Elections are continuous processes that involve a complex interplay of activities that are technical in nature but carry deep political and legal implications.
The quality of an election management body’s (EMB) preparation for an election is crucial to the overall success of the process.
Ghana goes to the polls on December 7, 2020, to elect a president and 275 lawmakers.
The Electoral Commission (EC) has listed a litany of issues with the existing voters’ register compiled in 2012 to justify the compilation of a new register.
The largest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and some civil society organisations have opposed the compilation of a new voters’ register.
As the EC prepares to commence registration of voters, the opponents say in view of COVID-19, the registration should not go ahead.
It must be stated that seekers of passport and driver’s licence queue on daily basis and are made to go through photo-taking and fingerprints taking, among others, just as the EC will except that the numbers that will queue to register as voters will be higher.
This means that if the EC can use security personnel to strictly ensure social distancing and observation of safety protocols, it will not be doing anything different from what pertains at the passport office and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) offices across Ghana.
If all registered voters will queue to vote in just one day, and opponents of EC are not calling for the postponement of the December 7 elections due to COVID-19 concerns, then registering all the voters in 21 days should not be a problem.
EC is constitutionally mandated to hold December 7, 2020, general elections at the scheduled time.
Ghana will be confronted with a constitutional crisis if elections are not held on December 7, 2020, since postponement will require a constitutional amendment.
Any move by the election management body to disregard the constitutional provisions for holding the polls could breed chaos and possibly lead to a constitutional crisis.
Crucial role of voter registration
Voter registration is a crucial activity of the electoral process, which in many ways determines the outcome of an election.
In fact, voter registration constitutes the nucleus of a credible or flawed election.
Flawed voter registration produces flawed election
Consequently, flawed voter registration is the foundation of a flawed election, given that one of the principles of a credible election is “one man, one registration, one voter”.
Some countries and territories across the globe have held elections or referendums while others have postponed elections.
30 Countries and territories keep to elections or referendums
A list of 2020 elections schedule and plans, as reported by electoral management bodies and news media compiled by International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, shows that at least 30 countries and territories have decided to hold national or subnational elections as originally planned despite concerns related to COVID-19.
14 Countries and territories hold elections or referendums
Out of this, at least 14 have held national elections or referendums in the midst of the pandemic.
63 Countries and territories postpone national and subnational elections
On the other hand, at least 63 countries and territories across the globe have decided to postpone national and subnational elections due to COVID-19.
20 Countries postpone elections
Out of this, at least 20 countries and territories have decided to postpone national elections and referendums.
23 National elections in 22 African countries in 2020
In Africa, 23 national elections are scheduled to be held in 22 African countries in 2020.
8 African countries postpone elections
A total of eight countries decided to postpone national and subnational elections planned in March up until August 2020.
This includes subnational elections in Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda and Zimbabwe, as well as national elections in Ethiopia.
Many of these postponements were decided on by the respective governments, legislatures or Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs), based on emergency response frameworks.
5 African countries held elections in COVID-19
Despite the risks posed by the coronavirus in the last couple of months, five countries in Africa have had elections.
In March, Guinea, Cameroon and Mali held legislative votes.
In April, Mali held its second round of legislative polls.
And on May 17, Benin went ahead with local elections.
In all cases, the government took some protective measures.
Burundi also held elections in the midst of the pandemic.
Measures at voting centres
These measures included deep cleaning of polling stations before, during and after polling; mandatory use of masks and gloves for election officials; temperature checks at polling stations; provision of handwashing facilities and sanitizers for voters at polling stations; social distancing at the polling stations; and restrictions on the number of persons present per room during voting and counting was done in centralised locations.
Of particular interest is Benin, where all in-person campaign events were cancelled, as gatherings of over 50 people were prohibited, forcing candidates to focus more on media appearances and campaign posters.
Postponed subnational elections
The Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe have all suspended subnational elections.
Ethiopia has postponed national polls. And in early May, South Africa’s electoral commission announced it was delaying 30 municipal by-elections, and warned that polls scheduled for 2021 could also be affected.
Other countries scheduled to hold elections are Egypt, Guinea, Seychelles and Tanzania.