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21.07.2005 General News

NDC calls for the withdrawal of Bill


Accra, July 21, GNA - The NDC Minority in Parliament on Thursday called for the withdrawal of the Representation of People (Amendment) Bill and to allow the Electoral Commission (EC) to gather the necessary information to carry out such an exercise.

The EC could then create a credible platform on which the concerns raised by political parties, and other interest groups could be considered, and a report presented to Parliament for consideration. Mr Mahama Ayariga, Minority Spokesman on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, said this at a press conference in Parliament. Mr Ayariga said: "It is only then, that consensual legislation can be introduced into the House for amendments of the existing electoral arrangements."

He said: "He said the integrity and credibility of our electoral process is critical to the maintenance of democracy and stability in Ghana.

"We must achieve consensus before tinkering with an electoral arrangement that has served us in four successive elections." He said without such a compromise the country could descend into chaos over disputed election results.

Mr Ayariga said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was seeking to blackmail Ghanaians by using human rights baits to advance their argument.

"They have sought to ride on the high moral ground of human rights."

He said they argued that Section 7 (1) (c) of the Representation of the People Law 1992 (PNDCL 284), which provided that a person had to be resident in the polling division where he sought to register, effectively barred Ghanaians who were resident abroad at the time of registration from being able to register.

Mr Ayariga said it was also the opinion of the NPP that the said articles violated the right to register and to vote in public elections. He said the NPP was deliberately misleading the public into thinking that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was contesting the rights of Ghanaians abroad to register and vote.

"The NDC does not contest the rights of any Ghanaians, who chooses to live outside Ghana to register as a voter and participate in the vote."

Mr Ayariga said when the NDC was in government it passed the Citizenship Act in which Ghanaians abroad were able to obtain dual citizenship status.

"We also started the process of putting in place the regulation to enable Ghanaians to register for dual citizenship. An opportunity to vote is the logical follow up."

He said: "The issue, therefore, is not about the right to vote under Article 42 of the Constitution."

He said there were legal issues that needed to be cleared before the law was passed.

Mr Ayariga said if the law were passed it could undermine the sovereignty of the residents in a constituency.

"When we provide a carte blanche to every Ghanaian to register any where in Ghana they choose to, irrespective of whether they live there or not representative democracy will be stifled by the prospect of voter dilutions."

Mr Ayariga said the prospect of restricting the participation of Ghanaians abroad to only presidential elections is not an exercisable option.

"Once we take the absurd and untenable position that non-discrimination is an absolute decree in our Constitution, then we cannot restrict the franchise of Ghanaians residents abroad to vote in only presidential elections because it is also discriminatory." He said apart from the legal considerations, practical considerations were also the lot of the NDC.

Mr Ayariga said the issue of proxy voting; voting by mail and voting at the Embassy had their own limitations.

He asked: "Where the registration is abroad, what arrangement will be made for political parties to police the process? Is the state going to finance political parties to police the registration and subsequently the voting itself?"

He wondered how political parties would sell their manifestoes to Ghanaians living abroad, adding that another contested legal issue would be proof of residency or citizenship.

Mr Ayariga said the Minority members of the Committee withdrew from the regional tours because the NPP did not intend to listen to the people but to push their own agenda.

"In any case, upon further reflection, we are convinced that travelling to the regions to sensitise the public on the reform of our electoral system and soliciting their views on the subject falls squarely within the mandate of the EC.

"By Article 45 (e), it is the function of the EC to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters.

"That being the case, we take the position that it is the EC possibly in collaboration with the Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), which should lead the process of going round the country seeking guidance from well meaning Ghanaians and partisan groups like the NPP on how to fulfil its constitutional mandate" He said this does not lie within the purview of a Parliamentary Committee.