Election 2016 has begun: Disturbing matters arising

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, December 2, 2016

Folks, the glitches that characterized today’s “Special Voting” by personnel of the security services, journalists, and officers of the Electoral Commission to be on duty on the day of general elections (Dec. 7) don’t surprise me at all. They are symptomatic of the technical problems that the Electoral Commission and voters themselves failed to tackle earlier on.

Those prospective voters whose names were not on the voters register may have a genuine cause to complain or to “verbally assault” officials of the Electoral Commission (as done by police personnel in Tema West); but the real issue is whether they participated in the exercise organized by the EC long before voting day to confirm their names and polling stations.

Had they done so, they could have detected the lapse/anomaly for the EC to solve. If they, indeed, confirmed their credentials for the election today but had their names missing from the register, then, something bad must have happened. It is not clear where the line got crooked.

The EC is claiming that the problem could be traced to the inability of the high command of the security services to provide the names of all the prospective voters as required for them to be added to the list of eligible voters in this “Special Voting” phase. Is that really true? What happened?

A more intriguing aspect of the issues characterizing today’s “Special Voting” is the behaviour of activists of the NPP, especially in Bolgatanga, where police trainees (described as recruits) were physically prevented from voting. According to the news report, the NPP activists went all out to disrupt the process and forcibly restrain the 800 recruits from voting, saying that since they were resident in the training camp in Talensi, they should rather vote there and not in Bolgatanga. Behind that action is the suspicion that the recruits were part of the NDC’s scheme of vote rigging. Unfortunate!!

How could the NPP elements know that those recruits were all NDC buffs? As indicated in the report, no one could be certain that the recruits were NDC supporters. So, what next?

Yet, another angle has emerged: “Scores of New Patriotic Party supporters have assembled at the Upper East Regional Police Headquarters in Bolgatanga to keep watch and protect ballot boxes and electoral materials used for Thursday’s special voting exercise.” (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/NPP-supporters-raise-alarm-over-ballot-boxes-safety-keep-vigil-to-offer-protection-491630).

I see nothing wrong with the vigilance that is needed to ensure that nothing weird is done to tamper with the will of the voters as far as the elections are concerned. But I have a huge beef, which I next explain to suggest that what we see the NPP camp doing is nothing “spontaneous” but premeditated as part of the broad scheme to either disenfranchise voters in areas considered to be the NDC’s strongholds or to create needless tension on account of apprehensions that the EC and the NDC are in bed to rig the elections to President Mahama’s advantage.

We have long heard from the NPP camp regarding what it will do. What happened today is just an inkling. On December 7, a lot more will happen because the NPP under Akufo-Addo is fixated on claims that Akufo-Addo’s defeat at Elections 2008 and 2012 was caused by rigging of the elections. Whatever such claims entail, they seem to be dictating the manner in which the NPP activists are positioning themselves for December 7.

I hope that they will look within their own ranks to ensure that in the party’s strongholds, nothing of the sort that they are complaining about and determined to fight against occurs. After all, clean, free, and fair general elections should give Ghana the leadership that it needs. Unfortunately, when mere unproven/unsubstantiated suspicions incite them to action, trouble looms.

Interestingly, the NDC camp hasn’t reacted in any way to happenings. Probably, a good poise and strategy to avoid needless confrontations. I am, however, apprehensive of Dec. 7 when the real “battle” is fought.

I can see the NPP deploying its so-called “Invisible (or is it “Invincible”?) Forces” all over the constituencies to do what happened today at Bolgatanga and elsewhere. That is where the danger lies, especially if they cross the line to the chagrin of the legitimate national security apparatus at the polling stations. I wish that cool heads will control the situation so ordinary Ghanaians can exercise their franchise in a congenial atmosphere devoid of the intimidation and arm-twisting that won’t improve our democracy.

The making of inflammatory utterances is a major aspect of the problems to ponder. We have heard a lot, coming mostly from the NPP camp, which isn’t really necessary. At this point, the voters might already have made their electoral decisions and should be left alone to confirm them in the ballot box. Acting on mere suspicions of impropriety and deploying party activists to foment tension and trouble won’t give the voters the push that they need to act freely in choosing their leaders.

From what happened during today’s “Special Voting”, I wonder how the EC and the leadership of the contending political parties can work together to give Ghana another respectable round of general elections on December 7.

With the NPP and its allies constantly bashing the EC (especially its Chair), the stage has already been set for more trouble, especially when the outcome of the polls doesn’t favour Akufo-Addo. I am concerned that there is so much emphasis on “rigging” when, indeed, everything points to the fact that there is no sinister plan by the EC or the NDC to subvert the voters’ will.

But need I be so much perturbed when enough has all along come from the NPP to tell the world how it intends to approach Election 2016? The NPP has already created the impression that a loss for Akufo-Addo won’t be accepted, which explains why it is using all means to portray him as the winner of elections yet-to-be-held.

(Just unpack the utterances by the Akufo-Addo lackeys like Rev. Isaac Owusu Bempah and surrogates in the chieftaincy institution, the media, and other sectors of national life). They have already put the horse before the cart and won’t accept the fact that no movement can take place once the horse jumps into that cart. In reality, the horse should be in front to drag the cart along. Not so for the NPP and its Akufo-Addo, once ensconced in its cocoon of self-righteousness and entitlement to the Presidency.

That is where the NPP’s agenda for Election 2016 has brought it. And happenings surrounding the “Special Voting” accentuate that perception. We have been given a wide window through which to view what lies ahead. I pray that commonsense will prevail so nobody flexes muscles to turn Dec. 7 into a powder keg. No more!!

I shall return…

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