Some registrants of the limited voter registration in the Nabdam District of the Upper East Region have been left with no option but to rely on political parties to transport them to the Electoral Commission’s office to register for their voter’s identification cards.
This is because, apart from the long distance between the various communities and the EC’s office, there are no commercial vehicles stationed at most community markets to aid in the transportation of people to the EC’s office in Nangodi.
Nangodi, which is the district‘s capital, is at the extreme end of the District, bordering Zebila in Bawku West and distant from most of the communities.
While at Gane zoorin, a suburb of the Zanlerigu community, the news team chanced upon 19-year-old Moses Mba and 21-year-old Dok Yen, who were sitting by the road with hope of getting means of transport to the EC’s office.
According to them, they had failed in their previous attempt to secure a means of transport to the registration center, but were hopeful of getting one because they had been informed by their friends about a means of transport being offered by political parties and would be around to pick people up.
However, what was surprising to note was their admission of willing to vote for any political party that helped transport them to the registration center following their struggle to get to the EC’s office.
“For me, if I don’t get the means to go, then I don’t think I can force myself to go to Nangodi by foot, but any party that takes me to Nangodi will definitely have my vote because they said they would take you there to register and they would bring you back home”, Moses Mba told the news team.
He continued, “I think it will be unfair for me to vote for a party that did not help me register for the card and rather leave the party that helped me. Come to think of it, whether NPP or NDC, nothing will change, so I don’t see the need to be biased.
Dok Yen also told the news team that “I am very interested in registering for the voter’s ID card, but the problem is how to get to Nangodi because there is no commercial vehicle from Zanlerigu to Nangodi, so even if I have money to go on my own, where is the means of transport”.
“I have written my name to join the NPP car that will be coming to pick us up, and that is why we are waiting here, but if we get means, we will go and ask for a refund because they said if we can also get means to come, they will pay for us”, he added.
Though the assertions by these two individuals may be deemed isolated, the case of political parties aiding registrants to registration centers is not limited to the Nabdam District as it cut across due to the difficulty presented to registrants.
Response by EC
The Upper East Regional Director of the Electoral Commission, William Obeng Adarkwah, acknowledged the challenges confronting registrants in the Region.
” We admit that we know our territory and we know some of the challenges that could confront a lot of people who would have loved to register”, he stated.
He, however, appealed to the political parties and well-meaning Ghanaians to help in the transportation of registrants to registration centers.
“We will urge opinion leaders, political party persons, and anybody so patriotic to assist in certain areas where they think distances are too challenging for prospective registrants to be helped in terms of transport”, he added.
Concerns by stakeholders
The Upper East Regional Dean of Presiding Members, John Apaabey, indicated earlier that the decision by the Electoral Commission (EC) to register new entrants into the voter register at its District and Municipal offices across the country will pose a lot of difficulty to registrants.
Mr. Apaabey, noted that the conduct of the exercise in District offices will disadvantage registrants from distant communities, lower the interest of registrants and would ultimately not yield the desire outcome of the exercise.
This he bemoaned would also give undue advantage to politicians to benefit from the inconvenience created by aiding new entrants throughout the registration to enable them influence their decisions in the upcoming District level elections.
According to him, three Districts in the region have since not been able to elect their presiding members due to the political interests of some Assembly members, who champion the interests of their parties rather than the communities they represent.
The National Democratic Congress (NDC) and four other opposition parties have also filed a law suit against the EC at the Supreme Court following its decision to restrict registration to only its District and Municipal offices across the country.
They argued that this decision by the EC has the tendency to deprive many eligible voters of their right to register to vote in public elections.
The Upper East Regional Deputy Communication Officer of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), Andrew Atariwini, argued that there is a need for the sovereignty of the EC to be protected.
According to him, the continued comments on the Commission’s decision over the limited registration of political parties can have dire consequences regarding their independence and have the potential to breed violence.
”We are breeding a very peaceful atmosphere with violence because the EC is an independent body that is supposed to officiate the contest between political actors,” he stated.
He added that “if political actors begin to cast doubts based on their political interests and call the EC names to erode the trust the Ghanaian people should have in the EC, then we are marked for doom.”
Challenges confronting registrants
While this debate continues about the EC’s decision to restrict registration to its district and municipal offices across the country, there is one thing that is clear: the difficulty posed to registrants.
Settlements in the Nabdam District, just like most Districts and municipalities in the upper East Region, are far apart with deplorable routes and barely without any commercial vehicles for inner movement.
This, coupled with rains in this period of the season, therefore makes it extremely difficult for most potential voters to get to the EC’s offices, mostly located in the District’s capital, to get registered.
The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensah, indicated that the Commission was hoping to register 1,350,000 new voters by the close of the registration exercise.
While the EC probably meeting this target may be considered a successful exercise as planned, it goes without saying that registrants have been subjected to undue suffering in getting registered.
Again, the system has created an undue advantage for political parties with resources to take control of registrants, which has the tendency to influence their votes in a certain direction, which otherwise would have been avoided in a decentralized exercise.
This therefore goes to defeat the principle of free and fair elections as democracy demands.
Source: A1radioonline.Com|101.1MHz|Gilbert Azeem Tiroog| Nabdam