In recommendation five (5) of The IEA Electoral Reform Project, The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA-Ghana) is calling on the Electoral Commission to “ABOLISH ITS STRONG ROOM.” Over the years, Ghana’s Electoral Commission has designated a section in its headquarters as the “strong room” for the collation of votes. It serves the operations room of the Commission where provisional results are collated and certified by the EC to indicate who has won an election. It is in the ‘Strong Room’ that the chairmen or few representatives of the various political parties receive confirmation of results from their agents in the various voting centers before appending their signatures. It is usually a very tensed and uncomfortable room.
However, in a report issued in Accra as part of The IEA Electoral Reform Project, Dr. Ransford Gyampo, Research Fellow of the Governance Unit of the IEA noted that the idea of a ‘strong room’ with very huge security presence conjures negative and derogatory images that undermine transparency and electoral peace. According to Dr. Gyampo, some people perceive the “strong room” as a place where election results from the regions are cooked or manipulated in favour of a political party. In the view of the IEA, “this derogatory perception undermines the credibility of the Election Management Body.” Dr. Gyampo argued that democracy and perception of opacity cannot be bedfellows and that, it is in the EC’s own interest to abolish its “strong room” to shield itself from unnecessary public attacks and ensure increased transparency in the vote collation and authentication process. In place of a “strong room”, “the IEA is calling for the establishment of a National Collation Centre which would be open and accessible to as many members of the political parties, the media, Civil Society Organizations and Election Observers as possible, but under controlled security in order to enhance the transparency of the national collation exercise”. According to the IEA Research Fellow, a bigger venue that can accommodate about five hundred people is what is being recommended. Again, “it should be possible for the work and activities being undertaken at the proposed National Collation Centre to be viewed live on the national television by Ghanaians.”
According to Dr. Gyampo, “the IEA believes that the conception of a ‘strong room’ with its rather derogatory connotations, is completely out of place in the discourse on transparent elections” He therefore called on the EC to abolish its idea of ‘strong room’ to ensure increased transparency in the vote transmission, collation and authentication process. This according to the IEA Research Fellow, can be achieved by establishing a National Collation Centre which would be open and accessible to as many members of the political parties, the media, Civil Society Organizations and Election Observers as possible, but under controlled security in order to enhance the transparency of the national collation exercise. “The IEA call for a replacement of the “strong room” with the National Collation Centre will not in any way compromise the autonomy and independence of the Electoral Commission. It would rather boost the image of the EC as a more credible and transparent body as well as reduce the high perception of, and sometimes, incidence of electoral fraud that have characterize elections in Ghana”, Dr Gyampo noted. “Let the EC begin discussions on all proposals for electoral reform now.”
DR RANSFORD GYAMPO
RESEARCH FELLOW, IEA