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27.02.2006 Press Review

Editorial: The Real Men Of Principle, Please Stand Up

By Statesman

The train taking the ballot boxes to our brothers and sisters living outside of Ghana is now virtually unstoppable. [...] the President of the Republic of Ghana has already given the presidential assent as directed by the Constitution, to the controversial bill.

But, now that ROPAB has become ROPAA, the Electoral Commission has no choice but to break its silence and help bring some sanity to the debate. Is it implementable or not? That, Dr Kwabena Adjei, is the question.

First of all, the EC has no choice but to implement it. The details are in how the implementation may be done; not whether or not it should be done.

Right now, the EC may choose to physically take the vote to Ghanaians in countries it considers practicable to so do; it may just ask the outside missions (or send its workers there) to undertake the registration exercise at certain centres abroad; after which it may simply turn around and say for the purposes of the 2008 general elections, we are asking Ghanaians who registered abroad to physically come home and vote.

That may very well be the lazy man's compromised preferred option for December 2008. But, for the EC to ask Ghanaians abroad to come home and register and then go back to return at a later date to vote may be asking for far too much. We fully accept that there are possible problematic scenarios awaiting the implementation process. We do not think the Presidency or the Majority does not share such a sentiment.

Except as an entity that believes the principle of franchise extension, we think once you desire a thing the natural thing to do is to seek for solutions that may lead to implementation but not to deny yourself in a blanket way any opportunity, whatsoever, to see that principle manifested!

Can the NDC and their friends in opposition to ROPAA be taken seriously? How could they say that they agree in principle that Ghanaians abroad must also have the vote and yet threaten mayhem when the process to give life to that principle is set in motion?

Perhaps, what remains ever daunting is the very worrying reason that motivated them to smuggle in Sections 7(1)(c) (residence in a polling division) and 7(4), which states, “A person shall not be deemed to be resident in a polling division if he has been absent from his place of abode for a continuous period of six months ending on the qualifying date.”

The above provision effectively placed a restriction on Ghanaians abroad exercising their right to vote – something not presumably anticipated by Article 42 of the Constitution which guarantees unlimited voting rights to citizens of 18 and of sound mind.

For the PNDC to bring such a qualification in PNDC Law 284, just three months before the November 1992 presidential race, meant to them that none of the Ghanaians who were forced out because of Chairman Rawlings could rush home to exercise their protest by the thumb.

But, of course the PNDC could not have been against the extension of the franchise because Section 8 of PNDCL 284 allowed a very small class of Ghanaians (mission workers, and grateful scholarship students, etc.) to vote at their missions.

The NDC could not have been against the extension in principle because they were to later pass the Dual Citizenship Act, which has allowed our expatriates who have naturalised elsewhere to maintain their Ghanaian citizenship.

But, what is principle if the holder of it never wants to see it having its day? In fact, now is the time for the real debate to begin. This is because all the Act has done in essence is to remove the statutory fetter against that large pool of Ghanaians abroad exercising their fundamental right of citizenship – to vote.

As the Act clearly states, the when, where, and how this extension is achieved is in the constitutional bosom of the EC.

Now is the time for the concerns about implementation to be raised and dealt with by reason – and not the threat of force. If the NDC and their anti-ROPAA friends really mean well, then they should suspend their street protests and come out with their programme/options supporting their principled stance for the extension of the vote and their 'principled' fears about the probable implementation problems awaiting the EC.

It is time for solutions not demonstrations. Time to thread for answers not to issue threats.

Thankfully the EC already has an arrangement (IPAC) with all the political parties, (including those that ought not to exist), where all matters electoral are openly discussed and solutions sought. Indeed, this Act presents IPAC with a perfect opportunity to protect, promote and advance our democracy.

Had our forefathers allowed predictable implementation difficulties to get in the way, perhaps, we would have still been a British colony today.