Press release - ROPAB
PRESS RELEASE – 1ST AUGUST 2005.
REPRESENTATION OF THE PEOPLE (AMENDMENT) BILL (ROPAB) A THREAT TO OUR DEMOCRACY
Our fragile democracy has survived many a turmoil since its inception in 1992.
However the last 4 and half years have seen unprecedented negative actions by President Kufour's NPP Government which has rocked our democracy's very foundation.
· The packing of the Supreme Court to overturn the decision of its peers in the Tsatsu Tsikata case has led to the call by many commentators and the African Peer Review Team for consideration for a fixed number of Supreme Court Judges to be considered. Considering that the Judiciary is one of the pillars of any democratic ideals, any erosion of its impartiality and integrity is a direct attack on our democracy. · The apparent manipulation of sections of the media by President Kufour and the NPP Government culminating in the refusal of air time for the leader of the main opposition party, H.E. Professor J.E.A.Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) was an attack on the fourth realm of our democracy. · The inability of President Kufour and the NPP Government to investigate and prosecute members of the executive where potential acts of corruption have come to light, after trumpeting loudly to all who care to listen, that we are in an era of “zero tolerance for corruption” has been to erode executive accountability and diminish the authority of the executive, the first arm of our democratic infrastructure. The cases of Dr Anane, I.C. Quaye and Edumadze are a sad reflection on the fabric of the President himself. This is compounded by President Kufour's difficulties in the now infamous “Hotel Kufour” saga. · The need to maintain power at all cost, borne out by the creation of 30 new constituencies at great financial cost to the country, when many objective contributors indicated that the increased cost to government was not acceptable, in the light of the level of poverty for the Ghanaian. On the basis of geography and population as compared to most countries the process simply beggared belief. This has led to a distrust of the legislative arm of government which is seen as a rubber stamping instrument for all government whims. The appointments of the Ministers above, is one such example, as well as the initial attempt to pass the ROPAB in 2004 which led to a joint action by all the minority parties as well as negative comments by the Electoral Commission which caused the bill to be withdrawn. · We are also aware of the retirement of experienced members of the electoral commission at a time when their expertise was required most, followed by the appointment of what were perceived as NPP sympathisers culminating in what many perceive as an election shambles. (This is significant in the light of appointments in other departments of people who had already retired or extending appointments of those also due for retirement). Within that process was an attempt to remove the procurement portfolio from the electoral commission for the 1st time in our democratic history which was clearly an attempt to find another way to manipulate the electoral process. · The interference and manipulation in the Electoral process itself is perhaps the worst attack on our democracy. Notwithstanding the independence of the Electoral Commission, it is abundantly clear that it is reliant on government on funding to operate appropriately. Our registration exercise and taking of photographs was simply appalling. The incidents in the last elections especially in the last 5 constituencies where the NPP candidates were declared winners by E.C. officials only to be overturned after appeals and accurate investigation is a blot on our electoral process. The “Pru” constituency debacle is firmly on the lips of Ghanaians abroad. A supposed victory for NPP was really a victory of approximately 10,000 votes to the NDC. The margin of victory in the Asawase by-election where maximum vigilance was implemented is a testimony to the belief that there was widespread electoral interference in the last general election. We all remember the vehicle that materialised with ballot boxes at the counting centre which were rejected by the electoral officer since he had all his ballot boxes already. We are still awaiting the result of that particular investigation, if there was one, since there appears to be a reluctance to investigate any issue that may embarrass the Government.
President Kufour and the NPP Government have created dents in our democratic fibre as can be seen by the actions above on the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, Media, Electoral Commission (E.C.) and last, but definitely not least, the Electoral process itself.
With this appalling background, we now have the government trying to pass the ROPAB without taking full cognisance of its implications. Let us hope that this is not the straw that breaks the camel's back. There are numerous issues which President Kufour and his cohorts should be alive to. It has the ability to totally undermine the electoral process with law-suits becoming the norm, in effect, disabling the E.C. from declaring a result at the end of a general election.
The following raise serious concerns:-
1. Compiling an accurate register. 2. Voting for presidential, parliamentary or both and the legal implications. 3. Criteria for deciding which countries should have polling stations. 4. Funding the process in light of 40% coming from donor aid to conduct elections at home currently. 5. A levy for this privilege specifically would appear to be unlawful and unconstitutional bearing in mind that it is a privilege enshrined in the constitution which gives rise to a right if the privilege is exercised. 6. The disorganised and numerous incidents of unfairness which characterise our elections at home indicate a situation where we do not even have our house in order at home but wish to extend it further. 7. Implications for leaving all our borders open during elections due to families in Ivory Coast, Togo and Burkina Faso crossing the border regularly. 8. What is the definition of a Ghanaian citizen who is legible to vote? 9. What is the definition of “resident”? 10. What are the difficulties the electoral commission envisage? 11. The High Commissioners are not an option in this current era of political appointments to represent the Electoral Commission as Returning Officers. 12. Issue should be E.C. led and not government led as they have the ultimate responsibility for the electoral process. 13. What are the implications of Ghanaians abroad choosing a Government to rule a country in which they do not live and in some cases have not been there for over 20 years, should it turn out that the numbers abroad are very large. Surely those living under the measures imposed by the government are best placed to decide who should govern them. 14. If passed, what process of voting is going to be used? 15. Are the potential benefits overshadowed by the apparent detriments. 16. How do we satisfy ourselves that corrupt practices (rigging) will be curtailed in light of incidents at the last election?
In light of what appear to many Ghanaians, to be overwhelming difficulties with the implementation of ROPAB, there is a growing belief that, there is a sinister underlying reason for rushing this Bill by the NPP government. We first saw the emergency placing of the Bill before Parliament with the potential to get it passed within 48 hours, so that in effect it would fall within the registration period occurring at the time. With all the difficulties outlined above, it is difficult to attribute any legitimate reason for this action. Secondly, the government has again brought the Bill to Parliament, notwithstanding the fact that it would have been more legitimate to have the debate on the issues first. Due to the hue and cry by all, the Government is now compelled to have some form of consultation. But this act in itself undermines the integrity of the consultation process.
You do not have to be a rocket scientist to notice the declining fortunes of the Kufour led NPP Government in Ghana. Their salvation in their minds appears to be in votes abroad. This is based on the erroneous belief that they have a massive support base abroad which they wish to tap into. Let it be made clear. The silent majority who are totally against the NPP government currently outnumber the noisy few who are in support of the Government. The vindictive nature of the NPP government has led to the silence of the majority.
President Kufour and the NPP Government have systematically always tried to implement issues without the needed transparency. The implementation of HIPC, the IFC loan, the CNTCI loan, the 2.5% increase in VAT to finance the National Health Insurance Scheme(NHIS) are clear examples of this practice. In the case of the NHIS they passed the Bill before considering the modalities which created untold difficulties in its implementation. The effects of carrying this behaviour pattern of President Kufour and the NPP Government to the electoral process with ROPAB, should it go wrong, are simply dire.
Notwithstanding the above, it is the position of the NDC that allowing Ghanaians abroad to vote is a principle which we favour.
However we love our fragile democracy even more and till such time that the Electoral Commission indicates clearly, that it is in a position to implement the process, without the potentially damaging outcomes, we will be opposed to the rushed implementation of the ROPAB by the NPP government.
We calmly wait for 2008.
Long live NDC! Long live Ghana!
ALEX SEGBEFIA CHAIRMAN 1st August 2005.