The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has rejected two of the three new members appointed by the President to the Electoral Commission (EC).
The appointment of the two, Hajia Salima Ahmed Tijani and Dr Peter Appiahene, the election observer organisation said, were unconstitutional and had the potential to only deepen public mistrust in the EC.
Addressing a joint press briefing with STAR-Ghana Foundation, and the Civic Forum Initiative (CFI), in Accra, on Wednesday, Reverend Dr Fred Deegbe, Member of Advisory Board— CODEO, called on the two to immediately resign from their positions to restore public trust, ensure continued election peace and enhance the credibility of the Commission.
He said, information gathered by the organisation indicated that, the two had some affiliations to the governing party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), which contravened provisions of the 1992 Constitution, which required that such appointments were not made on partisan basis.
“We are painfully aware that voluntary or constitutionally grounded revocation of these unfortunate and democratically problematic EC appointments by the President is extremely unlikely. However, nothing stops the affected appointees, namely Dr. Peter Appiahene and Hajia Salima Ahmed Tijani, from voluntarily and honourably resigning from membership of the EC.
“This will be in the supreme interest of our country’s continued democratic progress, election peace and credibility, and indeed the overall national interest,” he said.
Dr Deegbe added that while the two met the generic benchmark qualification stipulated under Article 44(1) (that is, the same qualification one must satisfy to be a Member of Parliament), “we believe strongly that, having regard to the independent and non-partisan nature of our Electoral Commission and its mandate, the spirit of the Constitution demands far more in the way of one’s suitability to be a member of the EC.”
President Akufo-Addo on March 20 appointed three new members to the EC to fill the void created following the retirement of Mrs. Hajia Sa-Adatu Maida, Mr Ebenezer Aggrey-Fynn and Mrs. Rebecca Kabukie Adjalo, former members of the Commission.
The newly appointed members are Hajia Salima Ahmed Tijani, Dr Peter Appiahene and Rev Akua Ofori Boateng.
Dr Deegbe said, public and cross-party and confidence in the political neutrality of any election management body and for that matter, its ability to deliver free, fair and credible elections was a cardinal principle of an effective democratic election architecture.
He said Ghana’s progress in building public trust and confidence in the EC could be attributed to a steady democratic progress in elections over the last three decades.
However, Dr Deegbe said, CODEO was concerned about the non-transparent and non-inclusive nature of appointments to key independent constitutional bodies like the EC, indicating that, such appointments could erase the democratic success of the country.
Already, he said, Afrobarometer data had shown, trust in the EC had been on the decline in recent years, saying “in order for citizens to continue to trust the EC, the credibility and independence of the EC, including, importantly, the appearance of partisan neutrality, are paramount and must be safeguarded.”
“Our evolving tradition of peaceful acceptance of electoral outcomes as well as peaceful turnover and transfer of power, following hotly contested elections would not have been possible if the EC was widely believed or perceived, whether in its conduct or in its composition or leadership, to be partisan or vulnerable to partisan manipulation or bias,” he noted.
For example, he said, there were well-known instances, including in other sister countries in Africa, where a failure to engender credible cross-party trust and confidence in the election management body, had provoked violent and tragic conflict in the wake of disputed and discredited election results, urging that “we must do nothing to invite a similar fate in our country.”
Dr Deegbe supported calls for a constitutional amendment to make the process of nomination and appointment to the EC explicitly inclusive and transparent.
“We propose that, in filling a vacancy on the EC (and other independent constitutional bodies), the President, acting in his role as Head of State, propose and make public the names (and biographical information) of candidates to be considered by the Council of State,” he added.