Research and education think tank, Africa Centre for International Law and Accountability (ACILA) has urged President Mahama not to go against his earlier promise of not shutting down social media on Election Day, December 7.
ACILA Executive Director, William Nyarko, made the call when he was explaining how the Vote Match quiz works in an interview on E.TV Ghana’s programme “State of the Nation” hosted by Kwame Gyan. HYPERLINK “http://votematchghana.com/quiz/“. Vote Match Ghana is an interactive medium that facilitates voter education and engenders accountability of duty bearers.
Nyarko recalled that when the Inspector General of Police, Mr. John Kudalor indicated a plan by the police administration to shut down social media on election day to forestall the likelihood of fake results being declared by persons or bodies other than the Electoral Commission, President Mahama gave the assurance that no such plan was being considered.
“Government has no intention to shut down social media on Election Day. The Electoral Commission must agree with political parties on a credible procedure to announce the election results”, the President had said to teeming supporters of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) when he launched the NDC’s 2016 election campaign at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium, in August.
However, Nyarko said that President Mahama’s recent statement to representatives of Organized Labour that social media poses a threat to national security in relation to the declaration of election results suggests that the issue is not settled and that shutting down social media on election day may still be on the table.
He urged President Mahama to stand by his earlier promise not to shut down social media on Election Day and to share information with Ghanaians if he has new information that he believes will justify shutting down social media on December 7.
“Since President Mahama has not disclosed any new information to justify shutting down social media on Election Day, we urge him to stand by his earlier promise”, Nyarko added.
It is recalled that President Mahama met representatives of Organized Labor at the Flagstaff House on 15 November and stated among other things that “The threat to national security when someone starts posting false results and things then people believe that some party is winning and then the eventual outcome is that the party did not win. Then people say the results were doctored, will create a major problem for us.”
The issue of shutting down social media on Election Day generated debate with civil society disagreeing with the plan to shut down social media by the police administration on Election Day.
In addition, several persons, including Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) disclosed that the UN was against the proposed ban on social media on Election Day in Ghana.
Explaining the Vote Match concept, Nyarko, who is also the Project Manager of Vote Match Ghana said that Vote Match has a quiz component, which tests a likely voter’s political preference in a few statements, adding that the questions on the quiz are based on the manifestos of the presidential candidates/political parties.
“A voter is presented with questions, representing the policies of the candidates. At the end of the short quiz, the voter is presented with a result, which provides information indicating that based on the choices selected, the voter agrees more with the policies of one candidate than the others”, Mr. Nyarko said.
He explained that in addition to the quiz, there is a second aspect to Vote Match Ghana, which is an accountability component.
“The accountability component tracks the manifesto promises of the candidate after the candidate wins the election and takes office. The public will be invited to take periodic surveys to assess the performance of the duty bearer. ACILA will analyze and release the results in the form of a “Job Approval” rating”, he said.
He noted that some of the outcomes of the deployment of the Vote Match include voters who are informed about the policies of the presidential candidates and are able to distinguish between the policies for informed decision-making; an electioneering campaign based on issues and the proffering of alternative solutions, and an informed electorate that holds the duty bearer accountable to the policies the duty bearer proffered during the electioneering campaign.