Election Campaign and Political Participation
The election campaign was highly active, with political parties and candidates holding rallies and meetings across the country, and utilizing poster campaigns and TV advertising extensively, and with the Presidential aspirants engaging in a number of substantive debates. Overall the campaign was largely peaceful, though characterized by the sometimes fierce rivalry between the two largest parties and some isolated incidents were reported.
The Kumasi Peace Declaration was a very positive initiative and all candidates are to be commended for their endorsement of it. While the various peace campaigns are highly welcomed, their perceived need reflects a lingering fear of violence and uncertainty linked to elections in Ghana, which is unfortunate. These fears are exacerbated by the continuing use of so-called “macho men” by political parties, and the perception of impunity for those responsible for election-related violence. While all stakeholders have a role to play in addressing these issues the political leadership on all sides and at all levels must look to themselves in this regard. Elections need not and should not be a time of fear and uncertainty.
The Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) provides a useful consultative mechanism between the EC and political parties and other stakeholders and contributes greatly to the level of confidence in the process, ensuring parties and other stakeholders are involved in most aspects of the process.
There is a vibrant media in Ghana and a comprehensive coverage was provided with a variety of voices and perspectives offered, though media in general provided the bulk of coverage to the two largest parties. There was allegedly some provocative commentary on some radio programming. It was also alleged to our team that there were misuses of incumbency. Such practices were also reported in past elections and need to be addressed where they occur.
More than 50% of the population is female yet the level of women’s representation as candidates is extremely low, which is disappointing. None of the Presidential candidates was a woman; though three of the running mates were. Further, only some 10% of the parliamentary candidates were women, and the level of women’s representation in the new parliament could be very low. The nature of politics in Ghana, and the lack of willingness of parties to proactively promote women’s participation, serve as a barrier to women’s participation in political life in Ghana.
Voting, Counting and Results
On Election Day Commonwealth teams reported a largely peaceful process and in the majority of cases it was well managed and voters were free to exercise their right to vote. There were delays in some areas, including Accra, and in a limited number of instances this even went on for quite a few hours. However, the people remained patient as they awaited the start of polling.
The layout of stations varied, and was not always conducive to proper scrutiny and control by poll officials. Further, in many instances, and notably the larger more crowded polling places, voters had trouble identifying their correct polling place. This was particularly so when stations were sub-divided by alphabetical groupings. It is unfortunate that some voters were inconvenienced or even disenfranchised due to such confusion. Proper and timely signage plus the provision of adequate numbers of staff to manage the queues and direct voters to their right lines would help address this problem.
Party agents were present in virtually all stations, providing for transparency and accountability. However, in some instances they played an intrusive role and even were involved in administering the process. Prior to the election, there was concern at the number of underage persons registered to vote, but our teams did not find this to be a problem on the day.
The regulations required that voters had to be verified by their finger print to be allowed to vote. This is a stringent requirement, particularly as the voter details and photos were clearly on the register and on their voter card. This stringent requirement meant that the verification machines had to work as there was no fall-back option. While they did in the vast majority of cases there were also quite a number of cases where problems occurred. This resulted in serious frustration for voters and poll officials alike and to the re-scheduled polling in some 431 polling stations.
The vote count at the polling stations was transparent, with party agents able to follow the process closely. This was also the case during the tabulation process. At the polling station level party agents were able to get a copy of the result and could therefore check and verify the results later tabulated and announced at the constituency and national levels. Results from polling stations and constituencies were also broadcast extensively on TV, radio and online, enabling people to follow on an on-going basis as the final results of the 2012 election were calculated.
Accra, 9 December 2012