Withdraw Reps of the People (Amendments) Bill - Minority
Accra, June 23, GNA - The Minority in Parliament on Thursday called for a national debate and discussions on the proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Bill. They said: "We wish to call on the government to withdraw the Bill on the proposed amendments. As a first step a public debate must be initiated on the subject."
Mr Iddrisu Haruna, MP for Tamale South and Minority Spokesman on communications, told Journalists: "We are not opposed in principle to allowing Ghanaians resident abroad to vote, our major concern is the capacity and the resources of the Electoral Commission (EC) to undertake such an exercise." The Bill, which went through the first reading on Tuesday, is to pave way for Ghanaians living abroad to register to vote in public elections in the country.
"Even within Ghana, you all will acknowledge the problems and resources constraints of our EC. There were acute shortages of registration materials during the registration; there were even serious shortages of voting materials in the last December general election of 2004. "In any case, what has changed significantly, since the December elections, for the - re-emergence of the Bill or proposed amendments.
It was withdrawn following public protest and the legal and administrative issues raised by the EC in November 6, 2004." The Minority wanted to know which of the elections (presidential, parliamentary and district level) would register voters resident abroad be allowed to vote.
"How will voting take place; by proxy; by mail or in person at an embassy? We are aware that there are Ghanaians in almost every country of the world. Unless the exercise will cover every Ghanaian living anywhere in the world then it will still represent a flawed system. "Besides there is no reliable data on the number of Ghanaians living abroad."
The Minority said the EC itself had raised a number of issues that must be addressed before the matter of registration and voting by Ghanaians outside Ghana was broached. "We should wait for the EC to advise of its readiness, before the Bill is introduced in Parliament."
The Minority said the majority of the members of the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) rejected this particular proposal when it was presented last year. "One wonders why in deciding to reintroduce this particular Bill, the government has not even considered consultation with the political parties and EC through IPAC. "We in the Minority believe that this proposed amendments is one of the desperate attempts by the ruling government to maintain its grip on power through the back door."
Under the current electoral law, some Ghanaians living abroad are eligible to register and vote in elections. They include; persons who work in diplomatic missions and their spouses, persons working with international organisations, students on government scholarships and members of the Armed Forces and the Police on peacekeeping duties.