The much-awaited parliamentary primary of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) at Chiana-Paga in the Upper East Region has taken off Saturday amid some pockets of controversy with soldiers and police officers deployed to restore calm.
The election, in what 13,062 delegates are expected to choose a candidate among three aspirants, could not start at the usual 7:00am this morning at Krugu, an electoral area in the eastern zone of the constituency, due to the failure of the Electoral Commission to create a voting centre there.
It had been initially arranged before the day of the primary that some 803 delegates from Krugu should cast their votes at Akoma, a community said to be between 4 and 6 kilometres away and with only 115 delegates.
The delegates at Krugu strongly had kicked against the arrangement, saying the distance was too long for them to travel. They had also argued that Krugu should have been the voting centre not only because it had more delegates than Akoma but also because Akoma was created out of Krugu some time ago.
EC did not create voting centre The agitations prompted the NDC’s regional executives to consider creating an additional polling centre for Krugu at a time there were already 52 approved voting centres in the constituency.
According to the party’s Regional Secretary, Donatus Akamugre, the regional office of the Electoral Commission (EC) was contacted to establish a voting centre for the 803 delegates, but the EC’s office in the Kassena-Nankana West District (where the constituency is found) did not do as requested. The EC, according to the party’s executives, only created the voting centre at 9:56am on the day of the primary.
“Unfortunately this morning, we had the news that the new polling station had been created and the people were queued and there was no box for them. That made us to rush down to the constituency. We met the Electoral Commission’s officer for the Kassena-Nankana West District.
“According to him, he had not had instructions from his regional officer to create that polling station despite the fact that we had written earlier to them. We indicated that we had written to his boss and that we had served the election director of our party in the constituency and he was given a copy. In that regard, we were able to resolve the issue and he has created that polling station,” the Regional Secretary said.
Protests at Krugu The delay in resolving the polling centre controversy at Krugu, in what saw three hours of the election wasted there, has left the 803 delegates inflamed against the Electoral Commission.
That area appears to be the stronghold of Lawyer Rudolph Amenga-Etego, one of the aspirants, and his supporters have vowed to register a protest after the primary if the ‘wasted three hours’ are not compensated for by allowing the centre to continue to vote after the usual closing hour of 5:00pm.
“They just brought the ballot box about an hour ago. So, do they expect the people of Krugu, over 800 voters, to stop their voting at the prescribed time or they would pay for the hours wasted from 7:00am? And voting started at 11:00am. That’s our major concern today. The District Director of Electoral Commission has switched off his phone.
“Maybe, he has been bribed by our opponents to sabotage the people of Krugu. They should be mindful that after this primary, they (opponents) will come to the people of Krugu looking for their mandate. That is where we would have a lot of questions waiting for them,” Gilbert Atanga, one of the campaign strategists for Lawyer Rudolph Amenga-Etego, told Starr News. Soldiers and police officers were deployed to the area to avert clash. Starr News could not get the side of the Electoral Commission to the story as the Regional Director, James Arthur-Yeboah, as of the time of filing this report, did not answer the calls placed to his mobile phone.
Delegates’ names missing on register Scores of delegates, Starr News also has learnt, cannot find their names on the party voters’ roll across the constituency that has the biggest electoral college in the region.
“It’s so sad I came and Electoral Commission are telling me my name is not in the register. I’ve been here since morning. Meanwhile, my name was there during the exhibition exercise. I’m just standing here, unable to do what has brought me here,” Irene Ayaane, told newsmen at the Amenga-Etego Primary Polling Centre.
The party’s regional executives resolved to meet that challenge by asking the Electoral Commission to allow as many delegates as cannot find their names on the register to vote once their faces can be seen on the register and the polling agents of the aspirants all agree that such delegates are card-bearing members of the party.
The EC agreed to go by the resolution but only after the party’s executives had put the terms of agreement on paper for future reference purposes.
Race between Pele and Rudolph Pundits have said the primary is a two-horse race between old rivals, incumbent Member of Parliament, Abuga Pele, and Lawyer Rudolph Amenga-Etego.
Pele, despite the noose around his neck in a long-running court case for his alleged involvement in a financial scandal at the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) now Youth Employment Agency (YEA), is ahead in today’s race in the opinions of those who say the MP, going into the primary, is still very popular and more resourced than the legal practitioner.
The other aspirant, Jonathan Nyaaba, sandwiched between the two giants, is the youngest vying for the ticket to Parliament. Whilst his supporters believe he is capable of pulling a surprise by the close of the election today, a lot of observers say he is in today’s race not to win but only to market himself ahead of future elections.
The primary should have taken place in November, 2015, but agitations over alleged attempts to have some aspirants disqualified put it on hold for about 8 months. It was finally scheduled for Saturday July 9, 2016, amid wild jubilations. The jubilations did not last. At the eleventh hour, the election was again rescheduled for Saturday 16, 2016, sparking wild protests.
The sudden postponement cropped up because electoral materials were not ready and the leader of the party, President John Dramani Mahama, was due to tour the region two days after the day initially fixed for the primary.