Ensuring Free and Fair Elections

The lead news item on the front page of the state-run Daily Graphic, yesterday, suggests that in his usual humility, President John Evans Atta Mills has given his word that he would supervise over free and fair Presidential and Legislative elections in December 2012.

Under normal circumstances, this assurance should sit well with all those who believe in the ballot box as the final arbiter in determining the leadership of society. As usual, those who helped to truncate our Third Republican experiment with the butt of the gun, and have spent the better part of the last two decades engaged in roof-top patronising advertisement of our Fourth Republican experiment, as if it is the perfect model for the advancement of this society are praising the Presidential declaration to the high heavens.

It is all well and good if the President could guarantee free and fair elections in our land of birth. We believe though that there are several grounds to cover before this country could truly nurture a free and fair election, as the conduct of our democratic model leaves much to be desired.

The Chronicle appreciates the fact that our nation has moved away from what is becoming a West African model of democratic dispensation, where gun-toting anarchists truncate democratic experiments, and rule with the gun as the special aide, until agitation mounts for them to vacate the scene.

The norm in West Africa is for the same dictators to simply put down their uniforms, and stage-manage processes of elections which results bear very little semblance to the wishes of the people. The transition from gun autocracy to the decision of the ballot box has come with a number of difficulties.

In 2008, for instance, over 500,000 ballots were officially declared spoilt in Ghana.  The winning margin, even with the Tain misadventure, was barely above 40,000.

The disparity in the two figures should send a message that all may not be well with our elections, and that pronouncements of free and fair elections by occupants of Government House, do not necessarily wish the many problems associated with our vote away.

We have tried, but we are still unable to prevent violence, for instance, from visiting some of our polling centres. The brutalities meted out to potential voters during the Akwatia and Atiwa bye-elections, for instance, call for more than vigilance on our part.

We do not believe that President Atta Mills was fully briefed on the situation. As at now, the National Women’s Organiser of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Anita De Soosoo who allegedly ran over human beings at a check point, and physically wounded a number of them, has still not answered for that action.

We are not iconoclastic, but The Chronicle believes that the current leadership of this nation may not be able to guarantee violence-free elections, one of the most important ingredients to ensure a free and fair vote. We recall, with a tinge of sadness, the inability on the part of the state to successfully prosecute those who murdered some traders at the Agblobloshie Market in Accra, in the aftermath of the 2008 presidential and parliamentary elections.

We do not believe the current leadership is capable of ensuring that the vote is free, with Azorka Boys and Bamba Boys breathing down the neck of the electorate. We shall be glad to be proved wrong!

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