Yes We Can – Says Jean Mensa

Jean Mensa

The Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensa, has painted a beautiful picture of the last general elections which, she added, is proof that we are able to apply best practices from which the advanced democracies can learn.

“I am pleased to say that Ghana held an election in December 2020 that proved that the story of elections in our sub-region can indeed be an inspiration. That our story as West African states can be one that brings hope to our youth and light to the coming generation, and that we can provide best practices that the most advanced democracies of the world can learn from. Yes, we can,” she said.

She was speaking during a high level parliamentary seminar on two decades of democratic elections in ECOWAS Member States last Tuesday in Accra held at the behest of the ECOWAS Parliament.

Present at the function were President Akufo-Addo, current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads Of State and Government, Mahamoudou Issoufou, former President of Niger, Speaker of Parliament Alban Bagbin, Chief Justice, Justice Anin Yeboah, Jean Claude Kassi Brou, President of the ECOWAS Commission and

Madam Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Minister for Foreign Affairs. Others were Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Former UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, and the Inspector General of Police George Akuffo Dampare among others.

Ghana’s 2020 polls, according to her, were historic in terms of transparency, the credibility, the cost-effectiveness, the high turnout, and peaceful conduct that characterised it.

BBC Africa, she said, “could find no other way to describe our elections than ‘boring’.”

The electoral processes were carried out at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she recalled, adding that in spite of the challenges imposed by the pandemic and the fact that elections were six months away “we completed every electoral process including introducing and deploying a new Biometric Voter Management System, comprising hardware and software and preparing a new biometric voters register.”

The efficiency of our electoral process did not end with the voter registration exercise, she told her audience, adding “on voting day, we reduced the time it took a voter to vote from 10 to 12 minutes per voter to 3 to 5 minutes. Thanks to the robust and efficient biometric verification devices deployed.”

Social Media, she went on, “was agog with the positive stories of voters on the time it took to vote, each person excitedly testifying on their positive experience.”

On the voter turnout, she said, “I am happy to note that we recorded a voter turnout of 79% compared to 67% in 2016.

We proved that electoral processes in West Africa can be transparent. All our electoral activities were conducted in the full glare of the public.”

Through “Let the Citizens Know” series citizens were provided with information on ongoing electoral activities and answered their questions and concerns, and this, she added, “helped to open up our process and demystify our work. Again, through this platform we provided swift responses and facts to counter fake news thereby substantially reducing the tensions and suspicions that usually arise from fake news and the lack of information.”

The EC Chairperson dangled the cost-effective record of the polls, especially the unprecedented feat of executing the entire process without any external funding.

She also bemoaned the negative narrative of the past few decades which spoke more about threats than the beauty of elections on the continent.

The future of elections in Ghana, she said, would provide a repository of lessons from which generations can tap from.

She regretted the loss of lives during the last polls, and charged the security services to make recommendations that would obviate future recurrence.

By A.R. Gomda