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Commentary: EC to defy NDC no-show for date at IPAC?

The NDC’s repeated boycott of inter-party meetings with the Electoral Commission speaks of a jilted lover’s determination to show himself aggrieved

Yesterday’s meeting of the consensus-building Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) should have been focused wholly on the detail of how the Electoral Commission is to manage the timetable towards Ghana’s general election in December.

Instead, it was the scene of some tension and dispute over matters of questionable substance.

The opposition National Democratic Congress decided once again to boycott Wednesday’s discussions, having refused to attend the previous IPAC meeting on 25 March. As in March, the NDC objected to the talks being split into two sessions.

One of the party’s deputy general secretaries, Peter Otokunor, spelled out its reasons for refusing to turn up.

The EC has said that this division into groups is to accommodate the public health ban on gatherings of more than 25 people – in this case, a meeting involving representatives of Ghana’s 25 political parties.

News reports spoke of a heavy armed police presence outside the EC headquarters in Accra, suggesting threats of public disorder. Yet the outcome of the meeting itself was geared towards not law and order, but public health, timetabling and practical, technical matters.

No new register, no election

The EC informed participants of its most recent preparations towards Election 2020. Everything is set to deploy new biometric voter registration technology, which will lead to the compilation of a fresh voters’ register, it said. Without this register, the EC again stressed, the 7 December elections cannot be held.

A statement issued by the parties which took part in the meeting said that voter registration will begin by the end of June. It is expected that by then, the constitutional instrument governing the conduct of the 2020 general election will have matured. It is currently before Parliament.

The EC committed to informing the parties of the precise dates for voter registration no later than 21 days before the start of the exercise. It has procured all the equipment it needs for the registration, it said, and begun training its officials across the country in readiness for the registration.

The exercise is expected to last for 40 days, though this may be reviewed.

EC officials offered assurances to the parties that it has procured adequate personal protective equipment to ensure that the registration is conducted safely and with due respect for public health guidelines on the spread of the new coronavirus.

It remains “committed to rolling out the necessary protocols towards a safe and secure 2020 voter registration exercise, which it had already made public”.

Tit for tat

The note on the outcome of the IPAC meeting was not devoid of political point-scoring by the governing New Patriotic Party.

It set out the process which led to the re-laying in Parliament on 31 March of the constitutional instrument governing the conduct of the December polls. The redrafted law incorporates “suggestions made by the political parties that attended the 25 March IPAC meeting”.

The NPP made pointed reference to discussion yesterday of the minutes of the previous IPAC talks on 25 March. The EC’s preparations towards the impending voter registration were discussed extensively at that meeting.

“This is in sharp contrast to the claims by the NDC, which, even though it boycotted this 25 March meeting, claimed that the EC did not consult political parties before it laid the current CI in Parliament,” the note on yesterday’s discussions said.

If we are to believe many reports of the meeting, it was a mere backdrop for the NDC to revisit a list of complaints about why it has no faith in the processes being supervised by the Electoral Commission. Prime among these is suspicion about why meetings should be held in two sessions.

The Inter-Party Advisory Committee exists to serves as a neutral platform that political parties in Ghana can use to thrash out business in the common interest. It is important because it is one of the few channels for the dialogue that is necessary for any country organising elections. If some of the parties decide to dispute matters which do not relate to the substance of talks, but focus instead on the protocol of its seating arrangements, it stands little chance of serving its intended purpose.

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