The flag bearer of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, has stirred controversy by calling on the Electoral Commission (EC) to abolish the practice of allowing polling agents of political parties to monitor voters registration exercises and voting during national elections.
According to him, the use of polling agents enabled the parties to engage in unnecessary aggression and illegal acts that had the tendency to plunge the country into chaos, adding that there was nowhere in the world that agents of political parties were allowed to monitor elections.
Raising issues with political party agents during the conduct of elections at a news conference in Accra Monday, Dr Nduom said, “The responsibility to conduct free and fair elections, protect the ballots cast and prevent fraud and cheating rests squarely with the Electoral Commission.”
However, in sharp rebuttals during separate interviews officials of the EC, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) dismissed Dr Nduom’s call as misinformed.
While advancing his argument for the scraping of polling agents at the news conference, the PPP flag bearer had said, “The EC must not allow the political parties to bully it into ceding its responsibilities and authorities granted it by the Constitution and the Political Parties Law to anyone.”
Responding to the issue, the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah, said, “His argument is too simplistic and I think he should come again.”
He said the fact that there were road accidents or plane crashes did not mean the use of vehicles and aeroplanes should be abolished.
He said the abolition of polling agents would encourage massive rigging, adding that the issue was to identify the source of the problem and deal with it.
The response of the NPP General Secretary, Mr Kwadwo Owusu-Afriyie, was simple: “He’s got it all wrong.”
In his opinion, electoral violence was not attributable to polling agents but some political parties which might want to cheat the system.
Mr Owusu-Afriyie said the EC had the legal authority to enact laws to guide the conduct of elections, such as allowing the use of polling agents.
The acting Director of Communications of the EC, Mr Christian Owusu Parry, said the decision to admit political party agents at polling stations was informed by the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulation 2012 (CI 72).
Section 10 (2) of the regulation provides, “The commission may authorise and give an opportunity to an agent of a registered political party and other interested body or person to observe activities at a registration centre during the period set aside for registration.”
Mr Parry said the involvement of polling agents “has actually enhanced transparency in the electoral process”.
The essence of the news conference organised by the PPP was to share the observations made by the party’s flag bearer and his entourage after undertaking a tour of the entire country during the biometric voters registration exercise.
It also provided a platform for the flag bearer to address some pertinent issues of national concern.
Dr Nduom also recommended that after the EC had accepted the nomination papers of presidential and parliamentary candidates, it should compel political parties and independent candidates to submit monthly financial reports showing the sources of their income, expenditure and liabilities throughout the year.
“Political parties and independent candidates who fail to comply with this requirement must be disqualified from competing in the December elections,” he suggested.
He said the EC must also prepare the necessary procedures and legal instruments to enable it to nullify the results in any polling station that recorded more votes than the number of voters recorded in the voters register.