Opinion: The experiences of a young Ghanaian election monitor yesterday

by Seini Rashad

Ghana, blazes the trail, among other things, when it comes to democracy in Africa. Having successfully conducted six elections since 1992 which, have thus far, have resulted in two peaceful transitions between the two biggest parties in the country: the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

This year’s election is a little different mainly because, for the first time in Ghana’s history, in order to promote transparency and avoid fraudulent voting, a biometric system has been implemented in the voting process requiring scans of voters’ finger prints for registration as voters and for verification of their identities at polling stations during voting.

The 2012 general elections in Ghana started on Tuesday, 4th December, 2012 with the special vote session (mainly, for elections officials) and on Friday, 7th December, 2012 for the general public in various states across the nation, with certain polling stations opening at the scheduled 7:00am for voting to commence, and others being delayed for various reasons. Generally, the start was quite peaceful as elections in Ghana have come to be recognised for.

However, as is common with elections in Africa, it has not been without its share of problems: Some polling stations in Osu, Spintex Road and Adabraka (all in Accra) had late starts due to a delay in the arrival of ballot boxes. During the election, the process got greatly slowed down due to malfunctions in the machinery for verifying voters’ identities in many places including Ablekuma, Ridge Church on the Spintex road in Accra and some parts of Tamale as well. It is alleged someone went as far as stealing verification machines from a polling station in Tamale central.

Most of the electoral results that trickled in at the end of the day were not surprising, as strongholds of the various parties showed loyalty to their respective parties. The Volta region voting massively for the NDC and the Ashanti region voting just as passionately in favour of the NPP. Incidentally, there was some unrest in Kumasi, the capital of the Ashanti region, where a young man was nearly beaten to death over allegedly snatching ballot boxes at the Ayeduase polling station; reports of a death at Ahwiaa in Tafo Pankrono of the Ashanti region; and some reports of stolen ballots in Bantama, also in the Ashanti region all added to the disquiet in the region.

In other parts of the country, there were diverse reports of election-time anomalies concerning mayhem in places like Suhum; thugs attacking party offices in Amasaman; incidences of the use of tear gas in Ablekuma north; a District Chief Executive (DCE) arrested in Walewale; a party agent sacked by the Electoral Commission at St. Benedict polling station; attacks on the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) headquarters among other such reports.

All in all, some of the problems derailed the process so badly that elections had to be suspended till the next day, Saturday, 8th December, 2012 in some constituencies like Akuse in Akosombo. For security of ballot boxes, the Electoral Commission directed that the ballot boxes be kept in police custody in the various police stations located in the affected regions till the next day when elections would resume.

This didn’t much affect the majority of the country though, and people were able to exercise their franchise, some going as late as 23:00GMT before closing. Naturally, some results were leaked from some of the polling stations, and most of them, including those from Bantama and the Volta region, were verified, each causing a great stir of hope for either one or the other of the major parties whose strongholds they are. Parliamentary elections from such places as Akatsi south, Ningo Prampram and Efutu of the Central region have so far been confirmed showing that the NDC have retained their seat in Ningo Prampram but their incumbent in Efutu, Mike Hammah has lost his seat to his opponent from the NPP, Alex Markin.

At the time of writing this, information from the various regions indicated that a total of 193 out of the 275 constituencies have declared their results as follows:

Northern region, with a total of about 1.2 million potential votes have 18 out of 31 constituencies’ results declared.
Ashanti region, with a total of about 2.5 million potential votes have 40 out of 47 constituencies’ results declared.
Greater Accra region have 17 out of 34 constituencies’ results declared.
Eastern region have 24 out of 33 constituencies’ results declared.
Western region have 19 out of 26 constituencies’ results declared.
Brong Ahafo region have 23 out of 29 constituencies’ results declared.
Central region have 14 out of 23 constituencies’ results declared.
Volta region have 25 out of 26 constituencies’ results declared.
Upper East region have 3 out of 15 constituencies’ results declared.
Upper West region have 10 out of 11 constituencies’ results declared.

Judging from the current trends, the remainder of votes expected from the Ashanti region and the Northern region most likely will create a tie between the two major parties, and so, make a run-off election between only those two parties necessary to break the deadlock.

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