The Electoral Commission is to start discussions with political parties and stakeholders to reduce the voting duration by an hour as a proactive measure to reduce tension, suspicion, guarantee the security of ballot and electoral officials.

If the stakeholders agree to the proposed
idea, voting in 2020 would commence at 0700 hours and end at 1600 hours instead
of the usual time of 1700 hours.

Mrs Jean Mensa, Chairperson of the Electoral
Commission, said this in an address at the opening of a three-day workshop
aimed at sharing experiences and good practices on the prevention and
mitigation of election-related violence on Tuesday in Accra.

Organised by the ECOWAS and the United
Nations, the meeting assembled election experts, civil society organisations
and the media to discuss and suggest solutions to improve and respond to
election-related violence, especially from a gender perspective.

Mrs Mensa explained that the change in time
would enable early ballots counting, collation of results, and early
declaration of results both at the polling stations and at the national.

“In past elections, some voters wait until
the last hour before casting their votes. It results in long queues, which drag
voting time into the night. This has posed and continues to pose a great danger
through compromising the security of the ballot and safety of officials,” she
stressed.

Sharing some other measures the EC had
initiated since assumption a year ago, Mrs Mensa said the EC was working
closely with the security apparatus in the country to tighten security towards
all elections to prevent and mitigate violence.

Mrs Mensa said the Commission experienced
its share of electoral violence since assumption and that it had taken cues
from the incidence and had taken initiatives such as increasing the frequent
engagement with the Inter Party Advisory Committee and other dialogue
approaches to ensure a peaceful and credible election.

She expressed the hope that the recently
enacted law banning political vigilantism and it related activities would see a
reduction and elimination of the menace in the electoral process.

Madam Sylvia Lopez, the UN Resident
Coordinator to Ghana, said the right to vote was a human right and needed to be
promoted.

She said successful, credible, inclusive
elections consolidated a nation’s democracy, promote human rights, foster peace
and facilitate sustainable development.

Madm Lopez stated that from 2020 and 2021
there would be 10 elections in the ECOWAS region and asked countries to take
and implement effective and efficient steps to ensure that all the elections
were violence-free.

She called on countries to prioritise
election prevention and mitigation measures adding, “that electoral violence is
easy and could be achieved…but preventing electoral violence requires a well
laid out and executed strategies.”

Mr Francis Gabria Oke, the Head of ECOWAS
Commission, said the risk of election-related violence was particularly high in
countries with systematic, longstanding and unresolved grievances, combined
with a “winner takes all” approach to competitive politics.

She said the UN follows a comprehensive
approach in the prevention and mitigation of election-related violence,
involving mediation, good offices and electoral assistance expertise, to
complement other United Nations system activities in support of peaceful
transitions, democratic governance, rule of law, human rights and gender
equality, including in cooperation with regional organizations.

He said, “an important feature of this
broader approach is that it combines what is sometimes seen as merely
“technical” electoral assistance on the one hand, and political engagement on
the other hand.

While the overriding responsibility for
credible and peaceful elections lies with political leaders from both
government and opposition parties, Election Management Bodies (EMBs) also have
an important role to play.

Source: GNA



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