Observer groups from the Economic Community of West African States and the Commonwealth have given kudos to the Ghanaian government for its conduct of the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.
In preliminary reports released by the groups on Wednesday, the election was described as generally free, fair, transparent, and credible.
“The vast majority of the qualified population, who wished to do so, were provided the required space to exercise their constitutional rights to vote,” the ECOWAS stated in its report.
President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party was re-elected for a second term in the December 7 election where he polled 6,730,413 votes (51.59 per cent) to defeat his closest challenger and former president John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress who got 6,240,889 votes (47.36 per cent).
According to Jean Mensah, the chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, the total number of valid votes cast at the election was 13,434,574, representing 79 per cent of the total registered voters.
The ECOWAS mission was led by Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the former president of Liberia, and comprised 125 observers including delegations drawn from the West African Ambassadors accredited to ECOWAS, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, and the ECOWAS Community Parliament.
The mission’s preliminary report noted that the electoral campaigns were largely based on issues and presentations of the manifestoes of the political parties, and that except in some cases, the media were non-partisan and provided a level playing field to the parties to propagate their messages.
It also noted that there was a high presence of women and youth as voters and polling/party agents.
“Overall, the political parties and their followers respected the prohibition of the display of party colours and symbols in and around polling stations on election day,” the report stated.
“At the stations visited during the opening of polls, Polling Officials largely maintained order, particularly with the support of the security on duty. Voters in queues comported themselves and stayed calm until they had their turn, except in a few places that experienced initial chaos, but the situation stabilized gradually with time.
“Also, arrangements were made in polling stations to facilitate and ease the voting by vulnerable individuals such as the physically challenged, the aged, pregnant women and mothers with infants and young children.
“Despite the few challenges observed, voters exhibited maximum patience and perseverance in their determination to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities.
“The polling officials demonstrated adequate professionalism in carrying out their duties and responsibilities while party agents ably watched over their party and candidates’ interests.”
In his interim statement after the election, Emmanuel Ugirashebuja, the chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, commended the staff of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, polling officials, and other institutions for the conduct of the election.
On election day, Mr Ugirashebuja said, the majority of polling stations opened on time and were equipped with requisite polling staff and material.
“The procedures for the opening of the polls were generally followed,” said Mr Ugirashebuja, who is the president of the East Africa Court of Justice.
“We were impressed by the professionalism, confidence, and enthusiasm of polling officials. Issues that were observed, such as delays or missing materials, were usually resolved efficiently.
“Police presence at polling stations was generally visible, non-threatening and impartial.”
Mr Ugirashebuja said the Commonwealth group observed COVID-19 ambassadors at all polling stations and that, by and large, voters’ temperature was checked and voters were required to wash and/or sanitise their hands before voting.
“While most voters complied with the insistence on the wearing of masks, social distancing was not consistently observed in the queues,” he said.
“Closing procedures were transparent, with presiding officers and polling officials predominantly conducting the process in a careful manner and in accordance with prescribed procedures. Where they were requested to do so by party agents, presiding officers conducted recounts and the results announced at polling centres were generally agreed to by all party agents.”
The observers, however, noted several challenges during the election. For instance, the conduct of voting in the open led to strong winds, sometimes, disturbing the polling booths and electoral material. The group encouraged the Electoral Commission of Ghana to consider acquiring suitable tents or placing voting booths in suitable enclosures away from the elements.
“The group observed that the increase of multiple streams in polling stations led to some confusion about where voters were to vote from due to the absence of adequate signage at the polling stations.
“Although the elderly, unwell or disabled voters were provided facilities to sit or vote quickly, we observed that pregnant women or mothers with infants were not accorded similar facilities.
“All the polling stations visited were outside and the counting of votes continued after dark. The group observed that there was a lack of adequate lighting in all the polling stations visited and polling officials had to improvise by using cellular phone torches and vehicle headlamps. We urge the Electoral Commission of Ghana to provide requisite lighting materials to polling stations in future elections.”
Similarly, the ECOWAS mission said they noted a few isolated incidents that could have marred the smooth and peaceful conduct of the polls.
“They include the following issues around the strict respect for the secrecy of vote in some few polling stations visited; there was a case of double voting at Standards Education Centre Polling Centre at Asylum Down, Accra which was timely resolved by the Electoral Commission; and the arrest of two Electoral Commission Officers, who tampered with a presidential ballot at Awutu Senya West and Bawku Central.
Other incidents include the isolated case of shooting recorded outside the Step to Christ Polling station in Kasoa, Awutu Senya East Constituency in the Central Region; a commotion at the Collation Centre in Techiman Municipal Office that serves as the Regional Collation Center. “This was triggered by agitations by the population observing the declaration of results by the polling officials who had delayed in projecting certified results.”
“On the whole, the voting process took place in an orderly, transparent and professional manner, and secrecy of the ballot was generally observed. It is the view of the ECOWAS Observation Mission that the afore-mentioned challenges observed did not undermine the transparency, fairness and the credibility of the electoral process at this point in time.”