The global Covid-19 pandemic is still raging and the general elections in Ghana are also fast approaching. The pandemic continues to cause havoc in Ghana and our government seems to have completely folded its arms in the fight.
Not until a week ago when the President, Nana Akufo-Addo in his usual rhetoric, said all Ghanaians should continue to wear masks and observe the protocols against the wide-spreading virus, there was total desertion of the wearing of masks and observance of the protocols by majority of Ghanaians.
Of course, the lack of a strategic plan by the government for fighting the pandemic, no testing in our laboratories, the political massaging of the numbers and the failure of contact tracing as pointed out on several occasions, have become apparent with the complete breakdown of what was said to be the fight against the virus in Ghana by the government.
The general elections in Ghana are just a few days away and the Covid-19 spread in Ghana is increasing again and there is, therefore, the need to know what measures have been put in place by the Electoral Commission to enable all eligible voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote.
The Constitution, 1992 in Article 42 provides that every Ghanaian of eighteen years of age and above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered for purposes of public elections. This implies therefore that an eligible voter is entitled to vote and a public body like the Electoral Commission should ensure that every Ghanaian who is entitled to vote, does so on the day of the elections.
This constitutional right is subject to matters of public health interest like the Covid-19 restrictions and protocols and the African Centre for Health Policy Research and Analysis ( ACH-PRA) very much appreciate this. The Centre is of the view that as long as the Electoral Commission continues to assure and put in place measures for the upcoming elections, the Commission owes a duty to every Ghanaian who is eligible to vote to make sure all necessary restrictions are put in place to enable him/her exercise this fundamental right.
However, it doesn’t appear to ACH-PRA that the Electoral Commission is committed to putting in place all the necessary measures for the public health interest of Ghanaians against the pandemic as well as guaranteeing the constitutional right to vote as provided in Article 42 of the 1992 Constitution.
The Centre follows keenly the Electoral Commission’s press releases and briefings, its preparations and the measures it has put in place so far and is of the view that the Commission’s measures so far are not enough to guarantee the exercise of this right.
This is because the Electoral Commission only indicated during several of its public engagements that hand-washing equipment will be provided at every polling centre to enable all voters to comply with the Covid-19 protocols in their quest to exercise their right to vote on election day.
Nowhere has the Electoral Commission mentioned the wearing of face masks at the voting centres. So the Centre is asking and wants to know from the Commission the following:
- Whether only the hand-washing equipment is enough at the polling centres to guarantee an eligible voter access to exercise this right amidst the increasing spread of Covid-19?
- Will an eligible voter be stopped from exercising his fundamental right if he/she comes without a face mask?
The Centre is calling on the Electoral Commission to as a matter of necessity to procure face masks in addition to the protocols often mentioned. The Centre suggests that if not for all the over 16 million voters in the upcoming election, at least they should provide for persons who will likely come to the polling station without masks. This is a necessity to enabling an eligible voter exercise his/her right without any hindrance. This is a public duty the Commission must strive to live up to.
The sanity of the upcoming elections can be marred if face masks are not provided for, at least, those who may come to the polling stations without masks. The stakes are high in the upcoming elections and voters will not take it lightly if they are prevented from exercising their right to choose who leads them as President and Members of Parliament.
The Commission should act proactively now to avoid chaos and resistance of a sort on the election day. The Centre is concerned about the repercussions of any resistance that day on our growing democracy and even on the spread of the deadly virus.
Dr Thomas W. Anabah
Executive Director: ACH-PRA