Voting fraud is a silent scandal, whether it is a mere suspicion or real is yet to be proved in global politics. Maybe it is one of the common characteristics of every election worldwide, from old democracies such as that of the United States of America to infant democracies in African countries. The only difference is the high level of tolerance and compromise exhibited by developed countries, while that of developing countries in Africa are resolve through civil wars or street demonstrations.
The question is, will the loser in African elections ever accept defeat graciously and congratulate the winner? Even when this is done on rare occasions, it is done through pressure from civil society, opinion leaders and the international community. It is now clear that whenever election results are about to be declared, the winner will praise the organization responsible for conducting the elections (electoral commission of Ghana) while the loser chastise and blame it for their defeat.
In 1992, the first general elections were considered as free and fair by all the observers both local and international. The opposition parties led by the NPP cry foul and went further to write a book title “The Stolen Verdict”. Both the 1996 and 2000 elections were conducted with similar sentiments. But what is more impressive and worthy of mention in these two occasions is the high level of prioritizing the national interest against group interest.
In 2004, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was the loser, and the usual response was “the elections were rigged for the NPP”. While the NDC was crying foul, the NPP was seen rejoicing all over the country. Attributing their victory to hard work and showering the electoral commission with all kinds of praises. Even though it ended up at the supreme court of the republic of Ghana, it was on a low key. With the NDC working against all odds to win the 2008 elections, the flag bearer of the NPP refused to publicly accept defeat and congratulate the NDC candidate. Do African political leaders take some pride in rejecting elections even when the process and the outcome are applauded by both the local and international observers?
Both political parties do agree with the fact that the key to victory in every election everywhere is vigilance. Hence every party is offered the opportunity to provide people that are considered to be committed and very loyal to their party to serve as agents who will monitor the whole process from the registration of eligible voters to the declaration of results at the constituency collation center in the case of parliamentary elections and at the headquarters of the electoral commission in Accra for that of the presidential. What is amazing is, these parties which are given all these opportunities tend to alleged that the process is fraud.
At what point then do the rigging do occur?
- All recognized political parties in the country are given the maximum opportunity to monitor every activity of the electoral commission from the day of registration of voters to the day the voter register was exhibited at all polling stations throughout the country.
- There were series of inter-party dialogue committee (IPAC) meetings throughout the whole election season where all political parties were fully represented and outstanding issues discussed to the satisfaction of all political parties.
- All political parties were given the opportunity to offer the necessary training to their polling agents with the professional assistance of the electoral commission to monitor the electioneering process from the printing of ballot papers to the time of the declaration of the election results. In any of these processes maximum room is given to all party representatives to voice out their reservations for quick redress before the process continues
- Other observers such as CODEO, ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) were also given the same opportunities like the political parties to ensure that nothing untoward happened that would warrant the rejection of the final outcome by any of the competing political parties.
Therefore if all these opportunities were offered to all the stakeholders and they took them seriously, where then do the electoral commission connive and compromise its position to one political party to rig the election. The various political parties in this country must be very serious and behave like groups who believe in the act of competition. In every keen competition the individual or group that is prone to little mistakes is likely to lose at the end. It means that the individual or group that does well to avoid mistakes and adhere strictly to the rules of the game will come out successful. In any case, this is a game where there is only one winner. Let the various political parties in the country be very mindful that the national interest supersede that of any individual or group, hence must prepare them psychologically to accept defeat when they are defeated for our democracy to actually get consolidated. It is embarrassing for very competent institution like the electoral commission to go through all these herculean process only to be stab on the back by people whose failure is through their own negligence.
More worrying is the case of the smaller parties whose presence is only felt in Accra, who failed to get their representatives to monitor the process only to turn round to accuse the same electoral commission simply because they also want to attract public attention. These parties only sit in Accra and monitor the process through radio stations like any other individual, but are quick to come out with horrible statements of some sorts just to let their presence be felt at the expense of the integrity of the electoral commission and the country. They must remember that elections are not won through press conferences, but through grassroots mobilization.
The 2012 elections are over, and the NPP must take stock of their positives and negatives and get themselves ready for 2016 elections. If they are able to diagnose their weaknesses very well, 2016 can be theirs for the taken; else they will be visited by another defeat more humiliating than that of the 2012.
The opportunity avails itself for them and they became more complacent, and it is gone forever. Let us not follow the footsteps of a country like Nigeria where almost all their elections ends up at the supreme court which in any of the situations never changes the outcome of the results declared by the Nigerian electoral commission.
Carlos Dawda Nasanbory