No sign of violence – Commonwealth Observers

Kamalesh Sharma

Kamalesh Sharma, Commonwealth Secretary-General

The Commonwealth Observer Group has stated pre-election observation has not picked any signal of major threat to peaceful elections on December 7.

“All the seven presidential candidates contesting the election have demonstrated strong commitment towards peaceful, transparent and credible polls,” Mr Thabo Mbeki, former South African President who is leading a17-member Eminent Commonwealth Observer Group, stated in Accra.

Speaking at a press conference in Accra, former President Mbeki noted that the overwhelming impression across the country was a total commitment from all stakeholders including the political parties, Electoral Commission, National Commission for Civic Education among others towards a peaceful election.

The former South African President said the Observer Team had a sense of unity to undertake credible elections and the people were generally committed to resort to legal means to redress disputes.

“This is a general indication that Ghana is indeed providing leadership and strong signal to deepen multi-party democracy in Africa and across the Commonwealth,” he said.

Mr. Mbeki noted that the Commonwealth was convinced that Ghana would live up to expectations and demonstrate democratic leadership.

The Commonwealth Observer Group made up of Eminent Persons from across the different regions of the Commonwealth including Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the Pacific are in the country to observe Ghana’s Election 2016.

Some of the leading members include Dr Lesley Clark, Gender Expert from Australia, Shahreen Tilottoma, Youth Expert from Bangladesh, Josephine Tamai, Chief Elections Officer from Belize, and Pandu Skelemani, a former Foreign Minister of Botswana.

Mr Mbeki said the team deployed across the ten regions through sampling system with strategic dimension of urban/rural divide, would observe the polls to ensure fair report based on broad observations.

He said the team, as part of the observation process has met the two leading presidential candidates.

The Commonwealth Group of Experts will be in small teams to observe preparations ahead of the polling day and would meet with political parties, the police, election officials and other stakeholders to discuss best practices.

“On Election Day, they will observe the opening, voting, closing, counting and the results management processes.

“We will issue an interim statement on our preliminary findings on December 9, 2016 and a final report will then be prepared and submitted to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, and subsequently shared with relevant stakeholders and the public,” Mr Mbeki said.

The group is expected to leave Ghana on December 13, 2016.

Mr Mbeki explained: “We are here to observe the electoral process and will act impartially and independently as we scrutinise its organisation and conduct.

“We will seek to assess the pre-election environment, polling day activities and the post-election period against the backdrop of Ghana’s national legislation, regional and international commitments.

“We will then take a view whether it has been conducted to the international and regional standards to which Ghana has committed itself, including its own laws.

“In this context, we look forward to the presidential candidates reaffirming their commitment to peaceful elections,” Mr Mbeki said.

The group also planned briefings with wide range of stakeholders including the Electoral Commission, political parties, local observers, women’s groups and the youth.

On the Accra Peace Declaration signed by the seven presidential candidates, Mr Mbeki lauded the process and commended Ghana for the initiative.

The presidential candidates through the declaration had promised to respect the political ethics by conducting peaceful campaigns and advising their supporters to stay away from any form of violence.

The candidates also pledged their commitment during a Public Re-affirmation of Declaration against Electoral Violence, Impunity and Justice Forum organised by the National Peace Council, National House of Chiefs and the United Nations.

They signed a declaration to accept the outcome of the December 7 polls, advise their supporters against the use of violence and to conduct their campaigns peacefully.

GNA

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