Punish Offending Presiding Officers

MINGLEVictor Adawudu, a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) legal team for the 2012 presidential election petition has called for the strict enforcement of regulations to punish presiding officers who fail to perform their required functions during elections.

That way, he said presiding officers would be alert to diligently perform, knowing that any slip would attract sanctions.
He cited as improper the failure of some presiding officers to sign results sheets in the last general election, as manifested during the election petition hearing, adding that the regulation should be enforced.

Mr. Adawudu made the suggestion at a post-election workshop organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs at Akosombo in the Eastern Region at the weekend.

It had the theme, “Towards transparent and acceptable elections in Ghana: a review of Ghana’s electoral system,” and was attended by leaders of the political parties, legal practitioners, media practitioners, and biometric data experts.

Article 49(3) of the Constitution and Regulation 36 of Constitutional Instrument (CI) 75 provide that after the counting of votes, the Presiding Officer and the candidates who are present or their representatives “shall sign the declaration of poll.

Also Regulation 17(5) of CI 75 states that,  “A presiding officer or polling assistant who contravenes  the laws governing the conduct of elections, commits an offence and is liable to sanctions applicable under the electoral laws of Ghana.”
In that regard, Mr. Adawudu wants full sanctions to be applied to check negligence on the part of the presiding officers.

Mr Kofi Portuphy, Coordinator, a National Vice Chairman of the NDC, touching on the training for officers manning the elections, called for a common training platform for all the security personnel, polling assistants, presiding and returing officers, and party polling agents.

He said that, he would provide a common understanding of the election process among all the stakeholders  to effectively and efficiently manage the system at the polling stations.

He said the current situation where training is offered by the Electoral Commission for the various groups separately, “is not the best”.

“Let us give all of them one training so that all the officers and agents would have a common understanding of what needs to be done,” he said, adding that when that happens there would be harmony and peer checking at the polling stations.

Mr Dan Botwe, Member of Parliament for Okere and former General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party, spoke against violence at polling stations saying the law should be amended to take into consideration violent actions that could have an effect on the results of the polls.

He wondered whether it was not possible to have the results of a polling station that witnessed violence, nullified.
But that suggestion ignited a heated debate, with some cautioning that it was a dangerous thing to do because the threshold for the extent of violence would be difficult to determine.

Others believed that such a move could attract legal action because somebody’s violent act should not nullify another innocent person’s vote.

Mr Atik Mohammed, a policy analyst of the People’s National Convention, believed that any breach of peace and the election process should be handled by the security agencies present at the polling station.

With regard to the cleansing of the voters’ register of minors, Mr Gabriel Pwamang, General Secretary of the PNC, who was the lead discussant, recommended that the EC be empowered to seek legal permission to delete the names of clearly identified minors from the register.

Dr. William Ahadzie, former Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority (NIA), touching on the authentication of biometric data in the voters’ register, said it was possible for the EC to access the data of the NIA to verify data provided by voters.     –   Edmund Mingle, Akosombo

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