The Commonwealth Observer Group (COG) to Ghana’s 2016 elections has given thumbs up to the process but has urged political parties not to usurp the powers of the Electoral Commission (EC).
The group in a news conference addressed by its head and former President of South Africa, Mr Thabo Mbeki, urged “all parties and candidates to allow the Electoral Commission to announce the results of the election and also respect the will of the people of Ghana as expressed at the polls.”
In the spirit of the Accra Declaration signed last week, “we appeal to all Ghanaians to refrain from making any utterances or performing any acts that could trigger tensions or otherwise adversely affect the post-election environment,” he said.
The admonition followed news conferences and counter ones by the two major parties in the elections—the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), telling their supporters that they were in the position to win the elections per the figures they had.
Counter press conferences
Even before the EC announced the certified results, the two parties had been jostling to declare themselves winners, while their supporters massed up at the residences of their presidential candidates in jubilation — a situation many feared could brew tension.
In a preliminary report of the group, therefore, Mr Mbeki urged the parties and their supporters to keep calm for the EC to finish its work.
The report covered the pre-election environment, media, social media, revised legal framework for the elections, special voting, election day, the voting process and counting.
Mr Mbeki asked that any dispute that arose concerning the election should be settled through prescribed legal channels.
The COG’s position is one shared by many other observer groups, including the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), the Africa Union and the National Democratic Institute of the United States.
The COG, however, urged the EC to expedite action on the release of the results to calm the tension in the country.
Having held six successful elections since 1992, Mr Mbeki said it was the hope of the observer mission that by bringing the electoral process to a successful conclusion, Ghana would serve as an inspiration and beacon for the rising tide of democracy throughout the commonwealth.
“It is my hope and expectation that the positive, peaceful and orderly atmosphere that we all experienced on December 7, will continue to prevail as we await the conclusion of this electoral process,” Mr Mbeki said at the news conference that was also attended by Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, UN Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA).
Pre-election & election day
Taking a step back to the pre-election environment, the COG noted with interest the vibrant and largely peaceful campaign but said it was informed also about the use of vigilante groups by some political
The NDC and the NPP are known to have vigilante groups—Azorka Boys, Invincible Forces and Bolga Bulldogs— who were instruments for causing confusion.
While commending the competitive nature of the campaigns, during which candidates, political parties and supporters assembled and campaigned freely, it also commended the National Peace Council for getting the Presidential candidates to commit to peace, by signing a document to that effect, that had become known as the “Accra Declaration.”
“We commend peace messages that were conveyed ahead of the elections by several groups, including civil society groups, citizen observers and the youth.
On election Day, Mr Mbeki said majority of the polling stations opened on time and polling staff, election materials, security materials and party agents were present, except in the Jaman North Constituency, where voting had to be postponed because of a dispute over the register.
The COG leader observed that for the most part, voting followed prescribed procedures with majority of voters finding their names in the voter’s list and able to vote, while vulnerable people including pregnant women, the elderly and those with disability, received preferential treatment.
He was, however, quick to add that there were a few reported incidents that impacted on the voting process.
Mr Mbeki said counting in general followed the prescribed procedure, which included the signing of forms by party agents, as well as the posting of the official results at public place.
While it generally commended the performance of journalists as acting responsibly and the media for balanced coverage of the election, the COG which has been in Ghana since November 29, said “stakeholders informed the group that both public and private media had, in some cases, reported events inaccurately.
“There has been growing concern that a lack of regulation has led to unsubstantiated claims and counter claims from some reporters, ”Mr Mbeki said of the reportage.