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Mob psychology teaches that no matter how well demonstrations and public protests are planned, their outcome is always unpredictable. When you assemble huge numbers of people from different social backgrounds, some with a limited understanding of the issues behind the protests and many with motives that may not be wholesome, chaos is always shorter than a stone’s throw away.

That is why many public protests and demonstrations intended to be peaceful, end with broken skulls and bones and thick clouds of acrid fumes from police teargas hanging in the atmosphere.

No, wait, Jomo. Let me put it this way: The ritualistic election year war drum pounding apart, another key threat to peace has always been the tendency to cast doubts on the integrity of the Electoral Commission and the electoral process long before the election. Once the integrity of an election suffers injury, confusion and conflict can only result.

Doubts have already been cast on the integrity of next year’s elections by the New Patriotic Party which says the national voters’ register contains many names of non-existent or unqualified persons, and is demanding the compilation of a new voters’ register. This week, a political group affiliated to the party went on a demonstration and tried to picket outside the Electoral Commission.

Coordinating the movement and controlling huge numbers of protesters from a central point of authority is well-nigh impossible and there is always the danger of protesters veering from routes prescribed by the police and engaging in acts of violence and vandalism.

We came frighteningly close to bloody chaos the last time protesters went to demonstrate outside the Commission in an election year: Machete, stone and club-wielding party supporters rampaged through parts of Accra and others besieged the Electoral Commission’s strong room. There was so much high-voltage electricity in the air and anxiety everywhere. Is that what will ensure a fair and peaceful election, and not collective national restraint in managing and resolving any disputes?

As long as steps are taken to ensure total transparency, fairness and the absence of serial technical hitches, emerging from the next election in one whole piece yet again, should not be a giant deal. That is, unless it is the case that dark forces will conspire to add Ghana to the list of ruination-bound African states if they lose or fail to win power.

If more political protests come, they should always be preceded by the education of protesters on the rules of the game as far as the police are concerned: In every political protest, there are often the well-educated politicians and political activists who may not be inclined toward violent behaviour or acts of vandalism. Then there are the foot soldiers and party hangers-on:

Many of these are unemployed, restless young people, some with a very misguided understanding of politics, who amid the nation’s economic difficulties and high unemployment rates, think by associating themselves with the country’s two leading parties, they may have a social umbrella to take refuge under and subsequently obtain jobs if a party comes to power.

A political party cannot be denied the right to undertake peaceful public protests in pursuit of a just and legitimate cause but then, the state has a responsibility to protect its citizens from harm during political agitations. It is only appropriate that our Western friends in the pursuit of democracy and the rest of the international community, should be made to understand the nature of these subtle threats to our democracy every election year.

This is necessary so that when the stringent security measures needed to protect lives and property during the next election are taken, the wrong impression is not given the international community that the security forces in Ghana are being used by the state to suppress and intimidate voters.