if authorities fail to crack down heavily on perpetrators of reported violence in the ongoing limited registration exercise.
Consequently, the centre has charged the Electoral Commission (EC) and Security agencies to arrest and prosecute all persons engaged in violent acts at registration centres.
Speaking to The Finder on pockets of reported violence in the ongoing limited registration exercise, Head of Research and Programmes at CDD, Dr Franklin Oduro said, “We must stop this by making some people more or less scapegoats. Getting people punished for breaking the laws so that political party agents and supporters will know that when you break the law the EC, security agencies and justice system will deal with you.”
He wants the EC, security agencies and the justice system to ensure that those who break the law at registration centres are made to face the law, and if found guilty, they get punished so that it serves as a deterrent to people who want to do same in the future.
“This is the period that we have to set those examples to serve as a deterrent going to November.
“If we don’t begin to punish now, then people will not be afraid of breaking the law on Election Day, and I think we should begin to do that at this stage.
“If people think that they can break the law and will not be sanctioned, then they can do worst things in the future.
“Because if we don’t begin to set precedent by punishing such people to serve as a deterrent, then we don’t know what is going to happen on polling day in November.
“Those who break the electoral laws, no matter what, they should be brought to justice.
“They should be arrested and prosecuted so people know that when they break any of the electoral laws, they will not go free,” he added.
Dr Oduro said, “I think whatever happens at the pre-election phase, especially during the registration process, should serve as a guidance or lesson for us to go for polling day.
For example, he said, in the past “we have not really experienced violence in limited registration”.
The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has said some agents of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) abused the challenge process, thus unduly delaying the registration process.
CODEO election observers said these agents contested the eligibility of almost every registrant on the first day of the limited biometric registration exercise, which the Electoral Commission expects to capture 1.2 million first-time voters.
Although the challenge process was generally observed in the various centres, the coalition noted that there were cases where the procedure was exploited by party agents.
Dr Oduro explained that even if the parties or their agents are trying to help to ensure that only eligible voters register, and therefore help to produce a credible voters’ register, they should still follow the procedure of challenging applicants and should not go outside of that.
He noted that because in the past “we have not necessarily applied the law and sanctioned those who break electoral laws, people think that they can continue to do these things and get away”.
“Over the past years, when party supporters and agents cause electoral violence, they are just left off the hook because you don’t hear any sanctions meted out to them”, he added.
Dr Oduro is worried that it appears there is a culture of impunity when it comes to elections, saying, “It is like we can just do it and nobody will punish us. It is also because the parties do not train and educate their agents well regarding the rules and regulations.”
Anticipation of violence
He disclosed that “for some of us we anticipated that we were probably going to have trouble at the registration centres because of the debate that has been going on about the voters’ register”.
“Because the voters’ register is a very important document for election and because there are debates as to the credibility of the existing voters’ registers, the party agents will go the extra mile to ensure that some people do not get registered.
“The issue about voters’ register is a continuing debate that the parties have keen interest in.”
He noted that it was their suspicion that the two main parties were going to be very militant, especially in the stronghold of the two parties.
“They will try to prevent people that they suspect are not on their side and if they feel that they are foreigners or underage, they will try to resist them, and that can lead to violence at those centres.
“C.I. 91 provides procedure to follow to challenge what an agent suspects to be ineligible. You don’t have to forcefully prevent the person from registering.
“There is no room for them to go outside of the law.
“If such agents go outside of the law, we should allow the law to deal with them”, Dr Oduro added.
Dr Oduro suspects that all the challenges may be happening at strongholds and even at competitive areas where agents are trying to reduce the rate at which the opponent can gain advantage.
By Elvis DARKO, Accra