Mrs Jean Mensah, EC boss

The Electoral Commission is to start discussions with political parties and stakeholders to reduce the voting duration by an hour as a proactive measure to reduce tension, suspicion, guarantee the security of ballot and electoral officials.

If the stakeholders agree to the proposed idea, voting in 2020 would commence at 0700 hours and end at 1600 hours instead of the usual time of 1700 hours.

Mrs Jean Mensa, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, said this in an address at the opening of a three-day workshop aimed at sharing experiences and good practices on the prevention and mitigation of election-related violence on Tuesday in Accra.

Organised by the ECOWAS and the United Nations, the meeting assembled election experts, civil society organisations and the media to discuss and suggest solutions to improve and respond to election-related violence, especially from a gender perspective.

Mrs Mensa explained that the change in time would enable early ballots counting, collation of results, and early declaration of results both at the polling stations and at the national.

“In past elections, some voters wait until the last hour before casting their votes. It results in long queues, which drag voting time into the night. This has posed and continues to pose a great danger through compromising the security of the ballot and safety of officials,” she stressed.

Sharing some other measures the EC had initiated since assumption a year ago, Mrs Mensa said the EC was working closely with the security apparatus in the country to tighten security towards all elections to prevent and mitigate violence.

Mrs Mensa said the Commission experienced its share of electoral violence since assumption and that it had taken cues from the incidence and had taken initiatives such as increasing the frequent engagement with the Inter Party Advisory Committee and other dialogue approaches to ensure a peaceful and credible election.

She expressed the hope that the recently enacted law banning political vigilantism and it related activities would see a reduction and elimination of the menace in the electoral process.

Madam Sylvia Lopez, the UN Resident Coordinator to Ghana, said the right to vote was a human right and needed to be promoted.

She said successful, credible, inclusive elections consolidated a nation’s democracy, promote human rights, foster peace and facilitate sustainable development.

Madm Lopez stated that from 2020 and 2021 there would be 10 elections in the ECOWAS region and asked countries to take and implement effective and efficient steps to ensure that all the elections were violence-free.

She called on countries to prioritise election prevention and mitigation measures adding, “that electoral violence is easy and could be achieved…but preventing electoral violence requires a well laid out and executed strategies.”

Mr Francis Gabria Oke, the Head of ECOWAS Commission, said the risk of election-related violence was particularly high in countries with systematic, longstanding and unresolved grievances, combined with a “winner takes all” approach to competitive politics.

She said the UN follows a comprehensive approach in the prevention and mitigation of election-related violence, involving mediation, good offices and electoral assistance expertise, to complement other United Nations system activities in support of peaceful transitions, democratic governance, rule of law, human rights and gender equality, including in cooperation with regional organizations.

He said, “an important feature of this broader approach is that it combines what is sometimes seen as merely “technical” electoral assistance on the one hand, and political engagement on the other hand.

While the overriding responsibility for credible and peaceful elections lies with political leaders from both government and opposition parties, Election Management Bodies (EMBs) also have an important role to play.

Source: GNA