Pressure group, OccupyGhana, has called on the Attorney General to extend the current laws on election offences to cover party primaries and intra-party elections.
According to the group, it has been very concerned about the phenomena where persons use money and gifts to bribe voters and/or use intimidation, violence, personation, insults, tribalism, falsehoods, etc, against opponents in all elections.
It revealed that these have grown to “shockingly brazen levels”, especially in party primaries to elect presidential and parliamentary candidates and intra-party elections to elect party officials.
“We therefore invite you, as the Attorney-General and as the parliamentary leadership of the parties with representation in the current Parliament, to co-sponsor and introduce a bill in Parliament that specifically extends the application of these existing offences to party primaries and intra-party elections.OccupyGhana
Contained in a letter dated October 9, 2023, OccupyGhana stated that the proposed amendment should also remove the requirement for the Attorney-General’s “fiat” before prosecutions may be commenced.
It noted that both the Criminal Offences Act, 1960 (Act 29) and the Representation of the People Act, 1992 (PNDCL 284) contain elaborate provisions that criminalize all of these acts.
Furthermore, the pressure group explained that persons convicted of such offences are liable to a range of fines, terms of imprisonment, and even disqualification from voting.
“However, apart from the fact that these provisions are hardly seen to be enforced, these statutes refer only to ‘public elections,’ which, as seen under article 49 of the Constitution, may not cover party primaries and intra-party elections. This might explain why we see no prosecutions when these happen.”OccupyGhana
Ensuring violence-free elections
Elaborating on the invitation, Occupy Ghana iterated the call on the Attorney-General to co-sponsor and introduce a bill in Parliament that will “specifically extend the current laws that provide and punish for public election offences, to cover party primaries and intra-party elections”.
It reckoned that this will be the first step to stemming the now rampant vote-buying, intimidation, violence etc that have become associated with such elections.
“These, we believe, will indicate to Ghanaians that the government and the two leading parties want to banish this phenomenon from all of our elections, whether public or not, and to every extent possible and permitted by law. When passed, strict enforcement should breathe new anti-corruption life into our body-politic.”OccupyGhana
Moreover, OccupyGhana reckoned that the refusal, failure, or neglect by the Attorney General to take this step will finally provide basis for the suspicion that the government and the two leading parties actively support, or are complicit in perpetrating, this wrongful conduct.
Accusations of vote-buying, among others, has in recent times made waves as the National Communications Officer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Sammy Gyamfi accused the New Patriotic Party (NPP) of engaging in vote buying prior to the Assin North by-election scheduled for Tuesday, June 27.
He noted that the NPP allegedly purchased votes by offering fertilizers and state-owned knapsack sprayers to voters.
Prior to that, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate for the Kumawu constituency in the Ashanti Region, Kwasi Amankwaa, accused the governing NPP of vote buying in the by-election.
Mr Amankwaa claimed he caught polling agents of the NPP at Anananya near Bodomase distributing GH¢50 notes to some electorates close to the voting center.
Minority chief whip, Governs Kwame Agbodza, has also expressed his intention to guard the process of the general elections in 2024. He vowed to expedite “immediate reaction” to anyone who will try to violate any NDC member during the election.