Danquah Institute urges Mills to call on Gbagbo to Ease-Off

The Danquah Institute (DI), an Accra-based governance think tank, has called on the President of the Republic of Ghana to call on “his brother” Laurent Gbagbo, the President of La Cote d’Ivoire “to allow the Electoral Commission to do its constitutional duty by declaring the results of the presidential run-off.”

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The statement, signed by a member of the governing board of DI, Dr Matthew Prempeh, states, “The African Union has strongly urged the Ivorian parties in particular, to accept the verdict of the polls and the will of the people and, should this become necessary, to resort only to the mechanisms and processes provided for by the law for the settlement of any electoral dispute. But this is not enough. The AU and ECOWAS must ask President Mills to intervene in this matter and call his brother to order. We all know how close our President is to the leader next door and he must exploit this responsibly for our common good.”
DI’s call, on Thursday, comes the morning after the neighbouring country missed a deadline for releasing results in its presidential election after a midnight cut-off point passed with no announcement by the EC.

The think tank has questioned the rationale behind the statement by Youssouf Bakoyoko, the head of the electoral commission, on Wednesday night that the Commission was still working to reach a consensus on results.

“What consensus is required in a run-off election after the ballots have been cast, counted and the results collated? The Commission’s job is to declare the results and not to manufacture consensus for the sake of placating the ruling party. This only shows that EC boss is under a lot of pressure from the Gbagbo government” the DI statement says.

Though the results have not been officially declared, the whole of La Cote d’Ivoire and the world knows that the verdict favours Alassane Ouattara, the opposition leader.
Dr Prempeh, who is also DI’s expert on electoral affairs, makes the point that failure to release the results on time would only fuel tension among a nervous electorate, the consequences of which could be disastrous for the country and the West African region in general.

The vote, the first since a brief civil war split the world’s No. 1 cocoa producer in two, is seen as a critical turning point in Ivory Coast’s history. Many hope it will restore stability and reunify the country, but some worry it could trigger unrest if political rivals fail to accept the outcome.

Gbagbo received 38 percent in a first round of voting in October, and Ouattara came second with about 32 percent. Since then, third–place finisher Henri Konan Bedie, who received 25 percent, threw his support behind Ouattara.

Dr Prempeh also called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) to “exert more direct legitimate pressure on President Laurent Gbagbo to allow the Electoral Commission of the Ivory Coast do its work in getting the results of the run-off held on 28th November 2010 released.”

Wednesday, 1st December 2010, marked the legal deadline set for the Electoral Commission to declare results of the run-off between President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. However, a supporter of Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo prevented the electoral commission from releasing the first results from Sunday’s run-off as he tore up the results when the body’s spokesman was on the verge of announcing them to awaiting journalists.

A ruling party agent stopping the EC from declaring results

“Will President Mills show leadership and call on his friend next door, Laurent Gbagbo to allow the Electoral Commission to declare the results? This does not augur well for upcoming elections in Africa,” Dr Prempeh added.

He further notes that the experience of Ghana’s next door neighbour has “enlightened us to what extra checks we can add to our own Electoral Commission’s intentions to compile a new voter register next year using biometrics. Mind you, they used biometric register in La Cote d’Ivoire but that has not stopped charges of vote-rigging whether real or imagined.”

La Cote d’Ivoire’s election has been delayed for five years because of disputes over voter rolls. The introduction of the biometric voter register in this year’s election was to end this dispute and ensure a problem free election.

However, allegations of stuffed ballot boxes have been levelled by supporters of the Presidential candidates, a problem the biometric voter register was to solve, apparently. Ghana will employ the use of a biometric voter register in the 2012 general elections.

Already, the EU and the United Nations have urged the Electoral Commission to respect the Wednesday deadline and release the results. Missing the deadline may mean the country’s Constitutional Court would be given the power to certify, or not, the results and according to reports, the court is headed by a Gbagbo loyalist.

Dr Matthew Prempeh has also called on Ghanaian journalists, political parties and civil society groups to show self-serving interest in what is happening in the Ivory Coast as Ghana is just two years away from holding its own general elections using a biometric voter register.

By ANA Political Correspondent, Accra