By Steven Ackah, Convener of Transform Ghana Peace Project
Rigging of elections is not committed by innovative electoral and biometric systems or computers alone. It is carried out by living, breathing human beings who outwardly seem no different from you and I.
The results of many elections have been so ferociously challenged that the existence of the country and democracy has been endangered. The trend of election fraud has serious implications, especially for African States’ political futures because the phenomenon, rather than waning, keeps growing and becoming more sophisticated with every succeeding election in Africa.
UNDERSTANDING ELECTION RIGGING
There is no universal definition of “election fraud”, as it varies over time and location. Other terms used interchangeably with fraud are malpractice, misconduct, irregularities and manipulation.
Explicitly, Black’s Law Dictionary defined fraud: “All multifarious means which human ingenuity can devise, and which are resorted to by one individual to get an advantage over another by false suggestions suppression of the truth”. It includes all surprise, cunning or dissembling, and any unfair way by which another is cheated.
Election fraud mostly involves deception, but not all electoral crimes involve deception. Others include damage, coercion, theft and destruction of election materials. For instance, criminal practice that often rigs election includes illegal voting and ballot box stuffing, false claims, denial of claim by citizens, vote buying, voter intimidation, voter verification, failures and refusals to act, hours of services shortened and long lines at polling stations at some major constituencies.
In 2012 elections, the largest opposition party in Ghana NPP challenged the result by the electoral commission of Ghana, which led the issue to the supreme court. Even though the supreme court could settle the misunderstanding between NPP and Electoral Commission, this very issue affected the smooth flow of economic activities and plagued Ghana’s democratic practice.
STATEMENTS BY CANDIDATE
More often statements made by political candidates have a direct relationship on election acceptance result. On 19th of October 2016, during the final US Presidential Debate, Donald Trump stated that he might not accept the results of November election if he felt it was rigged against him. This remarkable statement all over seemed to cast doubt on American democracy. What will be the effect of this statement on other leaders from underdeveloped democratic nations?.
Relating the issue to Ghana, at the launch of the Ovation Magazine that showcased the work of President John Mahama, in his speech, he stated clearly that travelling the length and breadth of Ghana, because of the positive response he received from voters, he was prepared to accept the outcome of December 7 elections 2016. Not only that, President John D. Mahama said that under no circumstance will he and his government together with the Electoral Commission rig the election. This shows a sense of maturity on the part of the President and truly affirms the statement “Ghana is the eye of African Democracy”.
ELECTION RIGGING AND VIOLENCE
Rigging or perceived rigging of elections can cause violence, but violence is in itself often a form of rigging. In examining the links between rigging and violence, Ghanaians should ensure that there is no iota of doubt about the sanctity and professionalism with which the data is gathered, collected and then sent to the strong room in Accra for declaration. This is a very important process in the election decision because acceptance of the election result by the losing candidates and parties is a crucial issue in the context of an election. Sufficient electoral security will mean that the voting process has paved way for a widely accepted outcome of legitimate results.
THE WAY FORWARD
To prevent experiences such as the 2012 election, where a group of voters and parties believed elections were rigged, Ghanaians should establish the level and type of weaknesses that exist in going to election 2016. Electoral crime should be checked and an evaluation of the history of electoral rigging in some constituencies should be matched to indicate the potential magnitude and impact on outcomes. The security task force should determine whether electoral crime in some constituencies is likely to be sporadic or systematic in nature. In conclusion, the relationships between election rigging and violence have a direct correlation, but risk assessment can help mitigate and create a free and fair election in Ghana and across Africa.