The National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr John Boadu, yesterday indicated to the Emile Short Commission that elections and by-elections in the country have been characterised by violence due to the lack of firm insistence by the security services.
Mr Boadu observed that security personnel, especially that of the police who are put on duty during these elections are â€œmostly helpless when there are stampedes and impasses.â€
He stated that most of these police personnel fear that they might not be promoted or might be transferred to places where they donâ€™t like for defying their superiors and insisting on acting according to the law.
The Chairman told this to the commission when he appeared before it and was asked what, in his view, was the cause of electoral violence over the years.
Citing instances why the politicians seek protection from party foot soldiers and militia groups which eventually create violence, Mr Boadu recounted that there was a re-registration exercise at the Asutifi Asunafo Constituency, where he was saved by the presence of these foot soldiers.
He narrated that â€œa day before the exercise, I heard there were a lot of challenges at the area, so I decided to visit the place, since I was then the acting Chairman. I heard some of our party members were beaten up, so I decided to go there.
I normally do not go to such places with a lot of people, but that day, for whatever reason, I asked the Regional Chairman to get some of the young guys to accompany me there. When we got to the polling station, there was a gentleman from the opposition party who arrived with other men with machetes, guns, knives. He introduced himself to me and told me that we are in Accra and feeling big, but today, he is here with me and he is going to deal with me.
Had it not been the young men that accompanied me, it would have been a different story altogether. The police were virtually helpless.â€
On another occasion, Mr Boadu told the commission that an interaction he had with one police commander revealed that if policemen and women are not careful in dealing with situations, they might be transferred to places where they wouldnâ€™t like to go. It might also affect their promotion in the service. So transfers and promotions are the things that put fear in the police and prevent them from acting in the proper way.
â€œBut if we have a government that has the political will to support, even the least in our security agency, and support them irrespective of who would be offended, the police would be strengthened.â€
When the commission asked for his opinion on how the nation can curb electoral violence, Mr Boadu indicated that our security agencies should be firm in their decisions.
He explained that they should be able to effect punishment to serve as a deterrent and example for others to follow.
He also indicated that â€œcommissions of this nature also help to get facts of issues so that good recommendations could be made; so commissions like this should be encouraged.â€
He, however, disagreed with the fact that the convergence of many people at polling stations during elections causes the violence. He said that elections are days that political figures are needed on the grounds to give moral support to their members running for elections in their various constituencies, so that canâ€™t be a cause of violence.