On 7th December 2024, Ghana will hold its general elections, and as the country prepares for this significant event, various stakeholders are making efforts to ensure that the elections are free, fair, and transparent.
One of such stakeholders is the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), which recently held a roundtable discussion backed by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) and the UNDP Ghana to share lessons learned from the conduct of elections in other African countries.
The discussion, which was held at the CDD-Ghana conference room in Accra on April 27, 2023 focused on the experiences of CODEO and other election observation missions in Ghana, Kenya and Nigeria
The event dubbed: “Roundtable Discussion on the Kenyan 2022 and Nigerian 2023 Elections: Lessons for Ghana was streamed online and in-person which converged stakeholders, activists, CSOs and political actors together who got hooked onto the most crucial topic of the moment.
The aim was to identify best practices and strategies that could be applied in Ghana to ensure credible elections that reflect the will of the people.
It was equally geared towards helping Ghana learn from the experiences of Kenya and Nigeria in order to improve its own electoral processes.
The discussions were wide-ranging, covering issues such as voter education, election monitoring, electoral disputes and conflict mitigation.
One of the key lessons that emerged from the roundtable was the importance of ensuring transparency in the electoral process, particularly in the management of election results.
It was noted that in some African countries, the credibility of elections has been undermined by allegations of tampering with election results as well as partisan appointment of the electoral management body members which often leads to mistrust in the election process. To mitigate this, various measures have been put in place to ensure the transparency of the election results.
Addressing the participants, the Executive Director of CDD-Ghana Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh averred that the roundtable discussion seeks to provide experience sharing platform for best practices for managing electoral processes to ensure free, fair, transparent and credible elections in Ghana as we prepare for the 2024 general elections.
He further noted that it highlights the lessons, strengths and challenges of Kenya 2022 and Nigeria 2023 elections and what that means for Ghana as well as draw lessons from Kenyan and Nigeria elections by exploring opportunities for acting and adoption best practices that can be adopted in electoral management and judicial adjudication to ensure free, fair and transparent and credible elections, Ghana 2024.
“It also seeks to garner support and collaborations from stakeholders in advocating for the implementation of reforms ahead of Ghana’s elections”.
According to the Acting Co-Chair of CODEO, Sheikh Aremeyaw Shaibu, lessons learnt in most of the African countries indicated that fraudulent elections have been at the heart of violence visited on nations which is unacceptable and a major concern, a move CODEO vehemently condemns while seeking to help prevent in the upcoming Ghana’s 2024 general polls to promote free, fair, transparent election
“We also seek to check against fraud. That’s why anytime there’s an election, some people are selected, trained, equipped and deployed to observe elections.
“This is what really makes the incumbent for us, that the electoral processes are made so legitimate and tight to ensure that nothing untoward happens so that election results can become acceptable to all us in order to contribute to the peace and stability of our country.”
In his presentation, Dr. Kojo Asante, Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement shed light on some experiences learnt in 2022 elections held in Kenya and the 2023 elections in Nigeria juxtaposing with some practices witnessed in previous polls conducted by Ghana which includes campaign financing regulations, CSOs playing the complimentary role and abuse of incumbency and vote buying.
He underscored the need for campaign financing regulations to be prioritized which according to him is critical in ensuring an even playing field for candidates and called for consensus for the passage of a party and campaign financing network to work actively to promote the agenda.
Drawing from lessons learnt in the Kenyan and Nigeria elections, Dr. Asante acknowledged the importance of CSOs playing the complimentary role in each of the electoral processes and the need for the CSOs to collaborate with other stakeholders particularly the E.C to continue to promote electoral integrity as key in ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections in the upcoming Ghana’s general elections slated for December 7, 2024.
Dr. Kojo Asante holds the view that the lessons learnt from the two African countries if replicated here in Ghana can help transform Ghana’s upcoming general elections.
Reflecting on the importance of the roundtable discussion, Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas citing a recent report of Mo Ibrahim to buttress his points contends that although Ghana ranks higher than Kenya and Nigeria on most democracy league tables, there’s still more room for improvement considering the manner elections were conducted in the country in the past.
He furthered: “according to a number of analysts, Ghana has not been immune from the democracy backsliding main experience in Africa.
A recent report from Mo Ibrahim for instance, notes that the Gambia and Seychelles are the two countries that bug a trend. Seychelles for instance, has gone from being ranked 5th in 2012 to reaching 1st in 2021 recording year-on improvements.
The Gambia on the other hand is reported to have made progress in civil society space freedom and fairness of elections, digital rights and media freedoms. Meanwhile, we were informed Cape Verde, Ghana and Mauritius have all recorded a deterioration in participation as well as large declines in rights for both Ghana and Mauritius.
This, naturally raises concern for all well-meaning stakeholders such as those of you gathered here today. I’ll imagine that we all want Ghana to be among the countries who record progress in democratic consolidation, not a decline or a reverse”.
According to Dr. Ibn Chambas the expectation is that Ghana will draw the right lessons from Kenyan 2022 and Nigeria 2023 elections to improve, indeed to maintain its standard with regards to electoral democracy in 2024.
Another critical lesson shared at the roundtable discussion was the need for electoral bodies to engage with stakeholders, especially political parties and civil society organizations, in the electoral process.
In Kenya, for instance, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) established a multi-stakeholder forum of representatives from political parties, civil society organizations, and the media, to provide a platform for dialogue and cooperation in the electoral process.
Similarly, in Nigeria, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) established the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security (ICCES), which brings together various security agencies to coordinate security arrangements for elections.
These initiatives have helped to reduce tensions and build confidence in the electoral process.
The roundtable discussion also highlighted the value of collaboration between different stakeholders in the election process.
In summary, the roundtable discussion organized by CODEO was an opportunity to share best practices and lessons learned from the conduct of elections in other African countries.
It highlighted the need for election monitoring organizations to adapt to changing circumstances and technologies, electoral bodies to engage with stakeholders in the electoral process, and the importance of transparency in the management of election results.
As Ghana prepares for its general elections in April 2023, it is hoped that the lessons shared at the roundtable discussion will be applied to enhance the credibility of the electoral process and ensure that the will of the people is reflected in the outcome of the elections.
In conclusion, the roundtable on the Kenyan and Nigerian elections was a valuable opportunity for Ghana to learn from the experiences of its neighbors.
The discussions highlighted a number of critical lessons, including the importance of collaboration, effective election monitoring, conflict mitigation and resolution, and voter education. Going forward, it is important that all stakeholders in the Ghanaian electoral process continue to engage in dialogue and collaboration in order to strengthen democracy and ensure free, fair and transparent elections.