Politics of Sunday, 30 December 2018
The Northern Sector Action on Awareness Centre (NORSAAC), a northern-based Non-governmental organization (NGO) has expressed concern about what it says were violations of electoral rules with impunity at last Thursday’s referenda on the creation of new regions.
“The atmosphere at the polling stations and the composure of the public officials, the electoral commission, security and the traditional authority made it too scary for citizens to attempt opposing the process hence democracy under attack,” the NGO said at a press conference in Tamale on Friday.
It noted that if what was observed is replicated in the general elections in 2020, Ghana’s credibility in the international world will be greatly affected.
The Executive Director of NORSAAC, Alhaji Alhassan Mohammed Awal said they constituted a 15-member team to observe the referenda and they visited 34 polling stations in seven districts across the two proposed regions of Savanna and North East.
He said in the Gonja and Mamprusi areas they saw “most public officials engaging in the flouting of electoral rules including wearing of YES T-shirts to the polling stations.”
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He said they observed that electoral materials were handed over to individuals without security escort while some electoral officials were also seen with electoral materials asking for directions to their assigned communities 15 minutes to the official start of polls.
According to NORSAAC, they observed that in some areas voting booths were deliberately set up for others in the queue to see how some people voted.
In terms of verification, NORSAAC said it observed that voters were properly verified and the electoral officers had manual verification forms for those who could not be verified electronically and added that the aged also had challenges being verified electronically.
They said in the afternoon of the polling day, it was observed that some electoral officers started manual verification for electorates without attempting electronic biometric verification, meaning the verification procedures were not respected at all the centres the observation team visited.
In some areas, the team observed electoral officers and security personnel openly campaigning for people to vote YES at the polling station.
The NGO said the observer team saw a presiding officer in the Central Gonja district voting six times and handed over multiple ballot papers to some voters. This, they said was observed in both the North East and the Savanna areas.
It added that Municipal and District Chief Executives (MDCEs) were spotted in campaign attires casting their vote with huge followers in “Vote Yes” T-shirts.
These officials were spotted actively campaigning at the polling stations urging the electoral officers to properly ensure that the people “vote yes” the observer team stated.
NORSAAC has therefore called for an investigation into the concerns raised in the report by the observer team and also called on the EC to address the abnormality to help avoid jeopardising future elections in Ghana.