THE Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, has urged the leadership of the political parties to call their people to order by ensuring that they do not engage in acts that can mar the electoral process and the elections.
She said the fact that the country had had six successful elections should not be the basis for complacency to say that nothing could happen.
Mrs. Osei was speaking in Accra yesterday at a Colloquium on Peaceful Elections in Ghana and under the theme, ‘Reducing the incidence of violence in election 2016 and beyond’.
According to Mrs. Osei, the pockets of violence which characterised the voter registration exercise, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the country, chieftaincy disputes and drug-related activities, among others had created a high volatile atmosphere which Ghanaians must be worried about.
Certainly, the Electoral Commissioner said these were things that the public had to be worried about but assured of her outfit’s determination to discharge their duties satisfactorily towards credible and peaceful election.
She described the forum as very critical to discuss issues of importance for the survival of the country by ensuring that it remained peaceful beyond the general elections.
She said the Commission had slated Thursday, December 1, for security personnel, the media and those having roles to play in the forthcoming general elections, to cast their votes in a special exercise.
Mrs. Osei was enthused about the determination of the security services towards the elections, saying “security has become an integral part of the electoral process”.
She, however, urged the security agencies to ensure that the electorate was allowed to vote without any intimidation, noting that elections are contests of ideas and not war”.
The Chairperson indicated that the EC had identified 81 out of the 275 constituencies as flashpoints saying it would require the support of all including the political parties to ensure peaceful elections.
In the quest to reduce long queues at the polling centres, she stated that the commission had increased the polling centres to reduce the number of voters and long queues.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Inspector General of Police, John Kudalor said the National Election Security Task Architecture was activated early this year to plan for the successful elections.
Commissioner of Police, Prosper Kwame Agblor, Director-General of the Criminal Investigations Department who delivered the address, said the overall objective of the taskforce was to provide a forum for security agencies to impartially deal with all election security-related issues in a coordinated manner.
On the vigilante groups, he said, the services believe that militant posture alone cannot resolve the vigilante issues, as the groups were likely to lie low only to resurface.
He said there was the need to resolve not to employ the services of such groups at any time, before, during and after the elections.
‘The IGP dialogue series is aimed at holding discussions with stakeholders to appreciate their concerns over preparations elections 2016 thereby building confidence between security agencies and all stakeholders towards achieving peaceful elections,’ he said.
The Chief Justice, Georgina Theodora Wood said there was the need to find a lasting solution to the pockets of violence that break up before, during and after the presidential and parliamentary elections.
‘It is the responsibility of all the stakeholders in the elections who have assembled here to find the root causes for the misunderstanding that give way to violence in our elections and address them accordingly,’ she said.
She said magistrates and Judges had received training on electoral laws in the country with support from the Department for International Development, and that steps were being taken to revise an electoral manual.
‘All magistrates, circuit judges and high court Judges have been trained to effectively and expeditiously handle all electoral offences that may come up before, during and after the elections.”
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary General and Head of the UN office for West Africa and Sahel, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas urged political parties to desist from attacks on personalities and focus on relevant issues affecting the life of Ghanaians.
‘The election campaign should be an opportunity to debate issues and perspectives instead of trading insults, invectives, use of hate speech or language likely to ferment bitterness, rancour or violence,’ he said.
He stated that excessive economic inequality and corruption could produce high level of discontent and clear grievances among marginalised groups.
According to Dr Chambas, high levels of economic inequality often go hand in hand with unemployment among youths feeling disenfranchised, who were susceptible to recruitment with the intent of forming violence or threatening opponents.
By Francis Asamoah Tuffour