appreciated for its role since 1993. In 1993, when the Fourth Republican Constitution became operational, the Electoral Commission (EC) was set up as stated in Chapter Seven of the Constitution, Representation of the People. Article 45 of the Constitution outlines the functions of the Electoral Commission as follows: a. To compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law; b. To demarcate the electoral boundaries for both national and local government elections; c. To conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda; d. To educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose e. To undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters; and f. To perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law. The above functions are self explanatory, but it seems that the EC is confusing clause (b) of article 5 and section 5 of article 47. Section 5 of article 47 states ‘ The Electoral Commission shall review the division of Ghana into constituencies at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months of the publication of the numeration figures after the holding of a census of the population of Ghana, whichever is earlier, and may, as a result, alter the constituencies.’ The EC has taken ‘demarcation of electoral boundaries’ and ‘review the division of Ghana into constituencies…..’ as increasing the number of constituencies. Review as defined by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is ‘re-examine or reconsider’ or ‘go over’ something. In re-examining the constituencies of this country, we can even merge some constituencies with others. Why, don’t we have some Members of Parliament sitting in that august house with less than 9000 votes? Can’t we merge such constituencies with smaller populations and still achieve the same objectives of representation? There are still some Members of Parliament who represent constituencies with as many as 60,000 voting population, yet those MPs enjoy the same salary and other allowances with those with less than 9000 voting population to deal with. I am surprised that each time the EC does a review, it means upward adjustment of the constituencies in this country. Does ‘review’ mean only upward adjustment to the distinguished ladies and gentlemen at the Commission? Now, a few comparative figures for the reading public. The United States of America had 311,591,917 million people as at 2011. The total number of seats in the House of Representatives is 358; 184 for the Republicans and 171 for the Democrats with three vacant as at 2011. The representation of the people in the US House of Representatives is approximately 865,550 per a member of the House. Let us come closer to our neighbouring Nigeria with a population of 162,470,737, they have 360 members of the House of Representatives. This breaks down to approximately 451,300 people to one member of the House of Representatives. Ghana has 25,000,000 per the last population census. Even with 230 MPs, it breaks down to about 108,700 per MP. If we increase our seats to 275, the representation will be 90,990 approximately. If the EC reviews the constituencies every seven years upwards as per the understanding of the EC, by the next 21 years, representation in Parliament would be bigger than both the U.S.A and Nigeria, and on we will be increasing the seats in Parliament based on a certain misunderstanding of portions of the constitution. In spite of the noble achievements of the EC so far, I do not understand why the EC seems to be jittery since 2010. For the first time in the history of the District Assembly Elections, the EC made a mockery of itself and embarrassed the whole nation when it could not properly organise a District Assembly Elections in the most appropriate manner. For once, those elections were held in the most shameful manner which elicited a very poor turn-out. That is the elections which has been termed the ‘tot-tot’ elections. Ghanaians forgave them since it was the first time under the present dispensation the EC had been that disappointing. Then came the biometric registration exercise and its attendant problems which nearly brought out the ugly side of Ghanaians. That was also put behind us and some lessons learnt, the EC further surprised the nation when it insisted that it was going to organise two by-elections following the death of two honourable members of Parliament, using a voters’ register which is non-existent in law. That again was a great surprise to many right thinking Ghanaians who were of the view that once a new biometric register had been prepared for the upcoming general elections, using the biometric register would have been an opportunity to test the system and prepare ourselves in terms addressing whatever challenges we might have encountered during the by-elections. Instead, the EC decided to be insistent on its decision to use the out dated register contrary to common sense and reasoning until some citizens took it to the courts and the EC lost miserably. It seems that the EC is on the path of self destruction to wipe off the very good things it has done to improve and enhance our democratic dispensation which has earned it international recognition, or is hiding behind laws which it interprets to its own understanding just to embark on actions which are likely to throw this country into chaos. Tofiakwa, Allah kyiayi, we no go sit down make you confuse the elections, walahi. Why is the EC in a rush to create 45 new constituencies when this nation has barely four months to go to the polls nationwide? What will the nation lose should we decide to postpone the creation of the new constituencies today and do it another time even if it is that important to do? And even when the EC insists on creating the 45 new constituencies, it made a lot of mistakes in the CI 73 it presented to Parliament which will create the additional 45 constituencies to be contested for by the political parties. So gargantuan and unprecedented are the mistakes that the whole of the House was unanimous in the withdrawal of the CI 73. You have decided and insisting that new constituencies should be created on the basis of your understanding of ‘review’ and yet you are unable to present non controversial information to Parliament to approve your request for you? As at the time I was writing this piece, the EC was to withdraw the CI 73 and replace it with a corrected version. It is a shame. It is my hope that the corrected version does not produce further errors to be corrected. Meanwhile, even if the corrected version is placed before Parliament, it will begin to count its 21 days, and counting from the day, the maturity of the CI 73 would be September 12, 2012, less than three months to elections. The EC should take the following from William Shakespeare: Why ,headstrong liberty is lash’d with woe There is nothing situate under heaven’s eye But hath his bound, in earth, in sea, in sky; The beasts, the fishes, and the winged fowls