The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has kicked against any plans by the Electoral Commission (EC) to pilot the implementation of the Representation of People Amendment Act (ROPAA) in the 2020 elections.
The Party believed that if the ROPAA should be implemented, it should be conducted in all the 193 countries recognised by the United Nations, instead of conducting the election in only 64 nations where Ghana had established embassies.
The Party called for stakeholders’ consultation by involving the political parties, civil society organisations and election management body to fully participate in drawing up a workable programme or roadmap towards the operationalisation of ROPAA to ensure holistic approach and consensus.
Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, the Member of Parliament for North Tongu and Ranking Member on Foreign Affairs in Parliament, stated the Party’s position on the matter at a roundtable discussion on the way forward of the implementation of the Representation of People Amendment Act, 2006, (Act 699), in Accra, on Wednesday.
The ROPAA is a legislation Parliament passed in 2006, which entitles Ghanaians living in the Diaspora to vote during national elections.
Mr Ablakwa raised concerns regarding funding of elections in the Diaspora and explained that about 60 per cent of the country’s election cost was financed by the donor agencies and international partners.
Additionally, he kicked against the suggestion that Ghanaian Ambassadors in missions abroad would serve as Returning Officers for the EC, arguing that those ambassadors were political appointees with some already showing their political partiality and, thus, could not trust the genuineness of the election outcome.
The Party also disagreed with the proposal that Ghana’s embassies abroad should lead the registration of eligible Ghanaians in the Diaspora to vote, which was against Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution.
Mr Ablakwa averred that there were a lot of mistrust within the political elements and asked a rhetoric question; “If the NDC was in power, would the NPP allow it to implement the ROPAA?”
“In my honest view, I think Ghana is not ready for ROPAA implementation in 2020 election, but I support the principle, and I’m in solidarity with Ghanaians in the Diaspora and everywhere …”.
“I want a peaceful election determined by Ghanaians in Ghana and the limited ones who have been voting from the Diaspora – student on scholarship, those working in the United Nations institutions and workers in Ghana’s Embassies.”
He asked the election management body, the EC, to exercise caution and not rush in operationalising the ROPAA because election has the potential of plunging the country into anarchy and maring the peace and harmony.
Mr Ablakwa said stakeholders must dispassionately discuss the matter without looking through the lenses of the NDC and the NPP.
He said the country should not ignore the real challenges in the ROPAA implementation and consolidation of all the laws on elections, especially those that bothered on the Diaspora Voting.
He underlined the need for the nation to set its priorities right and adopt a scientific approach towards the operationalisation of ROPAA.
This could be enhanced by looking at the cost evaluation and how much would be required to fully implement the law.
The stakeholders meeting was organised by the Centre for Democracy (CSD-Ghana), in collaboration with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, to stimulate discussion towards the operationalisation of the ROPAA.
In 2007, the NDC’s flag bearer, the late John Evans Atta Mills had served notice that his party would fight against the implementation of the Representation of the People’s Amendment Act, for the 2008 general elections.
He wanted ROPAA, to be shelved for at least 2008, when he makes his fourth attempt at becoming the nation”s President.
His reaction came after NPP aspiring flagbearer and Foreign Minister Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in addressing an international stakeholders’ forum on external voting noted that with the passage of ROPAA in 2005, additional burdens had been imposed on the Electoral Commission, particularly financial ones.
“It is the expectation that the Commission will negotiate these additional financial requirements with the relevant public authorities so that adequate resources will be found to enable the Commission carry out its constitutional and statutory obligations,” Nana Akufo-Addo said.
The NDC leader questions the rationale behind the view expressed by his potential rival in the 2008 presidential race. “This action by the Minister confirms our suspicions when we objected to the passage of this law,” Prof Mills says.
Prof Mills had told The Statesman yesterday that ROPAA “causes more problems than it solves” making it a “bad law.”
The NDC leader says he is not against allowing Ghanaians living abroad to vote.
His issue is that Ghana is not yet ready to implement the law passed by Parliament which seeks to implement the constitutional provision that every Ghanaian above the age of 18 and of sound mind shall have the franchise.
The electoral process, according to Prof Mills is already “bedevilled with problems.” Seeing the implementation option as too hasty, his view is that “a child learns how to crawl before walking.”
Prof Mills also questions the practicability of registering Ghanaians living abroad, asking: “how are we going to do it without knowing their population?” The former law lecturer cites the difficulties in other West African countries where a similar law exists. He points out that, unlike Ghana, some of those countries have the advantage of a national ID programme already in place – making it easier to verify the identity and population of their expatriates.
Prof Mills’ view is that Ghana should stick with the pre-ROPAA system for now, adding “let’s take our time; we want something which is going to yield positive results.”
Prof Mills maintains that his primary concern is for a free and fair electoral process, which the people will willingly embrace during the 2008 elections It would be recalled that the NDC led a demonstration against the passage of ROPAA when the bill was being considered by Parliament.