Joseph Whittal, Commissioner of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) has blamed the Supreme Court for making the Electoral Commission (EC) appear to be untouchable.
At a programme held earlier this week, Whittal noted that some judgments by the apex court has made the EC feel overly emboldened to write its rules as it fits it, going as far as challenging Parliament in some instances.
“Why should on institution be given so much power, aided by the Supreme Court; because of the interpretation the Supreme Court has given in a number of election matter that have come before them, practically making the EC untouchable so that they can even have the temerity to go before parliament and say Parliament cannot determine what we do.
“I mean, where is our democracy going?” he asked rhetorically.
Earlier in his submission, Whittal cited the Abu Ramadan where former Chief Justice Georgina Wood emphasizes the right to vote as very key, but that registering as a voter is even more important.
“The EC ought not to put impediments in the way of the registration of Ghanaians who have to register in order to exercise their right to vote,” he stated adding: “Georgina Woode calls it the Golden Key that unlocks the power of the people.”
Controversy surrounding limited registration exercise
The Electoral Commission has come under increased pressure following its decision to organize limited registration exercises at only district offices nationwide.
Critics including opposition parties and think tanks hold that doing so will disenfranchise many people living in hard-to-reach areas.
The EC, through Dr. Serebour Quaicoe, the Commission’s Director of Electoral Services, on Monday, September 19, gave this response in a radio interview.
“For those in hard-to-reach areas, we are only appealing to them to find a way to get to the district offices for the registration. Otherwise, they would have to wait for next year.
“But even next year, we can’t be everywhere. It will depend on situations on the ground in terms of figures. Because we won’t say that, because we have to serve hard-to-reach areas, we will send our tools to just three people in a particular area.”
“So, we will work with the stakeholders to be sure that a place is indeed hard-to-reach, and that we have people there before we move. That will be a form of mopping because we are still going to maintain the district office registration and there will be continuous registration,” he noted.
Despite legal challenges from opposition parties regarding the EC’s decision not to conduct registration in electoral areas this year, the Commission is proceeding with the exercise.
The Chairperson of the EC, Mrs. Jean Mensa, attributed the difficulty in decentralizing the registration process partly to Parliament’s failure to pass the proposed Constitutional Instrument C.I. needed for approval.
Mrs. Mensa explained, “As you are all aware, the Commission prepared a draft C.I for continuous registration in all district offices nationwide. This initiative started last year and the registration we were envisioning under the draft C.I was on a sustained long-term basis.”