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08.05.2007 Politics

Mills fights Akufo-Addo over ROPAA

By Statesman

The National Democratic Congress flagbearer, John Evans Atta Mills, has, once again 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 wants the law, ROPAA, to be shelved for at least 2008, when he makes his fourth attempt at becoming the nation"s President.

His reaction comes 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.

Though the Cabinet Minister and lawyer acknowledged that the “ultimate responsibility for the implementation of the system of external voting lies with the Electoral Commission,” as the Constitution “confers unequivocally exclusive authority on the Commission to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda,” his comments have been squarely criticised by the main opposition party.

The simplistic opposition refrain has been that in this period of water and electricity rationing, the issue of ROPAA is an expensive luxury.

When the Foreign Minister was contacted, his response was that he was simply stating the situation on the ground and that the rest was up to the Electoral Commission.

However, Prof Mills has said 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.

Citing recent controversies in elections in Nigeria, where opposition political parties are calling for annulment of the polls, the NDC flagbearer warns that Ghana cannot afford to risk similar electoral problems with a foolhardy decision to implement ROPAA.

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 ROPAAwhen the bill was being considered by Parliament. Some critics of the law claimed it would give a clear advantage to the NPP. When it became apparent the objection was not going to yield any result on the floor of Parliament, the NDC took to the streets to demonstrate against the law.

However, the ruling NPP majority in the House together with its Nkrumaist parliamentary allies passed the bill whilst the main opposition NDC MPs boycotted parliamentary proceedings.