The Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, has noted that the credibility of the December presidential and parliamentary elections will not be determined by the commission alone but also on how all the stakeholders tackle their shared responsibility.
He said that responsibility was shared by the EC, the ruling government, the political parties, the security agencies, the media, the electorate and the entire civil society.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic over the weekend, Dr Afari-Gyan said the elections would cost the country GH¢42 million but cautioned that the money alone was not enough to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections.
Though the details of the budget were not readily available, the EC boss pointed out and added that what would ensure free, fair and peaceful elections were the collective resolve to obey the rules and the vigilance of all stakeholders.
"I can assure you that we at the commission will play our role, but we need the complementary effort of all to ensure free and fair elections because it is a collective responsibility," he said, adding that if we did not do that "we will fall short of what are genuinely free and fair elections".
On the possible causes of disputed elections, Dr Afari-Gyan listed abuse of incumbency, multiple registration and voting, intimidation and several other forms of electoral malpractices and asked, "Is it the commission or the parties which ask their supporters to attempt any such malpractice?"
He said, for instance, that it was important that the ruling government did not abuse its incumbency by using state resources to support any candidate, while all concerned should resolve to play by the rules.
He said the political parties and their candidates must adhere to their parties' laws and code of conduct and respect one another.
Ordinary citizens too, Dr Afari-Gyan said, had roles to play, stressing that a lot of infractions of the law were committed by the people and "we must guard against that".
"We are all expected to register only once and vote only once and if all of us are prepared to play our roles, we will have very successful elections," he added.
He said the security agencies must also play their roles effectively and possibly adopt a zero tolerance for violence.
"It has been done elsewhere and I can't see any reason it cannot be done in Ghana," he charged.
So far, he pointed out, the media had not been biased, saying that in his view there was equitable access to the media.
"I think we are going to have very good elections; the signs are there, as we are dealing with some electoral issues early," he confidently stated.
On the right collation of the results, Dr Afari-Gyan pointed out that the process began with the Returning Officer, explaining that the structure of the EC was such that before the results reached the EC Head Office, many people along the chain would have already seen them.
He said members of the commission were the last to see the results, since they would be known at the polling stations, in the constituencies, districts and regions before they got to the commission at the national level.
“Therefore, if any member of the commission tells you that he can rig an election for you, tell him he is a liar,” he stressed.
"If you have to worry about manipulation and rigging, then you must be worried over what happens at the polling station and at the level of the Presiding Officer because that is where results originate. By the way, if you also want to influence presiding officers, then there are 22,000 of them throughout the country," he stated.
Dr Afari-Gyan, however, gave the assurance that election results would be collated and announced timeously because the EC was operating a system which was very verifiable, saying, "We can determine at every stage what is happening.
The Main Event Fri Aug 29,2008: McCain-Palin vs. Obama-Biden
Republican John McCain shook up the presidential race with his surprise choice of little-known Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate on Friday. Democrat Barack Obama, entering a crucial stage of the campaign fresh off his historic nominating convention, began a tour of battleground states.
Obama left the convention city of Denver as the first black man to be nominated for president by a major political party. The 47-year-old Illinois senator won over the party faithful — even some die-hard backers of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton — but the broader electorate awaits.
McCain, who turned 72 on Friday, worked to grab the spotlight with his selection of Palin, 44, the first woman to be a Republican vice presidential nominee.
"I have found the right partner to help me stand up to those who value their privileges over their responsibilities, who put power over principle, and put their interests before your needs," McCain said at a raucous rally in the swing state of Ohio.
The Republican presidential nominee-to-be stunned some party officials by choosing the self-styled hockey mom and political reformer, who has been governor of her state for less than two years, over several more prominent prospects including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
"It turns out that the women of America aren't finished yet," she said, praising Clinton, "and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all."
Seizing on themes Obama has made trademarks of his candidacy, she added, "If you want change in Washington, if you hope for a better America, we're asking for your vote."
Democrats quickly pounced on Palin as inexperienced, noting that Republicans have argued Obama is not ready to be president.
"John McCain has made his candidacy about a single argument — experience — and Sarah Palin doesn't have it," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a statement.
McCain and his newly minted running mate were to make a midday appearance at a rally in swing-state Ohio and continue to rallies in Pennsylvania and Missouri in the run-up to the Republican National Convention, which starts Monday in St. Paul, Minn.
Polls show a tight race between Obama and McCain, with some two months before the election and three high-stakes debates. Neither contender can allow the other to jump out to a big post-convention lead.
Obama was flying to Pittsburgh, where he and running mate Joe Biden will kick off a bus tour of Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Their goal is to maintain the buzz of a convention that culminated Thursday night with Obama addressing an energetic, flag-waving crowd of 84,000 packed into Denver's pro football stadium.
"Change happens because the American people demand it — because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time," Obama told the adoring crowd at Invesco Field. "America, this is one of those moments."
In the jam-packed football stadium, Obama promised an end to eight years of "broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W. Bush" and argued that McCain "doesn't get it."
He pledged to cut taxes for nearly all working-class families, end the war in Iraq and break America's dependence on Mideast oil within a decade. Portraying a McCain administration as a continuation of the current Bush White House, Obama said, "On Nov. 4, we must stand up and say: 'Eight is enough.'"
Obama accepted his party's nomination on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. He alluded to the historic parallel — and its promise — toward the end of his 44-minute speech.
"What the people heard ... people of every creed and color, from every walk of life — is that in America, our destiny is inextricably linked. That together, our dreams can be one," Obama said.
In Ohio Friday, McCain and Palin both noted that he was choosing her as his vice presidential running mate the week of the 88th anniversary of women's suffrage.
Palin has a strong anti-abortion record, and her selection was praised warmly by social conservatives whose support McCain needs to prevail in the campaign for the White House.
"It's an absolutely brilliant choice," said Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law. "This will absolutely energize McCain's campaign and energize conservatives."
Palin has five children, the youngest born in April with Down syndrome.
Obama winning over former Clinton supporters
Barack Obama has won over more than half of Hillary Rodham Clinton's former supporters, according to an Associated Press-Yahoo! News poll that finds party loyalty trumping hard feelings less than three weeks after their bruising Democratic presidential contest ended.
The poll suggests time is beginning to heal some rifts from the primary campaign and that the New York senator's endorsement of Obama carried weight. The poll was taken in the days after Clinton suspended her campaign and said she was supporting her rival.
Obama's progress with Clinton supporters is marked, yet far from complete. More than one in five who had backed the New York senator now plan to support Republican John McCain in the fall, a boost for McCain if those opinions hold.
"We still have work to do," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters in a strategy briefing. "Democrats are consolidating behind the nominee as the choice in the election is more clear and as the contest fades. Time is our friend here."
Obama gaining Clinton supporters
Obama's outreach to Clinton supporters picks up this week. Clinton planned to introduce Obama to her financial backers Thursday night in Washington, and the two will campaign together for the first time Friday in New Hampshire.
"I want her campaigning as much as she can," Obama told reporters Wednesday. "She was a terrific campaigner. She, I think, inspired millions of people, and so she can be an extraordinarily effective surrogate for me and the values and ideals we share as Democrats."
The Obama campaign also has encouraged supporters to host "United for Change" house meetings with supporters of Clinton and other candidates on Saturday. The campaign says over 3,000 are being planned across all 50 states.
The AP-Yahoo! News poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks, is part of an ongoing study that tracks the attitudes and opinions of a scientifically selected group of more than 2,000 Americans to see how their political views evolve over the course of the campaign.
The poll found 53 percent of the Democrats who favored Clinton for the nomination two months ago now back Obama for president. That's an improvement from April, when only 40 percent of Clinton supporters said they would back Obama over McCain.
"It wasn't a difficult decision — I was a lifelong Democrat," said 55-year-old Susan Gates of Massachusetts, a former Clinton backer now firmly in Obama's camp.
Gregory Scheetz, 56, of Barstow, Calif., said he wanted Clinton to win because of her experience, her intelligence and because it's time to have a woman in the White House. But he said he moved to Obama after Clinton endorsed him on June 7, even though he's a registered Republican.
"I feel that he can bring change," he said. "There's people in our country that I see need help. They're slow about getting it, and it just seems that Republicans are taking a different direction."
Twenty-three percent of Clinton's backers picked Republican John McCain over Obama. Of the rest, 16 percent were undecided, 5 percent were for independent candidate Ralph Nader and 3 percent said someone else.
The poll suggests the Clinton supporters are wary that he has enough experience to be president. Just 25 percent describe him as experienced, and that drops to 5 percent among those former Clinton backers who are not supporting Obama.
The poll responses also show Obama has more work to do to quell fears among voters like Kirstie Hartle of Rome, N.Y., a registered Democrat who has never supported a Republican presidential candidate. With Clinton out of the race, Hartle said, "I'm Republican all the way now."
She said she doesn't like Obama's name and thinks he has a questionable background. She also said she thought Obama was deceitful when he broke from his church after it hurt his campaign, and she doesn't trust him to handle the Iraq war.
"It sounds to me like a Middle Eastern type of name and whether or not he's born here in the United States, he doesn't seem like, to me, somebody who is trustworthy," Hartle said in a telephone interview. "You can't trust anybody these days, so who's to say he's not a terrorist and we just don't realize it yet?"
When asked an open-ended question about the first words that come to mind about Obama, some former Clinton supporters used words like Muslim or terrorist. Those misconceptions have been fueled by Internet rumors that point out his name is Barack Hussein Obama but otherwise lie about his background.
"I refuse to vote for an Arab to be in my White House," said retired salesman Dean Johnson of Lanett, Ala. "That is the only factor. Otherwise, you couldn't break both my legs and make me vote for a Republican."
The Obama campaign has been addressing the rumors with fliers distributed at churches, a fact-checking Web site and a television ad about his American roots. Obama is a Christian who was born and raised in the United States. His father was from Kenya, but left when Obama was a toddler and he was brought up by his American mother and grandparents in Hawaii.
Sixty-year-old Ann Burkes of Broken Arrow, Okla., said she has a "gut feeling" that she doesn't trust Obama and is leaning toward McCain because he is more experienced. But she said all that would change if Obama picked Clinton as a running mate.
"If he chose her, I would be back in a heartbeat," Burkes said.
The poll found that choosing Clinton as No. 2 would appear to be a wash for Obama's candidacy. Overall, 28 percent said they would be more likely to vote for the Democratic ticket if Clinton were the nominee, 25 percent said they would be more likely to vote for the Republican ticket if Clinton were the nominee, and 47 percent said it wouldn't make much difference.
It would help more among former Clinton Democrats, with 68 percent saying they would be more likely to vote for the ticket if Clinton were on it.
Former Clinton supporter Jeannie Azzopardi of Ashland, Ore., said she would love for Obama to pick Clinton but she doesn't expect him to and will support him either way.
"I seriously doubt that everyone who supported Hillary Clinton would vote for McCain," she said. McCain is "in direct, direct opposition to everything she stands for."
An analysis of Clinton supporters who are backing McCain shows they are more liberal than the Arizona senator on the issues. The majority favor removing troops from Iraq as soon as possible, a single-payer health care system funded by taxpayers and repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.
The AP-Yahoo! News survey of 1,759 adults had an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percentage points. Included were interviews with 844 Democrats, for whom the margin of sampling error was plus or minus 3.4 points, and 637 Republicans, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 points.
The poll was conducted over the Internet after pollsters initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods, following up with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it for free.