A crunch meeting organised by the Eminent Advisory Committee (EAC) of the Electoral Commission (EC) with members of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) to build consensus between the commission and the political parties on the compilation of a new voters register ended in a stalemate.
The meeting, which was expected to last two hours, dragged for six hours, with the various interest groups and political parties holding on to their entrenched positions.
At yesterday’s meeting, the EC maintained its resolve to compile a new voters register, with the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and some political parties strongly backing that move.
However, the Inter-party Resistance Against a New Voters Register (IPRAN), which includes the National Democratic Congress (NDC), held on to its resistance against a new biometric register.
The meeting started at 10 a.m., amid heavy security, and lasted until 4 p.m., with policemen positioned at vantage points to provide maximum security for the attendees.
Four well-built policemen with scanning devices were positioned at the main entrance to the meeting room to ensure that no foreign material entered the venue.
The scanning process was also to ensure that people who did not belong to political parties or had not been invited to the meeting did not have access to the deliberations.
For instance, journalists who had entered the meeting room before the commencement of proceedings were ordered out, with strict warning that attendance was by invitation.
The meeting saw officials of the EC, the information technology (IT) consultant for the EC, Dr Yaw Ofori-Adjei; the NPP, the NDC and other parties make presentations to support or oppose the idea of a new register.
Although it was held behind closed doors, the Daily Graphic learnt that the mood in the meeting room was charged, with heated arguments and exchanges.
The Founder of the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), Mr Kofi Akpaloo, who supports a new register, and the General Secretary of the All People’s Congress (APC), Mr Mordechai Thiombiano Lompo, whose party is opposed to the register, allegedly traded blows, the Daily Graphic learnt.
The team also saw that a police detachment was called into the meeting to restore order.
Sources who participated in the meeting said after getting clear indications that there could be no consensus at the meeting, the Chairman of the EAC, Mr Justice Emile Short, brought proceedings to an end, with an assurance that the committee would harmonise submissions by the stakeholders and engage the EC on the best move to take on the matter.
Mr Short, who spoke to the Daily Graphic briefly moments after the meeting, said in spite of the fact that there were some heated arguments, the meeting had ended well.
“It ended with a prayer, which suggests that at least it ended on a good note,” he said.
The Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Jean Mensa, led the delegation from the commission to the meeting.
The political actors at the meeting included the General Secretary of the NPP, Mr John Boadu; the party’s Communications Director, Mr Yaw Buaben Asamoah; the 2016 Campaign Manager, Mr Peter Mac Manu, and the National Organiser, Mr Sammy Awuku.
The NDC was represented by its National Chairman, Mr Samuel Ofosu Ampofo; the General Secretary, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia; the National Communications Officer, Mr Sammy Gyamfi, and other party executives.
Also sighted were the Founder and Leader of the APC, Mr Hassan Ayariga; the National Chairman of the People’s National Convention, Mr Bernard Mornah, and the Founder of the Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), Madam Akua Donkor.
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Mr Asiedu Nketia said the NDC and IPRAN were not convinced by the arguments advanced by the EC at the meeting.
He said the EC and its technical team had failed to convince the participants that the current voters register was so flawed that it needed to be replaced.
Mr Asiedu Nketia said they were happy that the EAC had given an assurance that it would put all the presentations of the parties together and advise the EC on what to do in the national interest.
“Apart from that, they gave the opportunity that their doors are still open to receive memos, petitions or write-ups of any nature, so that they can take them into consideration when they are advising the EC,” he said.
The NDC General Secretary said IPRAN was surprised that the CSOs were not given the opportunity to make submissions on the new register, given that they played a critical role in electoral reforms.
“There was one major snag as far as we are concerned, and that has to do with the procedure. An independent presidential candidate of a previous election, who, in our opinion, did not have any status as far as IPAC is concerned, was allowed to make a presentation, while CSOs which have always played a key role in our electoral reforms were denied the opportunity to make an input,” he said.
For his part, Mr Mac Manu said the NPP was still in favour of the compilation of a new voters register and would rally round the EC to do so.
He said as had been the position of the party on a new register, even during the era of a former Chairperson of the EC, Mrs Charlotte Osei, the NPP would not back down on its demand for a fresh register.
“It is true that the EC is soliciting all views on the compilation of a new register, but under Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution, it is the EC that has the mandate to compile a new register,” he stressed.
He stated that the NPP won the 2016 elections with the current register and could still win with the same register, but it would support the move by the EC to compile a fresh one if that was what it deemed appropriate.