Ghana dispute over voter registration could lead to instability

Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) is expected to brief parliament today on its plans for this year’s December 7 general election.

Ghanan voter in the most recent election

Photo: Charles Cardinal

Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC) is expected to brief parliament today on its plans for this year’s December 7 general election.

While the EC is expected to discuss public health measures to protect voters from COVID-19, the recent, controversial decision by the Commission to reject the use of existing National Identification Authority cards and order the preparation of a new voters’ register will likely draw considerable debate.

Proponents of the move, which include the ruling, centre-right New Patriotic Party (NPP), say the EC’s decision is to ensure the integrity of the election, given that the existing register has not been updated since 2012. Opponents, including the centre-left National Democratic Congress, claim that updating the register is a political attempt by the government to disenfranchise more than 10 million voters.

The dispute has already made it to Ghana’s Supreme Court, where justices ordered the EC to provide additional legal justification for its decision.

As a large majority of Supreme Court justices were appointed by the NPP, it is highly unlikely that the Court will side against the government and the EC. While the opposition’s claim that 10 million will be disenfranchised may be an overstatement, when combined with the effect of the pandemic, the decision could very well see a suppressed turnout and may, in the short- to medium-term, lead to political instability in the West African nation.

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