TWO issues are distracting the Ghanaian general elections that are 44 days away – the disqualification of former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, of the newly formed National Democratic Party, NDP, and electronic registration of voters that went a further step by asking prospective voters to verify their details by SMS.
Ghanaians have criticised the voting verification method as unsuitable for a population with low literacy and a telephone penetration of about 30 per cent. Another criticism of electronic verification is that the SMS cost more than regular ones.
However, concerns about registration pale significantly when compared to the disqualification of Mrs. Rawlings, who the Electoral Commission, EC, said failed to fill her nomination forms properly.
The decision is a major blow for the flamboyant grandmother whose husband, Jerry Rawlings, ruled Ghana for almost 19 years.
Her departure from National Democratic Congress, NDC, which her husband founded, came after she lost the party ticket to then President John Evans Atta Mills. She stridently criticised Mills from assumption of office in January 2009 till his death last July.
Her failing to make it to the ballot paper in the coming elections, is raising questions over whether EC was following its rules or was out to get Mrs. Rawlings.
Mrs. Rawlings’ party is threatening legal action, the first heat awaiting the elections. NDP Chairman Dr Josiah Aryeh said EC contravened its own regulations by rejecting the NDP forms which it submitted before the deadline.
In the last elections, he said, EC allowed Dr. Edward Mahama of PNC to re-submit his forms long after the lapse of the EC’s official deadline.
“If there are mistakes then the NDP should be allowed to correct them, as has been the case with Dr. Edward Mahama,” the party demanded.
EC has drawn ballot for the seven parties, cleared for the presidential election.They would appear on the ballot paper in this sequence – UFP, NDC, NPP, PPP, GCPP, PNC and CPP.
Two other parties, Ghana Freedom Party, and the Yes Peoples’ Party, were also disqualified.
Work beckons for EC as the December 8 elections approach. After 20 years of democratic administrations, with seamless transitions, the world looks up to Ghana as the beacon in a continent where free and fair elections are rare.
The challenge before EC is to conduct free and fair elections. It has to consider Mrs. Rawlings’ case on its merit, if any, without reacting to blackmail, or succumbing to the influence of government.
Ghana’s sterling democratic credentials need sustenance after surviving the scary 2008 election, that Mills won with the slimmest margin to beat the candidate of the ruling party.