The Ghanaian Times 11th September, 2012



            Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan

Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan


To be appointed Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) in an African country is to be given a job from hell. This is because politics here – as the principal means of transforming the lives of a bunch of people who are all socially mobile but some of whom are by no means as capable as their ambitions suggest to them — can be rough and brutal.In our politics, everyone wants you to think in exactly the same way as he or she does. If you persist in holding a view opposite to theirs, you are their ‘enemy’.

And not just an intellectual or ideological enemy either, but an organic enemy who can literally prevent unearned income from flowing, a la Woyome, into their bank accounts. In other words, if they think that you don’t want them to win an election, then you don’t want them to eat.

No-one feels the heat of the people who think along these lines more intensely  than the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. It was indeed difficult not to feel utmost sympathy for Dr Afari-Gyan when one read the pathetic things he had to say about how some people perceive his role, and the way he goes about performing it, in the Daily Guide of 6 September 2012.

He revealed that his life was “in danger,” and that his phone had been inundated with “death threats,” warning him to rescind his controversial decision to create 45 new constituencies.

If this is true, it is a shameful act which must be absolutely condemned by all peace-loving people in Ghana. The security agencies must increase their vigilance as they try to ensure the safety of the Chairman.

But the fact that the Chairman  is being threatened, if true, does not mean that he is necessarily right about everything he has said with regard to the creation of the 45 new constituencies to be added to those in which voting will take place in the December 2012 election.

It is the duty of the Electoral Commission to create new constituencies when new census figures require that it does so. But HOW the new constituencies are created is the business of the entire body-politic of the country. If in debating the EC’s methodology, genuine criticisms are made, it is for the EC to sift the criticisms objectively and not pretend that it is only people texting “death threats” to the EC Chairman, who are unhappy with how the EC is going about its business.

The most important criticism of the creation of the 45 new constituencies idea is that it is being done in too much of a hurry. We have barely 3 months to go before the election. And yet the Legislative Instrument authorising the creation of the Constituencies is yet to be legalised by Parliament.

There is also a court case challenging the creation of the constituencies. If the plaintiff wins, it is the right of the EC to challenge the court’s decision.

As this is a constitutional issue, I expect that it will be handled initially by the Supreme Court with a ‘normal’ panel, but that if an appeal is launched, then the full Bench will sit on the issue. With the best will in the world, our court system is not the speediest on the planet. Would the Supreme Court be able to adjudicate in time over the issue for the Court’s decision it to be relevant to the December election?

But even that is a matter of detail. We can go back and forth over details for a whole year, so it would be more useful to discuss the PRINCIPLES involved. Party politics is a competitive game, and if you are engaged in a competition, you have to agree to certain rules governing it.

The most important rule is that there should be a GOOD REFEREE of the game, whose decisions are accepted and respected by all those taking par. Is the EC acting in a way that convinces all the participants and spectators that it is both competent and fair?


In this particular instance, the EC has been provided with an inter-party  consultative body in which the political parties can voice their disquiet over any EC actions, or proposals. I don’t know what they have each told the EC, of course.But I do know that even though the EC is LEGALLY empowered to ignore the views of the inter-party committee and do what it wants to do, such a course of action would not necessarily be a WISE thing.

To give due consideration to genuine criticisms presented in a logical manner, is not a sign of weakness but a demonstration of maturity. Distinguishing between hysterical political partisanship – which is only too common, I am sad to say – and a responsible suggestion made to reduce tension at an awkward period in a nation’s life, does indeed indicate a competent appreciation of the political environment in which one is operating.

Currently, the political environment is charged because the NPP is, among other things, not happy about the way the population/land size numbers were calculated to arrive at the 45 constituencies.

In fact, an American law professor, Dr Daniel A Smith, has written a very interesting paper for the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (GCDD) in which he makes a clinical analysis of the whole issue of creating new constituencies in Ghana, and in which he outlines the possible objections that could be made against the outcome of a new exercise.

I don’t myself want to go into the constituency issue in any detail, but certainly if one of the two largest parties is raising doubts about the issue, then its views must be accordedits  due weight.  The second point is that the NDC was probably hasty in carving out new districts whose existence would somehow influence the creation of the new constituencies. Did the EC fall into a trap laid for it by the NDC? This is a legitimate question which the NPP is entitled to explore.For when a party in power re-demarcates districts and areas to influence the outcome of a pending election, that action is called “gerrymandering”. It is a very well-known shenanigan or trick which is used by unscrupulous politicians, even in the well-established democracies, such as the United Kingdom and the United States, especially in the Southern states, where racism affects political decisions and candidates can be put into Congress or be made to lose their seats  by redistributing votgers akong racial lines.

Gerrymandering causes a lot of political ill-will because it is easy to detect, and in our particular circumstances, it would be positively crazy to attempt it. For the principal effect of gerrymandering would be to heighten the intensity of the tensions which are already – rather unfortunately – a ‘normal’ part of the electioneering process in our country.

It is not particularly edifying for the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, knowing that a body such as the Presbyterian Church (for instance) which once provided him with a platform to explain his difficulties over the biometric registration of voters, is one of his critics, to now respond to its criticism in a way as to embarrass the Presbyterian Church. “Maybe the intention is to do harm to me, maybe to frighten me. Let me say that I will not be frightened”.

I am certain he does not mean to include the Presbyterian Church in the group that would like to “harm” him. But how can the public know that?

Listen to him: “It’s becoming very nauseating; everywhere you turn to, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan… What have I done? I don’t know…. Why personalize it, why single me out?”

I am afraid Dr Afari-Gyan is not being quite straight with the country in saying this. He has become so identified with the successes that foreign countries believe the Ghana EC has chalked for itself that he’s on the invitation list of many countries trying to hold peaceful and competent elections. When he travels to these places, he doesn’t take the other Electoral Commission members with him does he? As the head that wears the crown, the criticisms too fall — naturally — within his remit.

This next notion he postulated is even more laughable: “Every time” he said, “we are accused of being in bed with the government. During the Rawlings time, we were in bed with the government; in the Kufour regime, we were in bed with the government; now we are in bed with this [NDC] government. We must be special prostitutes to be in bed with all these various governments,” he laughed.

Fair enough. But let me remind him that even thogu “sex working” is now a respected profession, its practicioners might give one a slap if one called them a ‘prostitute’  in public!  But that would not mean that they were not, in fact, prostitutes.

More important, even professional ‘sex workers’ know that they have to be careful not to overreach themselves intheir work, by, for instance,  ignoring all the social norms of the area in which they ply their trade —  inasmuch as one day, they will have to retire home and live amongst the people. They wouldn’t like be ostracised, then, would they?
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