A DNT Exclusive
Amidst the chaos and anxiety that COVID-19 has unleashed globally comes the rare good news that the Constitutional Instrument (CI) for the implementation of the Representation of the People Amendment Law (ROPAL) has been submitted to the Attorney General of Ghana for review in preparation for the EC to formally submit it to Parliament for approval.
In an exclusive interview with DNT, ROPAL Committee Chairman Bossman Arase revealed that while the CI for the in-country general election has also been submitted through the process and may even now be in Parliament, a separate CI for the implementation of ROPAL has “definitely” been submitted to the Attorney General for review and comment.
Asked why the two separate CIs, Dr. Bossman Asare said “the separation is because the requirements aren’t the same.” New York-based Progressive Alliance Movement (PAM) Chairman Dr. Kofi Boateng on his part opined that given the massive separate logistical operation associated with the implementation of ROPAA, which is different from the proxy manner of voting by Ghana’s diplomats and others on official government assignments, there might be justification for separating the CIs for the two elections.
“The overseas vote was really done by proxy so technically the diplomats were really not voting outside; they were voting in Ghana,” said Dr. Boateng. “So the EC really didn’t have any need to do a separate CI.”
You may recall that ROPAB – the bill version – was submitted to Parliament in 2005, passed into ROPAL – the law version – and signed by President J. A Kufuor in February of 2006. Since then there has not been any political will to implement it.
Then as newly inaugurated president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo vowed implementation of ROPAA at the Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit in July 2017, a group of Ghanaians in New York had sued the EC to implement the law. The eventual court ruling compelled the EC to implement ROPAL in the 2020 general election.
After the court ruling, the EC leadership under Charlotte Osei became embroiled in internal turmoil that led to its replacement by the Jean Mensa-led EC leadership who moved to ask the courts for more time to devise and submit a ROPAL Implementation Plan.
After being granted more time, the EC began stakeholder consultations that took them to the various regions, Senegal, United States, and UK. Thereafter relative calm appeared to have characterized the EC deliberation until the revelation today that indeed the CI for the implementation of ROPAL has been submitted to the Attorney General in preparation for submission to Parliament.
Right now, the only thing that appears to stand in the way of ROPAL implementation is the coronavirus. The AG is expected to give the CI her green light, and there is no indication that Parliament would actively block the process. Twenty-one days after the ROPAA CI is submitted to Parliament, it automatically becomes law unless Parliament blocks it.
It remains to be seen if the submitted CI includes provisions for the creation of Parliamentary seats for Ghanaians in the diaspora as is the case with Senegal, whose diaspora has 15 of the country’s 165 legislative seats.
Dr. Bossman Asare had previously revealed in an interview on Diaspora Network Television’s Diaspora Weekly Program that the EC was seriously considering the idea of Parliamentary seats for the diaspora to solve the difficulty of ascertaining the accurate constituency for members of the Ghanaian diaspora.
During the stakeholder consultation, diaspora advocate Professor Kwaku Azar had warned that limiting ROPAL implementation to just presidential election would invite legal issues that would be difficult for the EC to overcome. At the same time there appeared to be little wiggle room for including Parliamentary elections without opening the registration process to abuse by political parties who could “load up” foreign registration in a targeted constituency to win that seat.
All in all, members of the Ghanaian diaspora greeted the news with elation and a good dose of optimism. From Sydney, Australia, Ghanaian community leader Isaac Kwabena Acquah said “the EC sent us a message late last year that there will be an update on ROPAL so it is great to hear that Ghanaians around the world can feel like they are Ghanaians again.” Russia Correspondent of DNT Joseph Peprah adds “great care must be taken so that our brothers and sister from other African countries would not infiltrate to register to vote in our election.”