The Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana has called on Ghanaians, especially qualified and registered voters, to actively participate in the today’s District Level Elections (DLEs) to move Ghana’s democracy forward.
The Chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, who made the call yesterday at a press briefing in Accra, emphasised the significance of the exercise in the country’s governance processes, highlighting its pivotal role in local and decentralisation governance.
In all, over 66,000 aspirants are contesting for assembly and unit committee positions in 6,215 electoral areas across 216 metropolitan, municipal, and district assemblies. They comprise 18,755 assembly member candidates and 47,502 unit committee, totalling 66,257.
The EC Chair pointed out that records show that not many people participate in this election, and stressed that Commission had taken steps to ensure that everything goes well.
“Adequate measures have been put in place to ensure that the upcoming district-level elections are free and fair. Experience over the years shows that this election is not highly participated in, and we would like to entreat all Ghanaians and assure them that the Electoral Commission has put in place all arrangements, all necessary arrangements and modalities have been put in place for a smooth incident-free election,” she stated.
The EC Chair also explained that the election is crucial to achieving the developmental goals of the nation since most of the developmental projects begin at the local assembly level.
“Let us make this election meaningful. We are all aware that developments start at the district level, and therefore it is important that as citizens we have a say and a stake in who brings development to our various districts,” she added.
She advised voters to refrain from acts that might interfere with the smooth conduct of the exercise.
Similarly, the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) has urged all to vote in the elections. A statement released by GJA General Secretary, Kofi Yeboah, said it expects a high turnout rate in today’s elections to underline the maturity of Ghanaians in democracy, especially at the local governance level.
“The GJA appreciates the commitments Ghanaians may have on a working day, and barely a week to Christmas, but we wish to let them also appreciate the greater need to secure a better future for themselves by electing competent officers to lead the process of development at the local level,” the statement indicated.
The GJA statement urged the electorate to go to the polls very early, even before attending to other engagements they may have for the day, in order to cast their ballot and ensure that their will is upheld.
The GJA also called on the Electoral Commission, security agencies and other electoral actors in the elections to exhibit high professionalism in the discharge of their duties.
“We particularly call on all stakeholders to support the Electoral Commission in the management of the elections in order to ensure the success of the polls. The GJA also calls on the media to give extensive coverage to the local government elections; and we encourage the media to deliver this charge on the highest professional standards,” the GJA statement added.
In a related development, the Minister of Local Government, Decentralisation and Rural Development, Dan Botwe, has urged the electorate to fully participate in the elections to improve turnout.
“We know the turnout for DLEs in the country in previous years has been extremely low, but we are targeting at least 50 per cent turnout this time around, and we want all, irrespective of party affiliation, to go to the polls in their numbers on the day to cast their ballot,” he said.
Mr Botwe said it was time for Ghanaians to change their perception of the DLE and ensure that they take full interest in the exercise to elect persons who would help champion their cause at the local level.
For his part, the Head of Local Government Service (LGS), Dr Nana Ato Arthur, said given that the MMDAs form the bedrock for the decentralisation of governance, it is important for all Ghanaians to be interested in how the assembly members are elected.
He, therefore, called on all stakeholders to play their roles well to ensure that the District Level Elections is successful.
The DLEs are meant to elect assembly members and unit community members at designated electoral areas at MMDAs.
The elections are in accordance with the Local Government Act, 1993 (Act 462), which provides for the election of assembly members to MMDAs.
Section 5(3) of Act 462 states: “Elections to a district assembly shall be held once every four years, at least six months before or after a general election of Members of Parliament.”
Section 6(1) of Act 462 also provides that for a person to qualify to be elected as a member of a district assembly, the person must be a citizen of Ghana above 18 years, a registered voter, ordinarily resident in the district they are seeking election, and also be a taxpayer.
The assembly members are to serve as the representatives of the communities while the unit committee members also help in mobilisation at the community level.