The Ghana Trades Union Congress (TUC)has stated that an amendment of the law to allow Ghanaians abroad to vote in any election in the immediate future must not be encouraged.
According to the TUC, serious thought had to be given to the implications of the action before it could be taken.
Speaking at a press conference in Accra yesterday,the Deputy Secretary-General in charge of Administration of the TUC, Mr Joseph N. Y.Atopley,said any effort to enable Ghanaians resident abroad to exercise their franchise could ordinarily be welcomed as a “well-intentioned exercise”.
He said the TUC was of the opinion that rights could not be divorced from responsibilities and that in spite of the important role remittances from Ghanaians living abroad played in the economic development of the country,it could not be used as a tenable argument in the debate, considering the direct payment of taxes of Ghanaians resident in the country.
Mr Atopley said in view of the fact that Ghanaians resident abroad were scattered in many countries,it was inconceivable how those Ghanaians could be granted equal opportunities to vote fairly.
He said instead of spending resources to conduct elections abroad,those resources should rather be directed towards improving the conduct of elections in the country as a way of building upon the gains made so far in its chosen democratic path.
He added that any further demands on donor countries to extend financial support to cover elections for Ghanaians abroad would amount to perpetuating our dependence on donor countries.
According to Mr Atopley,the fact that there appeared to be no consensus on the matter,especially on the part of the two major political parties in the country,was enough indication for the process to be thought through well and thoroughly before implementation.
He said there was the genuine fear that any future election that had to be decided on votes from abroad could likely be rejected by the losing side and that would provide the recipe for chaos and disaster in the country.
He said it was the considered opinion of the TUC that the people of Ghana were fully committed to the path of constitutional and democratic rule and that in order to allow the country's democracy to mature,the attempt to amend PNDCL 284 should be shelved “until such time that there is general consensus on the matter from our political parties,as well as other stakeholders and, indeed, all Ghanaians”.
Responding to questions from the press,the Chairman of the Ghana TUC,Mr Alex Bonney,said the TUC had already made presentations to the Select Committee on the Representation Bill in Parliament.
He expressed the hope that members of the committee would take into consideration the TUC's views on the bill in the conclusions they reached.
In aother development the Every Accountable Ghanaian Living Everywhere(EAGLE)party has added its voice to the calls by some political parties on the government not to pass the Representation of the People's Amendment Bill into a law.
It said the country was currently bedevilled with problems such as poverty,harassment by armed robbers,road accidents,increased school dropout rates and guinea-worm infections and that it was also not in a good financial position to implement such a revenue-sapping endeavour.
A statement signed by the Leader and Chairman of the party,Mr Danny Ofori-Atta,said the EGLE party was not against the extension of voting rights to Ghanaians living abroad“but our problem is how feasible is the exercise under this present economic situation?”
It said the government should also heed the advice by the Electoral Commission(EC)which was that it lacked the capacity to undertake such an exercise.
“Statistics on our brothers and sisters living abroad are either scanty or non-existent and one wonders how they will be registered and made to vote”,the statement added.
It called on the government to concern itself with pressing national issues such as poverty,lack of lecture halls and other facilities at the country's universities and inaccessibility to health facilities,despite the launch of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)long ago.
The statement also wondered how the country was going to fund such an expensive exercise,since elections held only within the boundaries of the country had to be subsidised by over 50 per cent by donor communities.
It said majority of Ghanaians,both within and outside the country,were against the bill and challenged the government to subject the issue to a national referendum.