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CODEO defends Ayawaso by-election report following EC criticism

The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers says that it stands by its report on last Thursday’s Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election.

The report, which was released by the Coalition on January 31, the day of the polls, was rubbished by the Electoral Commission (EC)’s Chairperson Jean Mensa, who said that the by-election went on peacefully despite violence breaking out near a polling station in Bawaleshie.

In a statement signed by its National Coordinator, Albert Arhin, CODEO stated that it “follows a strict protocol and has, thus, always taken great pains to ensure that its Close-Of-Poll Statement and other reports record and reflect only that which is factually and contemporaneously observed and documented by its assigned observers and team. CODEO does not rely on hearsay or uncorroborated third-party accounts.”

CODEO also denied the assertion that it had claimed the presence of stationed security officers disrupted the voting process.

“CODEO made no such attribution or linkage. CODEO’s main concerns regarding security arrangements for the by-election were explicitly stated as: the apparent lack of proper security coordination for the election; the heavy and intimidating presence of security personnel at various polling stations; the display of a lack of understanding of the electoral rules and regulations by some plain-clothed (“non-uniformed”) security personnel; and the presence of MASKED “security operatives” at some polling stations.”

Following the release of CODEO’s close-of-polls report, the EC rebuffed a number of the Coalition’s claims, stating the violence did not mar the by-election.

“The Commission put in place, adequate and efficient security measures to maintain law and order at all polling station. At the end of the by-election at the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency, the Electoral Commission is pleased to announced that the conduct of the polls in all 137 polling stations was peaceful, smooth and orderly,” the EC said.

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Read CODEO’s statement below:

Setting the records straight: Misrepresentations by the Electoral Commission of Ghana on CODEO’s Close-Of-Polls Statement on the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency by-election

On the evening of Thursday, January 31, 2019, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), which had deployed observers for the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency by-election held on that date, released its Close-Of-Polls Statement. CODEO’s Close-Of-Polls Statement typically provides a snapshot of what transpires on Election Day. Consistent with its practice, CODEO communicated its initial report of the election not only to the public, through traditional and new media channels, but also to the leadership of the Electoral Commission (EC) via e-mail.

CODEO follows a strict protocol and has, thus, always taken great pains to ensure that its Close-Of-Poll Statement and other reports record and reflect only that which is factually and contemporaneously observed and documented by its assigned observers and team. CODEO does not rely on hearsay or uncorroborated third-party accounts. Commission of Ghana in a press statement and at a press conference apparently, in reaction to the CODEO statement CODEO is, therefore, surprised that claims or assertions it did not make in its initial Statement have been attributed to it by the Electoral. For the avoidance of doubt, CODEO wishes to state categorically that:

1. Contrary to the impression created by the EC regarding the shooting incident at La Bawaleshie, CODEO did not indicate, anywhere in its statement that the said shooting incident took place at a POLLING STATION. CODEO was clear in its statement that “CODEO observers witnessed the violent incident, including shooting incident, which took place in the La Bawaleshie area at East Legon.” The CODEO statement also did not in any way attempt to link the Electoral Commission to the shooting incident, contrary to the EC’s claim. CODEO, in fact, pointed out that its observers “could not confirm the exact cause of the violent incident”.

2. The Electoral Commission, also in its statement, denied that the violent incident which took place at La Bawaleshie affected voting. According to the Commission, the incident “did not in any way disrupt the conduct of the poll.” CODEO wishes to reaffirm its initial observation that, as a result of the panic and chaos emanating from the shooting incident, voting was, in fact, temporarily disrupted at a polling station close to the shooting incident. Indeed, a media report of an interview with the Electoral Commission’s own Municipal Director for Ayawaso West confirms that voting was disrupted for about 45 minutes in the wake of the shooting incident before normalcy was restored.

3. Regarding the presence of security personnel at polling stations, CODEO is baffled by the EC’s indication that CODEO had suggested, in its Statement, that the presence of stationed security officers specifically or in and of itself disrupted the voting process. CODEO made no such attribution or linkage. CODEO’s main concerns regarding security arrangements for the by-election were explicitly stated as: the apparent lack of proper security coordination for the election; the heavy and intimidating presence of security personnel at various polling stations; the display of a lack of understanding of the electoral rules and regulations by some plain-clothed (“non-uniformed”) security personnel; and the presence of MASKED “security operatives” at some polling stations. CODEO further wishes to point out that, its general observation about the security deployment for the by-election as stated in its Statement was not limited to stationed security personnel, but also mobile patrol teams. Indeed, security operatives in some of the mobile patrol vehicles sighted by observers at some polling stations were armed.

4. Regarding the incident at a polling station at the Prisons JHS Polling Station at Roman Ridge, where a stationed uniformed police officer was attacked for questioning and directing some plain-clothed security operatives at the polling station to reposition themselves, CODEO stands by the account of its observer and is ready to cooperate with the Electoral Commission and the security agencies to undertake further investigation into the matter.

5. Contrary to the Electoral Commission’s suggestion that CODEO did not provide an overall picture of the conduct of the polls, CODEO wishes to draw the attention of the EC to the paragraph in the CODEO Statement which noted that, apart from the main concerns regarding security arrangement for the by election, “most observers reported of a generally smooth voting exercise, including the smooth performance of biometric devices.” The CODEO Statement further touched on other issues such as the presence of party agents at polling stations, and the generally-low voter turn-out which indeed has been confirmed by the EC’s official turn-out figure for the by-election at 19.83%.

CODEO further reiterates the point indicated above that, its Close-of-Polls Statement which is typically released at the end of voting, provides a snapshot of an election. Indeed, the CODEO initial Statement clearly indicated that “CODEO will continue to observe the counting and declaration of results, and will issue its preliminary statement in due course”. CODEO wishes to assure the EC and the general public that, in line with its standard practice, its final report on the election which will provide a comprehensive assessment of the by-election will be released in the coming days.

CODEO has attached as an Appendix to this Statement, its Close-of-Polls Statement as released on the evening of Thursday, January 31, 2019.

CODEO also wants to assure the Electoral Commission of Ghana, election stakeholders and the general public that it remains unflinching in its commitment to impartiality, objectivity and neutrality and that, its sole interest in the country’s electoral processes is the promotion and assurance of electoral integrity. In this regard, CODEO’s observation efforts are aimed at complementing the efforts of the EC in ensuring electoral credibility. In discharging this responsibility, CODEO has always endeavored to work cooperatively and in good faith with the Electoral Commission, as CODEO sees itself not as standing in an adversarial relationship with the EC, but as working, ultimately, toward a common end of ensuring transparent, credible and peaceful elections and election management in Ghana.

Signed:

Albert Arhin,

National Coordinator, CODEO

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