National Coordinator of CODEO, Albert Arhin
The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has urged the Electoral Commission (EC) to go ahead to conduct elections with the old voter register if the current raging COVID-19 prevents it from compiling a new one ahead of election 2020.
The EC has suspended its planned compilation of a new voters’ register after the president’s directive of a ban on public gatherings as part of efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.
According to the National Coordinator of CODEO, Albert Arhin, the EC may run out of options due to the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic and the impact it is likely to have on the compilation of a new register.
Speaking in an interview, Mr. Arhin mentioned that all other things being equal the EC may have to settle on the old voter’s register.
“Even if this thing subsides and there is not ample evidence to show clearly that it is gone, then definitely there is going to be some opposition facing the EC. So it is not going to be easy at all. If we are not able to do the election, there might be a constitutional crisis. But I think by now, constitutional experts are thinking of a way out. The other option is that, if the compilation is not able to take place then maybe, they could use the old register. But even there, how do you conduct the election if the pandemic hasn’t abated maybe by September or thereabout. It is readily even dicey because the owners of the register don’t want to use it so maybe a way has to be found to do the new register.”
Meanwhile, former president of the Ghana Bar Association and senior legal practitioner, Sam Okudzeto has said that the EC can continue with the registration in areas outside the lockdown.
“Our cases of the Coronavirus are not as dramatic as it is in many countries which means that we only have few pockets in the two big municipalities and few of the smaller ones. Since the lockdown is not the whole of Ghana, the EC should start the registration in areas where there is no lockdown,” he said.
But Mr. Arhin believes the proposal of Sam Okudzeto is not feasible considering the disregard for social distancing protocol and the safety precautions by some Ghanaians.
“The problem I envisage is the way the Ghanaian is going to conduct himself or herself. Look at the food that we are distributing, the queues, pandemonium, panic, and the rush, so if it is going to be done areas that have not been affected, my problem is how the Ghanaian is going to behave in the rush to get registered. That is the fear that I have. If in those areas they are going to adhere by keeping the distances, then probably they can go ahead and do it. But where is the guarantee that there is not going to be a stampede? It’s really a dicey issue.”
The Unsteadiness of the New Voters register
The Electoral Commission announced April 18, 2020 as the date to begin processes to compile a new voter register after it has said that the old voter register was met with some inconsistencies.
According to the EC, the new system would have a key feature of facial recognition option in addition to fingerprint verification to better address verification challenges that could occur during the elections.
The suspension of the register makes the conduct of the December 7, 2020 polls uncertain as many of the electoral processes and activities to the build-up of the elections have been put on hold until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No new date has since been announced for the registration exercise after the suspension was announced in March 2020.