If someone had assembled the world’s smartest people and given them the task to design the surest way to discredit the outcome of an impending election and stain the reputation of one of Africa’s most respected democracies, they wouldn’t have come up with anything more effective than what Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) is now doing.
IMANI’s position has been that the EC is motivated purely by the procurement of millions of dollars of needless, useless, expensive equipment for reasons best known to its commissioners. What has been impressive is how the EC has successfully manipulated the ruling party to assist in this scheme by offering them something they had always wanted: re-registration.
Because the EC’s main goal has always been the procurement opportunity, they initially offered to transfer the biographical details on the existing equipment to new equipment provided new biometric data could be captured to replace the existing. They soon realised that this would lose them both the ruling party and the opposition. The opposition wants both the biometric and biographical information transferred to new equipment, if they must be bought at all. The ruling party wants neither to be transferred at all. None of the two main parties are too concerned about the millions of dollars that will be wasted on needless equipment, though the NDC has referred to the matter occasionally. The EC did the calculation and realised that though their primary interest is the brand-new equipment, they needed “political cover” too. Hence the rather bizarre u-turns.
The last-minute decision to prevent the use of the existing voter cards clearly bears out this analysis. Remember that the EC’s initial argument was that the register had to be changed due to the obsolete and faulty equipment to which it has been tethered. When this outrageous lie was comprehensively debunked by IMANI proving conclusively that the EC’s equipment portfolio is in fact made up of mostly brand new equipment, the EC realised that they needed to abandon any pretence of sound defence and just ride the coattails of power. Who has the political power in this country but the ruling party? What does the ruling party want? A new register. What doesn’t the ruling party care about? The nearly $150 million the EC would now get the chance to spend on needless equipment and mass enrolment. Allowing the existing cards to be used would have meant a mere reproduction of the current register, which of course is anathema to the ruling party. Hence the EC’s quick backtracking and completely perverse and indefensible decision to prevent the use of birth certificates (as clear a prima facie proof of citizenship and voting age as there can be) and Voter ID cards (the only truly unimpeachable evidence of voting right/entitlement in this country).
By these strange and wholly unmeritorious actions, the current EC has succeeded in setting Ghana’s democracy back by at least a decade. Let us make no mistake about this, any court that rules that birth certificates and/or voter ID cards can be rejected for voting identification purposes shall immediately lose considerable legitimacy, dragging the Judiciary into this quagmire of democratic ruin. But should the courts restore the validity of those documents, after the EC has completed its worthless exercise of disenfranchising all current voters and re-registering them afresh for no sensible reason, the EC shall be forced to re-open registration, throwing the electoral calendar into an even worse mess than it currently is in.
Ten weeks ago, we compiled a question and answer guide to IMANI’s position on the EC’s anti-democratic posture. We strongly encourage readers to make time and go through it. Now that, against all sound logic and prudence, the EC has announced a late June timeline for the re-registration of voters, and published some completely hopeless health and safety protocols to blunt the force of criticism, we believe that we ought to update the Q&A document to cover a number of new developments. We hope that you, our readers, shall stay informed and empowered to assert your civil rights and help uphold the values of this democracy. We always welcome feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.