Referendum Characterised By Flaws, Violation Of Rules – NORSAAC

Voting in the just ended referendum was characterised by great flaws and violation of electoral rules with impunity, NORSAAC, a civil society organisation, has observed.

NORSAAC said “it was most unfortunate to see public officials engaging in the flouting of electoral rules including wearing ‘vote yes t-shirts’ to the polls.”

This formed NORSAAC’s preliminary findings on its observation of the 2018 referendum on the creation of new regions, presented by Mr Alhassan Mohammed Awal, its Executive Director, at a News conference at Shishegu, near Tamale.

NORSAAC deployed an observation team that visited 34 polling stations in seven districts in the then proposed North East and Savannah Regions to observe the conduct of the referendum.

The districts visited included; Central Gonja, West Gonja, North Gonja, and Sawla/Tuna/Kalba in the Savannah Region, and West Mamprusi, East Mamprusi and Chereponi in the North East Region.

NORSAAC’s findings showed that electoral officials did not position voting booths to ensure secrecy of voting, and “Some electoral officials went further to thumbprint the ballot papers for voters and proceeded to dropping them inside the ballot boxes.”

The report said “in about 90 per cent of the polling stations observed, the electoral officers were not only spotted campaigning for the ‘Yes’ but were openly commanding people to go and vote for the yellow, which represented ‘Yes’.”

It observed “intentional issuing of multiple ballot papers to voters and at some polling stations in the North East Region, a ‘volunteer’ was stationed at the booth to aid people to vote ‘Yes’.”

It said “Ministers of State and Municipal, and District Chief Executives were spotted in campaign attires casting their votes with huge followers in ‘vote yes’ attires. These public officials were also spotted actively campaigning at the polling stations urging electoral officers to properly ensure that the people voted ‘Yes’.”

The report said “Every polling station visited had security presence, but some security personnel especially those that were natives were spotted campaigning for the ‘Yes’. Some security personnel were spotted patrolling the West Gonja District in ‘Yes-branded’ pick-up.”

It said “About 80 per cent of the polling stations had only agents for the ‘Yes’ while others had no agents at all. Interestingly, the few that had agents for ‘No’ were spotted escorting people to the booths and thumb printing ‘Yes’ for them.”

It said “at some polling stations in the Sawla/Tuna/Kalba District, it was an abomination to mention the word ‘No’ let alone enquiring who was the polling agent for ‘No’.”

The report said “the atmosphere at the polling stations and the composure of the public officials, electoral officials, security and the traditional authority made it too scary for citizens to attempt opposing the process hence democracy was under attack.”

It warned that “if what was observed is replicated in the general election in 2020, Ghana’s credibility in the International World will be greatly affected.”

There was a referendum on December 27, to create six new regions; Savannah, and North East from the Northern Region, Ahafo and Bono East from the Brong Ahafo Region, Oti from the Volta Region and Western North from the Western Region.

The polls recorded high voter turn-out and an overwhelming endorsement of the new regions.