Ghana: Debate on Ghana’s new poll date reported by the media

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – As Ghana prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections later this year, voters are still not sure whether the poll date will be 7 November, the new date agreed by the Electoral Commission (EC), political parties and stakeholders, or the existing date of 7 December.

The Constitution Review Commission set up by the late President John Evans Atta Mills, realising that 7 December always puts a strain on the arrangement for a transition whenever there is a run-off, because the Constitution demands that a president be sworn in on 7 January, proposed that the vote be held on 7 November.

This proposal has a unanimous approval, but when Members of Parliament returned from their break and found the bill to amend the constitution to legalise the 7 November date, they began to cast doubts on whether that can be done in time.

The debate in parliament on the new date was one of the stories reported in the media this week.

“Dark clouds over Nov. 7 for general election,” was the headline of the Graphic on the debate.

The Graphic reported that both sides of Parliament have cast doubts about the intention of the EC to hold this year’s elections on 7 November.

The minority in parliament, according to Deputy Minority Leader, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, claimed that the posture of the EC, especially its Chairperson, Mrs Charlotte Osei, “did not support consensus building”, and for which reason, there could be problems in the processes towards changing the date. The Majority Leader, Mr Alban Bagbin, for his part, said time might not be on the side of the processes for an amendment.

Nitiwul raised questions about the posturing of the Chairperson saying “at times she is cheeky".

He said under her leadership non-functional parties have been “resurrected” to oppose the NPP during their Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meetings with the EC. The Minority said it was of the view that the EC was leaning towards the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) in decisions concerning the general election.

Mr Nitiwul also said the constitutional amendment would require that the two main political parties in Parliament worked together to endorse the amendment, adding that this would require two-thirds majority of the House.

The Majority Leader, Mr Alban Bagbin, admitted that there were serious constraints since the transition would have to go through the various processes.

He said the country had accepted that the elections be held on 7 November for a smooth transition to the next administration but added that the amendment process could be tedious and time-consuming.

He said there could be an emergency recall of Parliament to consider the bill’s amendment but “as it is now, it is still December 7”.

But the Electoral Commission, in a story published by the Graphic with the headline “We’re on course to hold Nov. 7 elections – EC”, says it has taken the necessary measures to ensure that the elections are conducted on 7 November.

Mr Christian Owusu Parry, the Director of Administration of EC, said the Commission had done the necessary groundwork and was confident that the general election would come off on the proposed date.

He stated that the EC had put in place programmes to ensure that the elections were held on the proposed date and what was left to be done was for the Attorney-General (A-G) to present the necessary legislation to Parliament to consider.

Owusu Parry said the Electoral Commission could not be blamed for the current controversies as it had done its work by consulting widely and gazetting the law requesting a constitutional amendment to bring the election date forward.

Meanwhile, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby, a policy analyst, has defended the EC saying it cannot be blamed for any controversies.

In a story published by the Graphic with the headline, “Wereko-Brobby defends EC on election date” he said the EC had done its work by gazetting the law requesting a constitutional amendment to amend the date.

In its story on a meeting between the EC and political parties held on Thursday, the state-owned Ghanaian Times reported that they agreed for the Commission to undertake a continuous voter registration exercise to register individuals who have attained the age of 18 years.

In view of this, the EC is currently developing modalities for the continuous voter registration exercise to begin.

Meanwhile, the EC has said its interpretation of the Supreme Court order for cleaning of the voters' register did not mean that the names of voters who used National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards to register should be removed from the register.

The Graphic reported that the decision had been greeted with mixed reactions from some political parties. While the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the People’s National Convention (PNC) backed the EC’s position, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) insisted that by its position the EC had violated the law.
-0- PANA MA 21May2016

21 may 2016 05:24:55

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