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Hands off Electoral Commissioner; leave her alone to do her work for the common good

Charlotte Osei,Ghana Electoral Commission Chair
Charlotte Osei,Ghana Electoral Commission Chair

Poor Madam Charlotte Osei, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission; her life as boss of the agency charged with ensuring free and fair elections in Ghana, has been nothing short of hellish. Indeed, her brief tenure has been laced with suspicion and mistrust.

Ever since she was picked to succeed the much abused and maligned Dr. Afari Gyan, Madam Osei has come under a barrage of attacks from the usual suspects. All manners of accusations have been leveled against her and they run the gamut from her being an enabler of the ruling NDC to her being incompetent to head the electoral agency. Suffice it to say that Madam Osei is facing a mountain of doubt as we inch closer to November.

Not unexpected, Madam Osei is not taking the accusations lightly. She has pushed back hard against her critics, rebutting their charges at every opportunity. In addition,  she is trying mightily to reassure Ghanaians that none of the accusations is true, that she is not beholden to any political entity and that she is up to the task of seeing to it that Ghanaians vote free and fairly for their political representatives.

Which brings us to the question of whether or not the Electoral Commission is free to discharge its duties without due interference from political parties? The commission is required by law to be independent so as to repel any semblance of inappropriateness and to swat away charges of being in the pockets of political parties.

I believe that the commission is fiercely independent and very capable of fending off pressure or attempts to influence its decisions. As a matter of fact, its fortunes are not tied to either the ruling party or to any other political party for that matter. The only entity the commission is obligated to, is Ghana and her 27 million citizens.

And, of course, our constitution explicitly defines the role of the electoral commission as an independent electoral arbiter. To insinuate or intimate as Madam Osei’s legion of critics are doing that the commission is in bed with a political party sorely misses the point.

While my sympathies clearly go Madam’s Osei’s way because she is being ganged up on and savaged from all angles, she has certainly not helped her cause with some of the decisions she took, that by and large, emboldened her detractors.

One issue her critics latched on to was the voters register which they described as bloated and replete with non Ghanaian names. Subsequently, they called on her to revise the register if only to show the whole nation that it had not been tampered with. But the commissioner stood her grounds; she insisted that the register was faultless and stubbornly refused to cave in to pressure.

I think Madam Osei should have demonstrated real leadership by rising above the fray. At least, she could have met her critics halfway by opening the register up for scrutiny by independent groups.

The other issue that galled critics is the commissioner’s recent decision to set up a steering committee to help the electoral commission run a free and fair election in November. Suspicions were immediately raised because some members of the committee were deemed to be sympathizers of the NDC.

Questions that immediately come to my mind are: is the electoral commission incapable of running the November elections all by itself? And what specialty or expertise do members of the steering committee bring to the table?

It was indeed baffling the commissioner when pressed about the relevance of the committee said it had been suspended only to come back later and say it has been reconstituted.

However, no matter how naive Madam Osei may have been vis a vis the voters’ register and the steering committee, the din being generated by a gaggle of pressure groups, opposition parties and others about the electoral commissioner and the agency should concern all progressive Ghanaians.

The behavior of the critics was predictable; it is an open secret that they have an agenda and who else to beat up but the person in charge of the instrument that would conduct the elections and declare the winner in 2016.

One thing is clear; the critics are deliberately planting seeds of doubt and suspicion in the minds of millions of Ghanaians about the integrity of the electoral process. Should there alleged electoral malpractices in November, Madam Osei and her agency would immediately become targets of abuse and vitriol. More importantly, the nation will be held hostage by a few disgruntled politicians who would think the elections have been stolen right from under their nose.

All told, Ghanaians have to tread carefully. There is a lot at stake here. The integrity of the electoral commission should be preserved at all cost and in line with that Madam Osei should be left alone to discharge her duties. Should she be found wanting, the government can show her the door. Until then, let us all throw our weight behind the agency and Madam Osei for the common good of the nation.



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