The committee to work out the modalities for the implementation of the Representation of the People’s (Amendment) Law – ROPAL has identified three key actions for a successful roll-out.
They are public fora in all regions to solicit inputs into the operationalisation of the law, extension of the consultations to Ghanaians living in the Diaspora and visits to four countries that are currently implementing external voting.
The selected countries are the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom, Mali and South Africa.
At the first meeting of the committee, set up by the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs Jean Mensa, yesterday, the members also agreed to issue out a public notice requesting written submissions from members of the public towards the successful implementation of the law.
The committee, which is chaired by the Deputy Chairperson of the EC in charge of Administration, Mr Eric Bossman Asare, said it would later announce dates for the fora with various stakeholders in all the regions to solicit inputs from all Ghanaians into the operationalisation of the law, in accordance with a High Court ruling of 2017.
Providing the background to the meeting, the Secretary to the committee, Mr Christian Owusu Parry, said ROPAL was already a law which the EC was mandated to implement, adding that the law was passed in 2006 but little was done with it between 2008 and 2011.
He said a previous committee set up to make recommendations on the way forward for the EC submitted its report in September 2011.
Since that time, he recounted, nothing had been done until some aggrieved persons went to court to compel the EC to implement the law.
Following the court ruling for the law to be implemented, Mrs Mensa set up another committee to study what had been done and take into account changes that had taken place in the country’s electoral system since then in order to have a current and updated way forward.
Presentation of report
The committee, Mr Parry said, was expected to present its report by the end of June this year.
However, at yesterday’s meeting, members of the committee expressed worry about the deadline for the presentation of a report, considering the exhaustive stakeholder consultations that had to be done, both in Ghana and abroad, as well as visits to the four countries that practised similar external voting.
Also, the ruling of the court had given a 20-month duration, which expired last month, for the EC to have come up with a road map for the implementation of ROPAL.
Failure to do so, the EC was instructed by the High Court to make a public announcement over its inability to meet that deadline and announce a new deadline.
It was, therefore, the view of the committee that steps be taken to make a public announcement to that effect as the committee put in the required efforts to comply with other directives as contained in the High Court ruling.
That view was particularly articulated by the Chairperson of the Civic Initiative Forum, Major General Nii Carl Coleman (retd).
Some issues that bordered on the practicality of the implementation of the law came up at the meeting. Among them was how to register Ghanaians for elections, since it was obvious that Ghanaians could be found almost everywhere in the world, a matter that posed a challenge in view of financial implications.
It also came up that the High Court ruling had been unduly harsh on the EC. For instance, in the event of incidents of electoral fraud taking place in those countries where ROPAL would be undertaken, the issue of jurisdiction regarding the arrest and prosecution of those persons might constitute a major challenge.
Requirements for registration
On the requirements for a person living abroad to be registered, one of the conditions, as stated in the ROPAL, was that such persons had to provide other forms of identity, in addition to valid resident permits in that country.
But the representative of the smaller parties on the committee, the Leader and Founder of the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG), Mr Percival Kofi Akpaloo, was of the view that that requirement had to be taken out because there was a good number of Ghanaians living as illegal immigrants in foreign lands but whose regular remittances to Ghana had contributed substantially to the national economy and could, therefore, not be disregarded because of the lack of a valid resident permits.
The meeting then came to a consensus that eligible voters must have valid Ghanaian passports and Ghana cards, stressing that those two should suffice.
Joe Bright Nyarko
Journalist/Communication Researcher. Environment & Sustainability Advocate. Managing Editor of aptnewsghana.com, a non-profit news portal with bias towards environment and sustainability issues, rural development policies and gender & inequality.