In its preliminary report, issued on Wednesday in Accra, by the Head of the ECOWAS Election Observer Mission, the ECOAS Observer team congratulated the people of Ghana for their exemplary comportment during the election.
The Mission noted that the preparation of the 2020 elections, the conduct of the electioneering campaigns, as well as the processes on Election Day, up until the release of the results by the responsible officials at the polling stations, were generally free, fair, transparent and credible.
“The vast majority of the qualified population, who wished to do so, were provided the required space to exercise their constitutional rights to vote,” it said.
It assured that the Election Observation Mission would continue to closely monitor the concluding phases of the electoral process, in particular the declaration of results by the Electoral Commission on the presidential election, and will make further declarations where and when appropriate.
It also warmly congratulated the peace-loving people of Ghana, particularly the leadership of the political parties, their followers, and the electorates in general, for the tenacity, determination, sense of moderation and patriotism demonstrated in their quest to deepen Ghana's enviable democratic credentials.
The Mission also commended Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC), the security agencies and all stakeholders for their invaluable contribution to the success so far achieved, and urged them to pursue the process to its logical conclusion with the same determination, zeal and commitment.
“At this juncture, the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission would like to caution individuals and groups, in particular political parties, the media and civil society organizations, to refrain from speculating on or declaring unofficial results, besides the official results declared or to be declared by the EC.
“The Mission calls on all candidates and their supporters to continue to respect due processes and the rule of law at all times. Given the individual and collective responsibility for the success of the process, the Mission urges all stakeholders to resort only to legal means to seek redress of any grievances emanating from the electoral process,” it said.
On the conduct of the election and vote counting, the Mission noted that on Election Day, across the about 85% observed polling stations, voters turned up early and the voting started at the official opening time of 7:00 am. There was a high presence of women and youth as voters and polling/party agents.
The report noted that there was visible presence of security agents in 91% of the polling stations that the observers visited. Security was provided by the Joint Election Security Task Force comprising the Ghana Police Service, the Ghana Immigration Service, Ghana National Fire Service, the Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority, the Prisons Service and the Ghana Armed Forces.
“Our observers also noted that whereas there was at least one static security officer at most polling stations, in other polling centers the security officers were on mobile patrol moving from one center to another. “Overall, the political parties and their followers respected the prohibition of the display of party colors and symbols in and around polling stations on the Election Day The COVID-19 protocols, including the availability of hand sanitizers, social distancing and the wearing of face masks were adhered to at the polling centers and by the voters.
“Party agents, particularly of the NPP and NDC, were equally present at most polling stations observed. In addition, some few party agents of other political parties were present in some of the polling stations, in particular the Convention People's Party, and the People's National Convention (PNC),’’ it said.
It observed that essential electoral materials were in place in most of the polling centers observed, and the polls opened within 30 minutes of the official opening time of 7:00 am viii. At the stations visited during the opening of polls, Polling Officials largely maintained order, particularly with the support of the security on duty. Voters in queues comported themselves and stayed calm until they had their turn, except in few places that experienced initial chaos, but the situation stabilized gradually with time.
Also, arrangements were made in polling stations to facilitate and ease the voting by vulnerable individuals such as the physically challenged, the aged, pregnant women and mothers with infants and young children.
Despite the few challenges observed, voters exhibited maximum patience and perseverance in their determination to exercise their civic rights and responsibilities.
The polling officials demonstrated adequate professionalism in carrying out their duties and responsibilities, while party agents ably watched over their party and candidates' interests.
International and local observers were present in most polling centers visited. These included, besides ECOWAS observers, African Union (AU), the Commonwealth and the European Union. There was effective presence of Local Observers, particularly CODEO and WANEP.
In most polling stations observed, the polls closed at the official time of 5:00 pm, because most voters had finished casting their votes.
The sorting, counting, tallying, and reconciliation of the ballots, as well as the declaration and certification of results at the polling stations, were carried out in a professional, transparent and credible manner, and under the watchful eyes of party agents and observers.
On the challenges observed, the ECOWAS Observation Mission noted few isolated incidents that could have marred the smooth and peaceful conduct of the polls. They include the following:
Issues around the strict respect for secrecy of vote in some few polling stations visited;
There was case of double voting at Standards Education Centre Polling Centre at Asylum Down, Accra which was timely resolved by the Electoral Commission;
The arrest of two (2) Electoral Commission Officers, who tampered with presidential ballot at Awutu Senya West and Bawku Central.
The isolated case of shooting recorded outside the Step to Christ Polling station in Kasoa, Awutu Senya East Constituency in the Central Region;
There was a commotion at the Collation Centre in Techiman Municipal Office that serves as the Regional Collation Center. This was triggered by agitations by the population observing the declaration of results by the polling officials who had delayed in projecting certified results.
On the whole, the voting process took place in an orderly, transparent and professional manner, and secrecy of the ballot was generally observed. It is the view of the ECOWAS Observation Mission that the afore-mentioned challenges observed did not undermine the transparency, fairness and the credibility of the electoral process at this point in time.
The Mission also extended its condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the vehicular accidents and speedy recoveries to the injured.