Ghanaians go to the polls in December 2016 to elect new president and new parliamentarians to steer the affairs of the country for another four years. After observing the Limited Voter Registration Exercise (LVRE) and the exhibition exercise conducted by the Electoral Commission (EC), as well as monitoring how the election process is gearing up and coupled with the way and manner the political parties are conducting their campaigns, the Centre for African Democratic Affairs (CADA) is of the view that there is likely to be more tensions and pockets of electoral violence in the forthcoming election than it was in 2012 on the polling day.
Meanwhile, this election is expected to turn the page on the December 2012 election that followed the Supreme Court trial between the NDC, Electoral Commission (EC) and the President on one side against the Presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), his running mate and the then NPP national chairman on the other side.
Notwithstanding the ruling by the Supreme Court and its electoral reform recommendations to address the flaws of the polls before December 2016 general election to avoid a repeat of what happened in 2012 election, many Ghanaians and electoral experts believe that the likelihood of electoral violence during the forthcoming election in December 2016 is still very high following the argument over the need to have a new or clean the existing voter lists, the behavior of both NDC and NPP parties during this just ended limited voter registration exercise, the establishment of the steering committee to coordinate the activities of electoral stakeholders for the upcoming election, mistrust of security forces, accusation of a political party training security personnel for high level functionaries and thugs; and tension that went on during the Talensi By-elections and many more.
Ghana’s security institutions, particularly the police, which has the primary responsibility for election security as directed by the EC, must take bold action to curb the risk of violence in December 2016 general election.
CADA believe that every election in Ghana since 1992 has experienced some level of violence, however, the level and intensity of the violence varies from election to election. Although electoral violence may be considered less severe in Ghana than in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, to ignore symptoms is to create vulnerabilities which have fostered an environment where the violence has been permitted to continue.
A survey of incidents of electoral violence was recently conducted for the 1992 to 2012 period by Mr. Jeff Fischer of Electoral Violence Project. The survey divided incidents into the following categories: assault/violent intimidation; seizures of public property; protests/public disorders; ballot box theft; party property/vandalization. 5,707 incidents were identified and classified into the categories as:
Type of Incident Number of Incidents Percentage of Total
Assault/Violent Intimidation 2,807 49.1%
Seizure of Public Property 1,812 31.7%
Protests/Public Disorders 858 15.0%
Ballot Box Theft 142 2.4&
Party Property Vandalisation 88 1.5%
In the view of CADA, this survey has revealed the following trends and tendencies. First, violent intimidation has been a common feature in all elections. The intimidation, in the opinion of CADA, has been to disenfranchise political opponent voters. Candidates, supporters, and voters were most at risk of violence when they were in the strongholds of their opponents. Ballot box theft has faded as a tactic. And, public action tactics have been employed such as takeovers of office building, toll bridges, and government buildings.
CADA is of the view that a proper understanding of the police’s role in electoral processes, as well as the principles of policing elections, is key to providing effective electoral credibility and security. CADA believes that police duties before, during and after elections should include protecting electoral stakeholders such as candidates, voters and observers; safeguarding election materials and facilities such as ballot boxes and ballot papers, polling stations and counting centres; ensuring the lawfulness and orderliness of electoral events such as debates, public appearances and polling; and investigating allegations of criminal wrongdoing by candidates, government officials and other electoral stakeholders.
In the opinion of CADA, success in maintaining election security depends on the political neutrality and professionalism of the security personnel. Inasmuch as it is the responsibility of EC to ensure that proper security arrangement is made to protect the credibility of electoral operations in Ghana, Police officers should not be seen as working for any political party or promoting the agenda of any political party. They should do their job without any bias towards any of the contesting parties. Perception is as important as the reality.
The professionalism of the police is demonstrated by the extent to which the police institutions are organised, resourced and managed, as well as the extent to which officers are trained and disciplined. The police should also be seen as discharging their duties in a more transparent and accountable manner by enhancing consultation mechanisms with electoral stakeholders such as political groups, civil society and other relevant organisations with guidance given by the EC.
CADA will like to further indicate that the provision of effective electoral security starts with a proper assessment and understanding of both the security risks and the corresponding security measures. This assessment must clarify the forms, sources and locations of potential conflicts and violence at different phases of the electoral process that is problems associated with demarcation of electoral boundaries, voter registration, voter education, campaigning, ballot printing, storage and distribution, balloting, the count and announcement of the results, and the settlement of any dispute.
At the broadest level, CADA believes that the electoral security risk assessment should comprise contextual, historical and stakeholder analysis. Specifically, the assessment must consider the relationship between the contesting parties, key political figures representing the parties, and the people or groups they represent. The behaviour and implicit intentions of the leading political figures, as well as the contesting strategies of the parties and candidates, need to be scrutinised and interpreted.
In the opinion of CADA, a key part of the electoral security plan is assessing the preparedness of the police in relation to the potential risk for conflict and violence. How do Ghanaians assess the readiness of the police towards safeguarding polling on an election day? The electoral security plan should specify police intervention strategies and standards, deployment arrangements, coordination and control mechanisms, and resource and training needs. The security response plan should detail the police roles and responsibilities during the election, including rules of engagement, codes of conduct and use of force standards so as to be able to question accountability and performance of the police before, during and after election in the country.
CADA suggests that any electoral security plan put in place to safeguard the December 2016 general election should also clearly define the operational boundaries, chain of command, and coordination arrangements among different security agencies, institutions or units like the Military. Communication and coordination mechanisms with Electoral Commission, political parties and other relevant civil society organizations responsible for the administration of the election should also be included in the plan. In this regard, joint operation arrangements are needed to be set up between the election management body and the security authorities.
CADA is of a firm belief that a deployment arrangement in December 2016 election will need to be developed in response to the potential security risks using some incidents at Talensi By-election and LVRE, as a benchmark. Police deployment may need to include static (e.g. protection of storage facilities of electoral materials, polling stations and electoral offices), mobile (e.g. protection of high-level candidates and campaign rally sites), and reserve deployment (e.g. contingency forces to support either static or mobile forces as required). The plan should also aim at ensuring enhanced communication systems, and that sufficient resources should be made available in the specific locations at the times required.
In the view of CADA, as part of the preparation process, police officers at all levels need to undergo specialised training. The contents of the training should primarily be based on identified threats and security requirements as well as: electoral principles; rules and processes relevant to the police; police roles, rules of engagement and code of conduct; electoral security threats, electoral legal framework and corresponding strategies; command and communication structures and mechanisms; and management of major types of incidents.
The forthcoming general election gives the Ghanaian police a chance, with proper guidance and coordination from the EC, to rectify the flaws perceived to have been perpetuated during the previous polls and renew its image. The police will face great pressure to maintain security before, during and after the elections, given the high risk of violence. To minimise this risk, police officers should be deployed in adequate numbers to areas of potential conflict in the constituencies and should perform their duties impartially and with full respect for the law.
The officers will need to make sure that they stay clear of the common mistakes: intimidation, unlawful arrest and detention, political manipulation, giving credence to the incumbent, refusal to provide protection, obstruction of the exercise of election rights, systematic influence on voters, use of excessive force, a breach of the conventional procedures of law enforcement, and inattentiveness to and unjustness in dealing with complaints. CADA trusts that the Police and the entire security forces in the country would be able to discharge their electoral related duties very professionally in this impending election if they adhere to tenets of their profession.
Director, Electoral Affairs