The plea by the Electoral Commission (EC) to the Accra High Court for an extension of time to operationalise the Representation of the People’s Amendment Act (ROPAA), 2006 (Act 699), which gives Ghanaians in the Diaspora the right to vote from abroad, has been challenged.
The challenge was filed by five Ghanaians in the Diaspora who won a case on December 18, 2017 which resulted in the court ordering the EC to lay before Parliament a Constitutional Instrument (CI) that would set out the modalities for the implementation of ROPAA within 12 months.
In their application, the five individuals — Dr Kofi A. Boateng, Ms Nellie Kemevor, Mr Obed Danquah, Mr Christian Sillim and Mr Agyenim — described the move by the EC as a total disregard for the court’s authority and subsequently urged the court to dismiss the plea.
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On January 30, 2019, the EC filed a motion praying the court to extend the 12-month deadline, which ended on December 18, 2018, to January 2020.
The EC cited the recent change in its leadership, its organisation of the 2018 referendum for the creation of new regions, among other challenges, as the reasons behind its plea for more time.
“EC’s action is contemptuous”
But the five individuals, represented by Lawyer Samson Lardy Ayenini, in their affidavit in opposition, argued that the EC had acted in a contemptuous manner by choosing to engage in other activities without implementing the court’s order within the stipulated period.
“The granting of the instant application will encourage losing parties in a suit to select their own time and manner of complying with the orders and judgement of the court, a situation that does not augur well for and will frustrate the administration of justice,’’ they averred.
They further submitted that the excuse by the EC was not legitimate but only showed “the applicant’s lack of interest and low priority given to the ROPAA since its passage into law in February 2006 and despite the clear orders of the judgement of the court’’.
“We tried to help”
Another leg of the argument by the five individuals is that they sent eight separate letters to the EC between February and December 2018, reminding the commission of the 12-month deadline, but all fell on deaf ears.
“The respondents did research and submitted a draft CI to assist the applicant, but the same has been ignored,” the affidavit in opposition added.
The five Ghanaians in the Diaspora sued the electoral management body on the basis that it had “gone to sleep” and refused to implement Act 699, 11 years after it was passed.
The “deliberate refusal” or inaction of the EC to implement the act, they argued, had robbed them of the chance to vote in three general elections (2008, 2012 and 2016) and other public elections.
On December 18, 2017, the court, presided over by Mr Justice Anthony Yeboah, upheld their case and held that the EC was deliberately dragging its feet and had made its mind not to implement Act 699 any time soon.