The Electoral Commission has decided to set up a committee to come up with a roadmap for the implementation of the Representation of the People's Amendment Act (ROPAA), 2006 (Act 699) which gives Ghanaians in the Diaspora the right to vote from abroad.
Some political parties have welcomed the move and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for instance, which hitherto had opposed the implementation of ROPAA, has supported a proposal that it should be piloted with the next district assembly elections before the general elections in 2020.
This follows years of agitations and legal battles amidst arguments by the Electoral Commission (EC) that there were no resources to implement it.
The decision to form the committee to come up with the roadmap was announced at an Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meeting on Thursday, October 18, 2018.
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Political parties and civil society groups have up to Monday, October 22, 2018 to submit names of their representatives for the committee.
The EC would be represented by three persons, the active political parties with at least two representatives in parliament will have one representative each, all the other active political parties with no representation in Parliament will also nominate one person and the civil society groups will also have one representation.
The committee will then look into the modalities of the whole implementation, whether it would be feasible for Election 2020 or it should start from Election 2024.
Commenting, the General Secretary of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketiah supported a proposal for a pilot and suggested that the forthcoming district assembly elections should be used as a pilot before Election 2020.
He disagreed with a suggestion that the NDC was against Ghanaians abroad voting from abroad and said their position was rather that, "the process leading to that voting is open to abuse, and then we gave those reasons why and then those reasons were upheld by the Electoral Commission."
"So the issue now is to go and look at the reasons again if they are still valid then I think the conclusion will still be valid. If something has changed to improve the situation, then you can begin talking about implementation of ROPAA."
"At this stage yet no such decision has been taken, some were saying we should try and get a pilot and I say yes the pilot is nice, let's use district assembly elections as a pilot for ROPAA and let's see whether it can be implemented," Mr Asiedu Nketiah said in a radio interview with Accra based Joy FM.
NPP is happy
On his part, the National Organiser of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Mr Sammi Awuku said, "it is early days yet for anybody to say let's start with the district assembly elections when the committee has not even been set up... if we are talking about piloting, it has to be part of the recommendations...the crux of the matter will have to be the modalities."
He said the NPP was happy that "this thing which was stalled in the past is beginning to see daylight as far as its implementation was concerned."
CODEO is happy
On the part of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), the National Coordinator, Mr Albert Arhin welcomed the move and said it was "a step in the right direction and it's something that we've been expecting long time ago."
"I have said elsewhere that countries around us, Guinea, especially the french speaking ones normally organise something like that on our soil and we, the Electoral Commission in Ghana supervises for them, so how about Ghana? So this is something long overdue. I am happy and I think CODEO should be happy... so it is good news."
He said sometime back, "from the grapevine we were told that the Commission had prepared sufficiently, they had the modalities all on paper and of course maybe, the problem was financing, but let us remember that the present president has given the assurance to the EC that it was going to support it to the hilt, so probably this is what has motivated the Electoral Commission to come out boldly."
The Human Rights Division of the Accra High Court in December 2017 gave the Electoral Commission (EC) a one-year ultimatum to implement the ROPAA.
The order, according to the court, was to ensure that Ghanaians outside the country registered and voted in the 2020 elections.
The court said the EC must “uphold and ensure the full compliance of the operationalisation of Act 699’’ within the 12-month period by laying before Parliament a Constitutional Instrument (CI) that will set out the modalities for the implementation of Act 699.
In the event that the EC has any justifiable reason and is “unable to comply with the order”, the court ordered the Commission to publish the justifiable reason(s) 30 days before the expiration of the deadline and also appear before the court to explain the reason(s).
Failure by the EC to implement ROPAA, the court held, was a violation of the fundamental human rights of Ghanaians in the Diaspora, whose right to vote had been guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution, which was made effective by ROPAA.
The ROPAA, passed into law in 2006, is meant to allow Ghanaian citizens, including dual nationals in the Diaspora, to be registered abroad and vote from abroad.