Statement on the Atiwa Constituency Parliamentary By-Election
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) observed the Atiwa constituency parliamentary by-elections held on August 31, 2010. CDD-Ghana/CODEO deployed trained observers to watch the processes leading to and the conduct of the election as well as the immediate post-election activities and environment.
The CDD-Ghana/CODEO field observers (FOs) found the immediate pre-election environment peaceful and calm. The political parties and their candidates’ campaigns were orderly; and party representatives worked cooperatively with the Electoral Commission (EC) to prepare for the polls, witnessing the delivery and checking of ballot papers and other election materials.
The FOs also report that almost all the polling centers they visited on the polling day opened on time (at 7.00a.m) and were set-up in a manner that ensured the secrecy of ballot. The polling stations also had adequate ballot papers and electoral materials, though they lacked tactile ballots. Party agents and what appeared to be an excessive number of uniformed police were present at all the polling stations visited.
The voting proceeded smoothly at the polling stations observed and closed promptly at 5p.m; EC officials properly counted and reconciled the ballots. The polling station results were declared on site and signed by the party agents. The tabulation at the collation center, done under heavy security presence, was also peaceful.
The conduct of the polls was smooth at the specific polling stations visited by the CDD-Ghana/CODEO FOs. But some of the scenes they witnessed in some electoral areas in the constituency were deeply troubling. For instance, some of the party officials and their aides patrolling the various polling stations in the constituency, ostensibly to safeguard the polls, engaged in altercations with persons they deemed to be interfering with the polls. The observers also saw an instance where local vigilantes had mounted and were guarding a make-shift roadblock ostensibly to prohibit so-called ‘foreigners’/‘strangers’ from entering their communities, which often caused undue tension. The observers surmise that the heavy presence of the police at the polling stations and constituency is the likely reason why the generally tense atmosphere in some parts of the constituency on the Election Day did not degenerate into chaotic violence.
Specific instances of election irregularities and threats of violence:
• An EC official assisted a visually impaired person to cast his ballot at the Akim-Tumfa Presby Primary School on account of lack of tactile ballots at that polling station.
A convoy of vehicles carrying party officials and their aides patrolled the polling stations at the Tumfa electoral area ostensibly to safeguard the integrity of the polls. Individuals in some of the vehicles were observed engaging in altercation with, and intimidation of a person suspected to be interfering with the process.
• Local vigilantes mounted and guarded a make-shift barricade, which was later dismantled by the police to allow the free flow of traffic.
• CDD-Ghana/CODEO condemns the usurpation of the power of the police to maintain law and order by party functionaries and local vigilantes in Ghana’s election processes. We call for the cessation of unilateral and illegal mounting of barricades by individuals ostensibly to prohibit entry by so-called “foreigners”/ “strangers” because it raises undue electoral tension.
• CDD-Ghana/CODEO demands that the police investigates and prosecutes those who may have engaged in the electoral violence in the by-election as a matter of urgency to deter lawlessness and impunity in future elections.
• CDD-Ghana/CODEO implores the political parties to cooperate with the security agencies in prosecuting suspected criminals irrespective of culprits’ party affiliation.
• CDD-Ghana/CODEO hopes that the tendency for party executives and their aides, and local vigilantes to usurp the powers of the police to maintain law and order during elections is effectively curbed to prevent a repeat in the 2012 elections.
Kojo Pumpuni Asante
Ag. Coordinator, CODEO
September 1, 2010
Contacts: 0244073430, 0244185085, 0243221853