Monday, December 21, 2020 7:43 am
In spite of prevailing view that the recently held hotly contested Ghanaian election was free and fair, it was mired in violence, vote buying, ballot box snatching and statistical errors, fuelling rage of the leading opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which has rejected the result that gave victory to the incumbent, Nana Akufo-Addo, pushing strongly for its cancellation, writes TONY IYARE
Ghana’s main opposition party, National Democratic Congress (NDC) seems resolved to push on with its demand that the outcome of the country’s recently concluded election was marred by widespread computational errors, fuelling claims that the results were deliberately manipulated to give victory to the incumbent President and Candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Accusing the Electoral Commission (EC) of presiding over a “fraudulent outcome” in the national elections on Monday, December 7, John Dramani Mahama, presidential candidate for the centre-left NDC, has pledged to take “all legitimate steps to reverse this travesty of justice.”
“What we witnessed across the country from 7 December, 2020, exposed a deliberate plan to manipulate and pre-determine the results of the election in favour of the incumbent, Nana Akufo-Addo,” Mahama told a press conference at NDC headquarters in Accra late penultimate Thursday.
Party sources told The Africa Report that NDC lawyers were auditing the results sheets – known as “pink forms” – from the country’s 38,000 polling stations and would decide on the next steps which could include a challenge to the official results at the Supreme Court.
Mahama, 62, who was President of Ghana from 2011 to 2016, rejects the official results in both the presidential and parliamentary elections. On December 9, the EC announced that incumbent 76 year-old Akufo-Addo, flag bearer for the centre-right NPP, had won 51.6% of the votes in the presidential contest, about half of the million vote margin that brought him victory in 2016 (when he got 53.7% of the votes).
It announced that Mahama had got 47.4% of the total but he claims that the Commission had failed to respond to his party’s questions about what he says are mistakes in voter collation. Mahama also says the NDC won 140 seats in the 275 seat parliament giving it control of the Legislature.
But on December 10, the Commission announced that there was a tie in the parliamentary race with the NPP garnering 137 seats, the NDC 136 seats and an Independent MP holding the balance of power.
An undaunted Mahama says, “…if we are to progress as a nation, if we are to live up to the inheritance of our history, one for which people have paid the ultimate price – that sacred verdict to the people must be respected.”
“When in 2016 at the end of my first full term as President, I ran for re-election as an incumbent candidate,” said Mahama. “I respected the will of the people. I conceded, stepped aside and set in motion a peaceful transfer of power – because it was the will of the people.”
He also questioned the neutrality of the security forces in the election against the backdrop of mounting tensions between the two main rival parties that have exchanged batons in the corridor of power.
“Armed forces featured heavily as an intimidating measure to reverse election results,” said Mahama, “… and they continue to be used in the same intimidating role to insist on recounts in areas in which the incumbent has lost while arm-twisting election officers during these supposed recounts.”
Human Rights Activist and Senior Journalist, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, and Lawyer, Sammy Gyamfi have equally maintained that even the figures released for the different parties do not add up and show a veiled attempt to undermine the votes of Mahama while inflating that of Akufo-Addo. The EC seems to be conjuring figures that do not exist, says Gyamfi. Pratt was particularly critical of the statement by the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), which he says amounts to double speak in its attempt to deodorise the election figures. CODEO had said the Commission’s results were within an acceptable margin of error with its own parallel vote computation in all 275 constituencies.
Marred by Violence
Against the prevailing view that the election was generally violence free, Ghana’s Police said there were over 60 incidents on polling day, adding that 21 were “true cases of electoral violence, six of which involved gun shots resulting in the death of five people.” The deaths were recorded in Odododiodo in Greater Accra Region, Techiman South Constituency in Bono East Region and Savelugu Constituency in the Northern Region.
Pratt who accused the EC of playing down the violence in its report says there were 235 recorded incidents with five dead and several persons injured..
“It is so annoying and heartbreaking and it gets worse when the Electoral Commission chairperson can actually open her mouth and say that the elections were peaceful when you have reported cases which is 235, you have 5 people dead and many others injured.
I’m disgusted by this complete lack of feeling. She was able to give a comprehensive report on the election without mentioning violence, without showing sympathy to the victims of violence and without expressing her condolence to the bereaved families and so on. I am disgusted by this development. Even if the results she presented were valid, credible and so on this omission is a serious omission.
“It means we are beginning to accept violence as the norm. We are beginning to accept the death of innocent people as the norm and this devalues our democracy and this places a huge dent on the democratic experiment. And I am worried, ashamed, down hearted. What is this?” He lamented
Election observers also reported violent incidents in the Ashanti, Central, and Greater Accra regions. In the early hours of December 11, the NDC MP for Keta, Kwame Gakpe, was attacked by unknown gunmen in his house at Anlo-Afiadenyigba, according to the Volta Region chapter of the party. Gakpe has since been hospitalised with gunshot wounds, say NDC officials who blame the attack on armed supporters of the ruling NPP.
Heading to Supreme Court
Should the NDC challenge the NPP’s victory in the presidential elections in the Supreme Court it would be a role-reversal of the 2012 elections when the NPP candidate Akufo-Addo challenged the Electoral Commission’s announcement that then incumbent had won the majority of votes.
According to The African Report, Akufo-Addo’s challenge, backed by an extensive team of lawyers, went on for eight months with much of the testimony televised for all Ghanaians to see. It was praised by civic activists as a stress test for Ghana’s political system. In the end Akufo-Addo said he accepted, but didn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s majority decision in favour of Mahama.
Legal analysts in Accra says the lessons of the 2012 Supreme Court case suggest that Mahama and the NDC will have an uphill battle to overturn the Electoral Commission’s results this year. The NDC and any other complainants have three weeks to file a petition to the Supreme Court.
Second Term Victory
Akufo-Addo, 76, who has been returned as President for the second term, polled 6,730,413 votes representing 51.6 per cent to beat main opposition leader, Mahama, 62, of the NDC who polled 6,214,889 votes representing 47.4 per cent in the December 7 presidential poll, according to Ms Jean Adukwei Mensa, EC chairperson and returning officer of the Presidential elections.
This is the third time the two leaders have met in elections after 2012 and 2016.
Mr Mahama secured victory in the 2012 Presidential election but failed to secure a second-term in office after he was trounced by Nana Akufo-Addo by more than one million votes.
A further breakdown of the election outcome shows that incumbent President, Akufo-Addo, was victorious in eight of the 16 regions in Ghana. On the other hand, former President Mahama equally won in the rest eight regions of the country.
While announcing the results, Ms Mensa, disclosed that the announced results did not take into account figures from Techiman South following conflicting accounts and disputes in the area.
According to the EC boss, the total votes in the constituency where there was dispute is 128,018, stressing that this figure would not alter the outcome of the election as already announced.
The Electoral Commission has also dismissed claims by the NDC that it is scheming to deactivate data on the 2020 polls on the Biometric Verification Devices in order to cover-up alleged fraud in the elections.
The NDC at a press conference in Accra Thursday said the EC had sent soldiers to take custody of the BVDs in the Zabzugu constituency as the party challenges the outcome of the parliamentary polls in the area.
However, in a statement, the EC said: “these assertions are false”. The EC noted the BVDs are being kept to preserve the sanctity of the data on them.
EU EOM Report
Although the European Union Election Observer Mission (EU EOM) report says, the 2020 elections “were organised in an efficient and transparent manner, and voters participated freely,” it also indicate that, “A few isolated violent incidents occurred, and numerous stakeholders expressed deep apprehensions about the possible use of vigilante groups by political parties. Unregulated political finance, misuse of state resources and numerous instances of vote-buying resulted in an unlevel playing field.”
Conceding that, “Ghana’s vibrant and diverse media sector provided voters with sufficient information on both major competing parties and their candidates,” the EU says,. “However, state media favoured the ruling party and its presidential candidate who received extensive coverage at government inaugurations.”
“The media reported freely on the elections in a polarized environment. State-owned GTV favoured the NPP in its election-related coverage. Furthermore, the ruling party and its presidential candidate benefited from extensive additional coverage on GTV, Uniiq FM and in the Daily Graphic through news and live broadcasts of government inaugurations. Various private media analysed by the EU EOM showed biased coverage in favour of the NPP (UTV, The Chronicle, Daily Guide) or the NDC (Adom FM and Joy FM).
“Voting on election day was well managed, voters were able to freely express their will, party agents were present in almost all polling stations and integrity measures for the identification of voters were respected. However, the secrecy of the vote was not always ensured, mainly due to poor layout of polling stations. Counting was transparent although procedures were frequently not followed, and party agents received signed copies of the result forms. Collation was less well organised but key transparency measures were adhered to. Domestic observers contributed to the transparency and credibility of the process.
“The EC completed technical preparations for the elections in a timely manner and EU EOM observers assessed the EC’s national, regional and district structures as competent, well resourced and transparent. The appointments mechanism, whereby all seven EC members are selected by the President for an indefinite tenure without consultation with the opposition, is not inclusive and does not build confidence
Women are significantly underrepresented in political life: the New Patriotic Party (NPP) fielded only 24 female candidates while the NDC ran with just 22 in 275 constituencies. Perceived traditional roles of women, and, often, a lack of financial resources, contribute to the problem. On a positive note, for the first time one of the two main parties’ presidential candidates (NDC) chose a woman as running mate.
.“The highly competitive and often confrontational campaign was dominated by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the NPP and opposition candidate, former president John Dramani Mahama (NDC). Due to COVID-19, large rallies were often replaced by smaller outdoor events and more frequent door-to-door visits.
“Campaign freedoms were broadly respected, but tensions were heightened over potential election-related violence associated with vigilantism. Misuse of state resources created an uneven playing field. Vote-buying by both the NPP and NDC was reported by civil society to be widespread.
“Constantly increasing costs of and unlimited spending on running election campaigns are a matter of concern. There are no limits on contributions or on spending, resulting in a lack of transparency and accountability around political and campaign funding. The EC did not enforce parties to comply with legal requirements on financial reporting. This further limits public scrutiny and transparency of political and campaign finance,” the EU said..
Iyare, a Communications & Development Consultant is also an International Relations Analyst
This report was culled from the National Democratic Report (NDR)