The Electoral Commission is not implementing the Representation of the People’s Amendment Law (ROPAA) as claimed by civil society group Care for Free and Fair Elections Ghana (CARE Ghana), the Ranking Member of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, Mr Inusah Fuseini, has said.
“I think that CARE Ghana has gotten it wrong”, the Tamale Central MP told Kofi Oppong Asamoah in an interview on Monday, 17 August 2020.
He explained that: “All through the years, Ghanaians who are serving in our diplomatic missions, Ghanaians students who are on scholarship and who are outside the country studying and all persons who are outside the country by reason of the permission of the state of Ghana, are entitled to be register and to participate in public elections and referenda”.
“This is significantly different from ROPAA”, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) legislator told Class91.3FM’s 12Live, adding: “ROPAA is intended to register all Ghanaians living outside the country irrespective of whether they are on government scholarship or are working for the state outside the country and, so, it is not the case that when students who are on government scholarships or persons who are working at international diplomatic missions on the ticket of Ghana or persons who are in our embassies abroad are being registered, that is ROPAA, that is not ROPAA”.
He clarified that it is “only a continuation” of the EC’s registration exercise “of the persons who are otherwise qualified to register as Ghanaians and the EC is making facilities available to them to be able to register”.
CARE GHANA had earlier called on the EC to ensure openness and transparency in its preparations toward the 7 December 2020 polls in order to ensure a peaceful atmosphere in the country devoid of suspicion to avoid confusion.
The call, according to CARE Ghana, followed rumours of attempts by the EC to implement ROPAA among some Ghanaians living abroad to the exclusion of others.
ROPAA was passed by Parliament on 24 February 2006.
Article 699 of ROPAA amended the Representation of the People Law (PNDCL 284) passed in 1992 that allowed a select few Ghanaians, including diplomats, employees of Ghana missions and those on UN assignments, to exercise their right of suffrage.
In a statement issued by CARE Ghana and signed by its Executive Secretary David Kumi Addo on Sunday, 16 August 2020, the group said information available to it “reveals that, the Electoral Commission (EC) is nicodemusly implementing ROPAA through the backdoor.”
It emphasised that: “Electoral Commission is registering Ghanaian students living and studying abroad on government scholarship. This move by the EC to determine who is more Ghanaian than the other is an affront to the 1992 Constitution and an insult to our intelligence”.
According to CARE Ghana, it has cited “a letter from the Ghana Embassy in the Czech Republic dated 13 August 2020 and signed for by Head of Mission Farida Khailann (Mrs), Consular Education Office requesting students in Hungary on government scholarship to submit their personal data for the compilation of the new voter’s register”.
“The letter requests the students to provide details of their name, institution, passport number and poling centre in Ghana to be submitted to the mission by 14 August 2020 for onward transmission to the Electoral Commission.”
CARE Ghana indicated: “It is very unfortunate for the Electoral Commission to contract a player in an upcoming game to recruit a referee of choice for the game. Impartiality finds expression in fairness and equal opportunity for all to have unfettered access to freely participate in all public elections conducted by the EC.”
It noted: “The relevance of the implementation of ROPAA is to capture every Ghanaian eligible voter everywhere and not some selected Ghanaians.”
The statement continued: “The EC’s decision to arrogate to itself the power to determine who can exercise his or her constitutional right or not indicates that, the Electoral Commission has vested interest in the 7th December, 2020 general elections. This, therefore, undermines the integrity our Republican Constitution and should immediately be condemned in no uncertain terms.”
CARE Ghana recalled that the EC, “prior to the commencement of the registration exercise”, stated that, “because of the prevalence of the coronavirus pandemic, ROPAA cannot be implemented in this year’s elections”, wondering: “What has changed? Especially, when the committee set up by the EC to collate ideas from individuals and organisations from far and wide for proper implementation was not completed as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19”.
The group, therefore, urged the EC “to be open and transparent in all its activities in preparation toward the 7th December general elections and adopt a fair and inclusive approach to build a peaceful atmosphere devoid of suspicion leading to confusion.”