The Dean of Graduate Studies and Research of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Dr Eric Oduro Osae, has stressed the need for the country to develop a structured programme that will sustain the interest of citizens in District Assembly Elections.
He said the media must also give extensive publicity about who the aspiring assembly members were in the various metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDA’s).
“I am expecting that the various media houses would help citizens to know who their assembly members are as it has always been done during parliamentary and presidential elections,” he said.
Dr Osae made the suggestion during a media sensitisation workshop on District Level Elections in Accra last Friday, to educate the media on the elections as well as solicit their support in the campaign to encourage citizens to come out and vote.
The workshop, which was put together by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, was on the theme: “Democratic Decentralisation for Development.”
This year’s district level elections will be held on March 3, 2015. However, since the introduction of the elections in 1988, there has been a record of low voter turnouts, participation and interest in the national exercise.
For instance in 1998, 41.6 per cent of the population turned out to vote. It declined in 2002 to 33.1 per cent voter turnout.
It, however, increased slightly to 39.28 per cent in 2006 and reduced again to 37.25 per cent in 2010.
As a result of this trend, proxy voters, according to the Electoral Commission, were hardly recorded in district level elections compared to presidential and parliamentary elections.
This constant decline, therefore, affects the country’s drive to consolidate the decentralisation process, especially, when representations of Assembly Members and Unit Committee Members were determined by a small percentage of voters.
Dr Osae said the media, on the day of the elections, should also do well to send all their reporters round, and set up ‘election headquarters’ of reporting panels which would give a minute to minute account of how the elections were ongoing as it was done during the parliamentary and presidential elections.
On stakeholder participation, he said it was sad that development partners and other agencies including the civil society organisations (CSOs) and organisations such as CODEO and the National Peace Council had not been seen in the voter sensitisation picture.
He said traditional authorities and faith-based organisations must also join the sensitisation and awareness campaign train to encourage their people to vote as they were revered so much in our culture.
“Just as the National Media Commission (NMC) issues a fiat to all media houses to give prominence to the coverage of the upcoming elections, I invite the National House of Chiefs , the Christian Council of Ghana and the Office of the National Chief Imam to issue directives and fiats to all members and encourage them to come out and vote,” he said.
On how to get people interested in the assembly elections, an expert on local governance, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi, called for the decentralisation of the entire district level elections.
According to him, the entire district level elections were conducted by the district officers of the EC, hence it was unwise for the EC office in Accra to legitimise the election of the unit committee members of a unit in another district.
He said the elections at the district level were local affairs and people in Accra were not interested in who had won a unit committee election.
Professor Ahwoi said when the elections were decentralised, candidates with problems could then appeal to the regional level, and from the regional level to the national level , and from the national level, they could then go to court.
A Principal Electoral Officer in charge of logistics, Nana Kweku Duodu, said lack of effective education, publicity, poor performances of work of some assembly members and unit committee members, lack of resources for developmental projects, and remuneration challenges were some of the causes of low voter turnouts.