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20.03.2009 NPP News

Ahead of NPP congress Proposed constitutional amendment sparks protest

By Charles Takyi-Boadu - Ghanaian Chronicle

The Chronicle can report on authority that a huge debate has erupted in the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) following calls by some of its members for a constitutional amendment to expand the party's Electoral College. Sources at the party's headquarters have told the paper that the situation has left the leadership in a fix, as to whether or not to consider the proposal for an amendment of the party's constitution to expand the Electoral College, or stick to old provision with a few changes that could give automatic voting rights to some key members of the party.

Among those who have raised issue about the supposed proposal is a leading member of the New Juaben-South constituency of the NPP, Mr. Samuel Awuku who believes that no matter how good the idea might sound, it is likely to affect the fortunes of the party.

When quizzed on phone, he confirmed why he thinks granting voting status to all card bearing members in the NPP is a populist proposal, with serious future consequences if finally adopted.

For him, it is important to raise these issues now, for posterity sake, saying “we the youth are only part of today, but it is tomorrow that belongs to us.” “Yes, I favour the expansion of the Electoral College, but it must be done with great caution”, he noted.

In one of such proposals to the party, which The Chronicle is privy to, Mr. Awuku, who happens to be a former student activist who contested for the University of Ghana, Legon, SRC Presidency with Lord Hammah in the year 2006/2007 academic year, said “any increase in the size of the Electoral College will further give advantage to the rich and wealthy candidates, thereby engendering corruption which we all frown upon.”

He noted that an expansion of the Electoral College could lead to a high cost of running campaigns.

This, according to him, is evident in the fact that the candidates will have no choice but run huge advertisements and rallies in all constituencies in order to disseminate their messages to the delegates.

To him, this could mean discussing confidential party matters in the open, which will obviously provide enough ammunition to their political opponents, especially those in the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), to use against them.

Apart from spending heavily on rallies and adverts, he noted that candidates will also have to spend heavily on Chiefs and other dignitaries during this kind of campaign, emphasising that this cannot be supported by the candidates with small campaign budgets, thereby defeating the very notion that this will help kill 'moneycracy' in the game.

“An electoral college comprising all card bearing members means that the party will have to pay the EC millions of Ghana Cedis to organise two general elections, one in 2009 and the other in 2010, and then every four years, whilst we cannot afford to adequately resource our serial callers or pay our constituency officers, not to mention settling monthly utility bills at the constituency, regional and national offices”, he emphasised.

Whilst admitting that it might be attractive to increase the size of the Electoral College by increasing the number of delegates from the overseas branches, who are currently entitled to only one delegate per branch, Sammy Awuku argued that these are enlightened and resourceful people who will pay for their trips to and from Ghana at their own expense.

He is confident that these are not only discerning people but generally cannot be bribed to change their minds, therefore “fifty (50) delegates per branch would not hurt, looking at the kind of support they give to the party”, he said. He added that other generally enlightened groups could be identified and enfranchised, citing TESCON branches in the various tertiary institutions.

These groups are those he described as the NPP's “intellectual foot-soldiers who play an important role in the party, but are disenfranchised during the decision making process of our party.”

He therefore indicated that five members per TESCON branch would be a good starting point.

Mr. Awuku, who is also a member of the Alliance for Accountable Governance (AFAG), a pressure group which is championing the removal of the Foreign Affairs Minister, Alhaji Mohammed Mumuni further proposed the full listing of stakeholders by way of enlarging the Electoral College for the election of National Officers and the party's Presidential Candidate.

In the meantime, he indicated that it will be prudent to enfranchise groups such as the overseas branches (5 per branch), TESCON branches (2 per branch), immediate past MPs, former Constituency, Regional and National Officers, all Parliamentary candidates who lost their seats in the most recent general elections, former NPP DCEs and MCEs, former NPP Ministers and Deputy Ministers, all 10 Constituency Officers, all founding members, all Patrons and eligible delegates who are card-bearing members of the party and in good standing.

“As much as we all love the card bearing members to exercise their franchise, the time is definitely not ripe for us to take such a huge gamble. The party is now in desperate need for answers to the numerous questions as to why we lost the last election”, he stressed.

Under the current circumstance, he noted that it will be strategically suicidal to open the party up for further damage, expressing the hope that the Constitutional Review Committee will come up with more innovative ways in expanding the Electoral College, than the idea of all card bearing members being granted voting rights since it has future repercussions.