After its continuous tough posturing, the Electoral Commission (EC), yesterday finally suspended the controversial limited voter registration exercise which was scheduled for Friday, June 7, 2019 to Thursday, June 27, 2019, in all its district offices and selected electoral areas across the country.
The EC bosses, had initially taken a lawless path by snubbing an application filed by one Umar Ayuba, at the Supreme Court seeking an injunction to stop the Commission from disenfranchising an estimated one million Ghanaians by going ahead with the limited voter registration. The suspension in indefinite.
Mr Ayuba, a resident of Daboya Zongo – Savannah Region, through his lawyers led by Dr. Dominic Akuritinga Ayine, is challenging the directive by the EC, saying it is without legal basis and hence unconstitutional, but the EC, incidentally led by Jean Mensah, a lawyer by profession, had snubbed the Supreme Court injunction and ready to roll out the exercise.
Joined to the suit is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Madam Gloria Akuffo.
The registration exercise, according to the Commission was to offer the opportunity to Ghanaians, who have attained 18 years since the last registration exercise, as well as those who, for one reason or another, have never registered to do so.
But late afternoon yesterday, a statement by the EC signed by one Mrs. Sylvia Anno, stated that it is suspending the exercise, pending an injunction seeking to restrain the Commission.
The exercise was to form part of the EC’s preparations towards the conduct of the 2019 district level elections and the referendum on the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) scheduled for Tuesday, December 10, 2019.
The three-paragraph letter read; “The Electoral Commission wishes to announce for the information of the general public that in view of a pending injunction seeking to restrain the Commission from holding the Limited Voters Registration Exercise slated for the 7th of June to the 27th of June, 2019, the upcoming registration exercise has been put on hold until further notice.
“The Commission will announce a new date shortly, adding “Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.
Interestingly, last Friday, the Police in the Ashanti Region secured a court order restraining the National Democratic Congress (NDC) from embarking on a demonstration exercise against the EC’s limited voter registration exercise.
The demonstration was to take place yesterday, but The Herald is informed that security chiefs in the Akufo-Addo government did everything to secure a court order signed by Justice of the High Court, SenyoAmedahe, preventing the NDC Ashanti Region demonstration from coming on.
Justice Senyo Amedahe’s court order, further asked the Police to within 14 days engage the NDC in a meeting to reschedule the demonstrations after the Ramadan celebration, however the EC, continued to run the adverts on the exercise, insisting Friday’s exercise is coming on as scheduled, but the narrative changed yesterday.
Mr Ayuba’s injunction, follows a substantive suit filed by him, challenging the decision by the EC, to hold the registration in its district offices and some selected electoral areas in what it said is to be in readiness for the local elections and referendum scheduled for December.
He is invoking the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, is seeking a declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of articles 45 (a), 45(e) and 42 of the 1992 Constitution, the decision of the EC to undertake the 2019 limited voter registration online at the district offices of the EC, instead of undertaking same on the basis of electoral areas, will result in voter suppression, as was evident from the same exercise carried out in 2018, particularly in rural constituencies of the country, and is thus unconstitutional, as it violates the right of first-time voters to register and vote.
The plaintiff is also seeking another declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 45(a) and (e) of the Constitution, the decision of the EC to undertake the 2019 limited voter registration online at its district offices, instead of undertaking same on the basis of electoral areas, is inconsistent with and in contravention of the mandate of the EC, as contained in Article 45 (a) and (e) of the 1992 Constitution and Regulation 2 Sub-regulation (2)(a) and (b) of the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2016 (CI 91).
Mr Ayuba, wants the court to declare that upon a true and proper interpretation of articles 42, 45(a), 45 (e) and 17 of the 1992 Constitution, the decision of the EC to undertake the 2019 limited voter registration online at its district offices, instead of places designated by law, is unwarranted and a disproportionate burden on first-time voters, especially in rural constituencies such as Daboya-Mankarigu.
“The decision is thus discriminatory and a violation of the right of first-time rural voters to be granted equal opportunity to register to vote under articles 42 and 17 of the Constitution,” the relief is seeking the court to declare.
He further wants the Supreme Court to hold that the EC’s decision is unreasonable and an arbitrary exercise of its discretionary power in relation to voter registration.
The plaintiff further wants the court to order the EC to undertake the 2019 limited voter registration exercise in the manner prescribed by law in order to avoid altogether or minimise the suppression of votes, particularly in the rural constituencies of the country.
He is also praying the court to order the EC and its agents to desist from destroying any and all documents and records relating to the 2018 limited voter registration exercise the EC conducted until the final determination of this suit.
His lawyers insist that they will show that the experience of limiting voter registration to the district offices of the EC has the undeniable effect of suppressing votes across the country, especially in rural constituencies. The data from the Ghana Statistical Service and the 2nd Defendant/Respondent corroborate this position.
To Mr Ayuba’s lawyers, if the EC, is permitted to proceed along the lines of the 2018 voter registration exercise, voter suppression would result in a denial of the right to vote to many otherwise qualified citizens hence, the EC must therefore be restrained from doing so until the final determination of this suit.
The NDC in the Ashanti Region, had served notice of protesting over the EC’s registration exercise on Monday, June 3, 2019, saying that about one million Ghanaians, would be disenfranchised if the EC, was allowed to undertake the limited voters’ registration exercise at the district level and selected electoral areas.
But the police, say the NDC’s protest has to be rescheduled as a result of “logistics challenges of the Police” due to the Ramadan celebrations as Muslims in the country are expected to end their fast a day after the scheduled date for the protest.
The court order said “the respondents are hereby prohibited from engaging on the scheduled protest and demonstration against the Electoral Commission, Kumasi on the 3rd of June 2019 as a result of logistics challenges of the Police during this year’s Ramadan period. It is the opinion of this court that the constitutional right to go on a protest or a demonstration is enjoined with the right to Police protection.”
“It is hereby ordered that the applicant shall with 14 days from today engage the respondents in a meeting to re-schedule their demonstration after the Ramadan festivities,” the court’s restraining order read.
Speaking with Citi News, the Ashanti Regional Secretary of the NDC, Kwame Zu, said the EC’s method in the upcoming limited registration exercise is an attempt to deliberately disenfranchise communities where the NDC has a stronghold.
“We have expressed many concerns to the Electoral Commission and it appears their posture appears they are unfazed,” adding “the last resort we had was to demonstrate our displeasure in the form of a peaceful procession God willing on the 3rd of June but we are convening a meeting to take a decision as to whether the demonstration will come on Monday or otherwise. But that is literally not dependent on the position of the Police to thwart the process.”