The Member of Parliament for Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga has defended the National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) concerns against the Electoral Commission’s decision to go ahead with the new voter registration exercise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said although the opposition party had earlier kicked against the EC’s decision over financial and other concerns, the recent concerns being raised by the NDC given the risk burden the virus is likely to have on registrants is only legitimate.
Speaking on The Big Issue on Saturday, Mr. Ayariga said he cannot fathom why the electoral management body is still pushing for the new electoral roll despite the outbreak of the virus.
“Why do you want to jettison a well functioning register and put up a new one? They gave all the scientific evidence that the register is bloated. Are there no mechanisms to deal with a bloated register. They have been sitting there as a commission for four years. Within the period, if they really wanted to clean the register, could they not have raced the people who ought not to be on the register? Do they have to subject us to a completely new register?”
“And in the midst of this, there is a pandemic which acts on human movement and interaction. So then the debate then moves away beyond the economics and financing; beyond the suspicion of voter suppression and questions of distrust. The argument then moves to a public health argument. Now we have a pandemic and the reality of the pandemic is that when you are going to have an exercise that close to 15 million people are going to be compulsorily registered of out of the constitutional duty to move around and increase human interaction, there is a danger of escalating our situation within the context of the pandemic. This is a very legitimate argument. People are asking why we are now bringing Coronavirus in our arguments but it is a very legitimate one.”
The EC’s decision to compile a new voters’ register has been met with mixed reactions from the political front.
Whereas the NDC and some opposition parties are against the decision, the NPP and 12 other political parties have backed the move.
Although the exercise is currently on hold, the EC says it will observe the necessary safety protocols if the time comes for the registration exercise to commence.
Elections over registration
Despite kicking the EC’s decision to compile a new register, Mr. Ayariga justified why the December 7, 2020 elections must be conducted amidst the pandemic.
“Constitutionally, we do not have a choice but to vote on December 7. But that is the risk we are going to take out of a constitutional mandate but why do we want to double the risk. If we ask if we can conduct the election with the existing register, no one will say no. Nobody can scientifically prove that the existing register cannot be used to conduct the election with minor amendments and adjustments.”
We’ll contest EC’s decision
The General Secretary of the NDC, Johnson Asiedu Nketia said the party will challenge the compilation of the new voters’ register.
He said the NDC will do all it can to prevent the EC from leading political parties and Ghanaians into a “dangerous and confusing situation.”
“That decision [by the EC] goes against the Constitution that actually established the Electoral Commission and so we are going to contest that one. This is the beginning, it is not the end at all, so don’t let anybody be confused that when EC comes out to announce anything, even if it is unconstitutional, that settles the disagreement. The disagreement is just about to begin,” he said