The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD, says it is the expectation of Ghanaians that the Electoral Commission (EC) should ensure the participation of Ghanaians in the diaspora in the December, 2008 general election.
“There is expectation that the commission will do its best to ensure that the new law is applied as soon as possible, preferably for the next great popular consultation scheduled for December, 2008. Laws on the statute books, which are unapplied, undermine the rule of law”, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo said.
Speaking during a public forum on external voting in Accra, Nana Akufo-Addo said it was the ultimate responsibility of the EC to implement the new system of external voting since Articles 45 and 46 of the 1992 Constitution confered authority on the commission to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda.
The stakeholders' forum on external voting was held on the theme: “Bridging the gap between research, policy and practice-lessons from Ghana” in Accra.
It was attended by representative of political parties and other political stakeholders from Ghana and was organised by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA).
Nana Akufo-Addo acknowledged that with the passage of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, additional financial burden had been imposed on the commission.
He said that the EC would have to negotiate these additional financial requirements with the relevant public authorities so that adequate resources would be acquired to enable it to carry out its constitutional and statutory obligations.
The Foreign Minister stated that Ghana's quest to enhance the quality of democratic governance influenced the passage of the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill.
He argued that the previous legislation on elections had sought to impose limits by enabling only restricted groups of non-resident citizens to exercise their rights to vote.
“The new law has lifted these restrictions and generalised the exercise of the right to vote for all eligible non-residents in compliance with the provisions of the Constitution”, he said.
Nana Akufo-Addo said, in addition, Ghana's public policy on external voting was informed by the need to reinforce links between domestic and overseas Ghanaians.
He explained that the large diasporan population, the diversity of skills and talents within that population, the clear determination of that population to maintain close links with their domestic counterparts reflected the great advantage that Ghana could derive from the law.
“That is in the interest of the nation, an interest that was recognised by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, when it facilitated the passage of the Citizenship Act of 2000, which granted for the first time in our history the right to dual citizenship to Ghanaians”.
In an address, the IDEA Programme Manager for West Africa, Mr Theophilus Dowetin said his outfit would soon publish a handbook on external voting, which would offer a comparative analysis of the practice of external voting.
He stated that if a country decided to enfranchise its external voters, there must be a design to determine how to translate the will of this electorate into the country's system of representation.
Story by Emmanuel Adu-Gyamerah