Election 2008, a Great Challenge for
GNA Feature, By Clemence Okumah
Accra, April 29, Ghanadot/GNA -
Ghanaians would go to the polls in December this year to
elect the next President and Members of Parliament to steer
the affairs of the country.
Election 2008 is significant because it would offer the
people another opportunity to test the democratic process,
deepen and sustain the political gains made since the
inception of multi-party democracy in 1992.
With the election of flag bearers for the People' National
Congress (PNC), New Patriotic Party (NPP), Democratic
Freedom Party (DFP), National Democratic Congress (NDC), and
the Convention People's Party (CPP), all is set for the
The activities of some political parties, especially the NPP
and NDC, the two dominant parties, have caused a rise in the
country's political temperature. This is not surprising!
Since 1992, the NDC has had two four-year terms in office
while the NPP is also expected to accomplish an equal number
of years of tenure in December.
Recently, there was a confrontation between supporters of
the NDC and NPP at the residence of Sheikh Uthman Nuhu
Sharubutu, the National Chief Imam, at Fadama in Accra. The
Flag bearers of the two parties, Professor John Evans Atta
Mills of the NDC, and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the NPP,
had gone there to express their solidarity with the
religious leader and the Muslim community during the
celebration of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad.
The NDC has already expressed fears of vote rigging and
abuse of incumbency by the NPP, accusations the NPP has
The NDC has also alleged that the voters' register for some
constituencies in the Ashanti Region had been bloated,
resulting in accusations and counter-accusations by the two
These developments have occurred even when not a single
ballot has been cast, suggesting that this year's polls
would not be a child's play.
It would require tact, tolerance, and respect for rules and
regulations by all Ghanaian to ensure credible elections.
It is heart warming to note that to prevent confrontations
like the one at Fadama, the Ghana Police Service and
representatives of some political parties met in Accra and
agreed on the ground rules for the electioneering campaign
Leaders of the various contesting political parties, in
their electioneering trails, have also pledged to contribute
to free, fair and peaceful elections.
Seminars, workshops and meetings being organised by State
institutions and non-governmental organisations to sensitise
security personnel, leaders of political parties,
electorate, journalists and other stakeholders on the need
for trustworthy polls are good omen for the process.
Electoral problems should not be oversimplified since all
individuals, groups or parties have the potential of rigging
the electoral process or engaging in an electoral fraud.
An election can be marred by varied circumstances such as
undue influence by political parties in their strongholds,
location or remoteness of polling stations and the time for
dispatching electoral materials to the stations.
Others are bad weather, poor transportation network, and the
lack of adequate information on the electoral process,
intimidation of voters and negligence during vote counting,
among other things.
Politics Election Ghanaians 2 Accra
Political parties are obliged to safeguard the integrity of
the electoral process and ensure absolute transparency and
honesty during and after the polling activities as required
by the parties' code of conduct.
Political parties would be expected to restrain their
supporters from taking the law into their hands before,
during and after the polls.
They should also avoid attacks on personalities, acrimony
and animosity that could create confusion and violence
during the polls.
Instead, the parties should educate the electorate on how
their manifestoes and programmes best represent solutions to
the country's socio-economic and political problems. Thomas
Jefferson once said the best defender of democracy is an
Even though the ultimate objective of every political party
is to win political power, they should rise above parochial
interests and forestall election violence.
Political parties should continue to make good use of the
Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), which is a forum for
parties to meet with the Electoral Commission (EC) to
discuss ways of improving the electoral system.
Political parties should avoid announcing their own results
even though they could monitor and collate results to ensure
They should avoid corrupting the electoral process by
influencing voters with cash and gifts.
Leaders of the political parties should impress upon their
supporters to exercise tolerance during the election and to
restrain them from embarking on any violent behaviour.
Parties should resolve to use the legal system to resolve
any impasse that might occur before, during and after the
The promise by the EC to conduct credible election in
reaction to President John Agyekum Kufuor's appeal to the
body to ensure free and fair elections, in his address to
mark Ghana's 51st independence celebration, is worth
But the Commission should accept criticisms and suggestions
that might come from the public and parties in good faith
and to investigate complaints and allegations to create a
level playing field for all the contesting parties.
The EC's efforts to work with all political parties to
resolve the NDC allegation of bloated voters' register,
particularly in the Ashanti Region, is encouraging.
Even though traditional rulers and religious leaders are
expected to refrain from party politics because of their
unique roles in society, they should sensitise their
followers to the need for free, fair and peaceful elections.
The Judiciary must be well equipped and staffed to enable it
to expedite action on electoral disputes that might be
brought before the courts to forestall tension, confusion
Government should adequately resource the EC to enable it to
discharge its duties effectively and distance itself from
the institution to ensure its independence, transparency and
Undoubtedly, the EC is obliged to produce a reliable voters'
register, acquire sufficient expertise, structures and
materials required for the polls.
Politics Election Ghanaians 3 Accra
The media's role in an election is very vital and this would
largely depend on the effectiveness of journalists.
They would be expected to work objectively, respect the code
of ethics of their profession and to avoid misinformation,
tensions and confusion.
Media outlets should announce only election results that
would come from the EC and not from the various political
The state-owned media in particular have a constitutional
obligation in ensuring free and fair elections.
Article 55 (11) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana states
that "the State shall provide fair opportunity to all
political parties to present their programmes to the public
by ensuring equal access to the State-owned media".
The Constitution also guarantees that all presidential
candidates shall be given the same amount of time space on
State-owned media to present their programmes to the people
and every candidate for election to Parliament has the right
to conduct his or her campaign freely and in accordance with
It is refreshing that the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation
(GBC) has assured all political parties contesting the
elections of a platform to propagate their programmes and
According to the GBC, activities to be covered by Radio
Ghana and Ghana Television would be national and regional
rallies and a proposed presidential debate. All the
political parties shall also have the opportunity to
participate in Talking Point, Breakfast Show and Adult
Education programmes on Ghana Television.
The Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) would be expected to
intensify the training of media personnel on electoral
coverage to avoid drawbacks, tension and chaos during the
The establishment of guidelines for journalists for the 2008
Elections and the organisation of programmes to enhance
their capacities by the GJA are commendable.
The National Media Commission should investigate all
complaints that might be lodged against the media and apply
the right sanctions where necessary against those who
violate the GJA code of ethics.
The GJA should call its members to order in case of any
professional misconduct but must protect them from
intimidation from politicians and other powerful members of
The public should criticise the media positively to keep
journalists on their toes during the election but the media
should be offered the opportunity to operate freely,
impartially and objectively.
The Ghana Police Service and other security agencies should
put in place a special security arrangement to enable them
to deal quickly and positively with incidents, riots and
disturbances that might arise during the election.
Considering the crucial nature of this year's election, the
political parties, the Judiciary, security agencies, and
electorate and, of course, all Ghanaians would be expected
to collaborate with the EC to ensure a free, fair and
Election 2008 poses a big challenge to Ghanaians and they
should be guided by lessons from post-election chaos and
violence that engulfed some African countries.
Political violence, once it starts, becomes difficult to
stop and carries along everyone, resulting in the loss of
human lives and destruction of property and infrastructure
that are extremely difficult or impossible to restore.