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24.10.2005 General News

NDC calls for withdrawal of Representation of People Bill

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Accra, Oct 24, GNA - Dr Obed Asamoah, National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has called for the withdrawal of the Representation of the People (AMENDMENT) Bill (ROPAB) because the Bill was fundamentally flawed and debate on it would be meaningless. At a press conference in Accra on Monday, Dr Asamoah said after the withdrawal, the Gvernment should conduct a national debate and hold consultations with the broad segment of the Ghanaian society, collate from the debates and consultations the policies that should form the framework of such a Bill.

Government should also formulate a consensual, multi-partisan Bill for Parliament that would command the support of all sections of the House.

Dr Asamoah noted that apart from the NDC Minority in Parliament, other leading members of the Party had dissected the Bill and exposed its serious shortcomings.

He said as much as the NDC championed the cause of Ghanaians overseas, it was equally concerned with the integrity of Ghana's electoral process as well as peace and stability within the nation. Touching on some basic flaws of the Bill, Dr Asamoah said according to the memorandum accompanying the Bill, the essence was to enable Ghanaians resident abroad to register and vote in public elections. He noted that if the Bill were passed, Ghanaians resident abroad would be exempted from the residential requirement of section 7(1)(c) of PNDCL 284 and would be able to register and vote everywhere in the world in all elections and referenda in Ghana.

Dr Asamoah said by amending section 8 instead of section 7 of PNDCL 284, it became clear that the actual motive of the NPP Government was something other than the removal of "what they themselves say is the cause of the denial of Article 42 - right to citizens abroad." He observed that if section 7(1)(c) was the impediment, "why not amend section 8 and allow section 7(1)(c) to stand?"

The NDC Chairman said other issues such as dealing with voting irregularities had to be carefully considered adding that whereas such issues might be easy to deal with in Ghana, dealing with them in other countries could present a lot of problems.

"For example should there be a challenge to an overseas voter, there cannot be recourse to a Ghanaian court in a timely fashion unless it is envisaged that foreign courts should have jurisdiction over matters arising in the course of our elections."

He wondered whether Ghanaians overseas were going to have the liberty of deciding which constituency in Ghana their votes should be related to or whether there were going to be new overseas constituencies?

Dr Asamoah said the difficulty of determining the number of eligible voters abroad was an issue that could create a lot of problems if the Bill were passed.

He said for the system to gain the trust of citizens, the Government needed to concentrate on implementing the National Identification Card Scheme and use the data to prepare the grounds for the foreign registration of Ghanaian citizens.

The NDC Chairman said cost was an important element in electoral system and noted that the Electoral Commission needed to work out the cost that would be involved in the passage of the Bill so that discussions could be informed by 'The important matter of financial implications".

Dr Asamoah explained that chapter seven (Representation of the People) of the Constitution showed that "our electoral laws were intended to apply in Ghana and not in other countries, and that it envisaged participation in elections within the regions and districts of Ghana by inhabitants."

He said this meant there was the need to re-examine Ghana's electoral laws so far as the Bill was concerned. Dr Asamoah said the implications and ramifications of the Bill were many and varied, adding that it would be prudent to work it out with due caution.

He said the unworkable nature of the Bill was what prompted the NDC to withdraw their participation on the debate of the Bill in Parliament and that the stability of the nation was threatened when the electoral machinery became a tool for a government bent on maintaining itself in power at all cost.

"Even the operation of this administrative role within Ghana has had its challenges. How much more if as the Bill seeks to do, the Electoral Commission has to take the whole world as its orbit and to create polling divisions world-wide?" the Chairman asked. Dr Asamoah stressed that the NDC was only against the Bill in its present form and not in its totality.

"We want a national debate as a next step while putting structures in place to strengthen the Electoral Commission," he said.

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