The Representation of the People’s Amendment Bill (ROPAB) was introduced to Parliament in 2005, passed into law, and signed by President J. A. Kufuor in February of 2006. Sixteen years later, it has yet to be implemented.
In 2008, the first opportunity for the ROPAL to be implemented, the ruling NPP party acquiesced to threats from the opposition NDC and promised the Diaspora Vote Committee (DVC) that it should wait.
The promise was that the NPP would still defeat the NDC to show that it can do so without ROPAL before implementing it in 2012.
Enter the NDC after the 2008 elections.
The next opportunity for the implementation was in 2012, which was too soon for the NDC to make an about-turn on the law so there was no political appetite for ROPAL’s implementation.
For the 2016 elections, then EC Chair Charlotte Osei was brought in barely a year earlier and admitted that time was too short for her to implement ROPAL
She backed up her intention with a documented five-year strategic plan, shown to a member of the DVC, that included ROPAL implementation for the 2020 elections.
But internal squabble with her deputies escalated into a criminal probe that led to a wholesale leadership change at the EC that brought in Jean Mensa and her team.
Active engagement with Dr. Bossman Asare, Deputy EC Chair and the assigned Chairman of the ROPAA Implementation Committee indicated that planning was on course to implement the law for the 2020 elections.
Asare’s committee received criticism for conducting stakeholder consultations on ROPAL implementation in the regions in Ghana rather than with Ghanaians in potential overseas voting centers given that ROPAL was already law and needed those external consultations more than the internal ones.
Nevertheless, all indications are that ROPAL would have been implemented had it not been for travel restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In fact, for the first time, Ghanaian diplomats and scholarship beneficiaries stationed outside Ghana who had previously voted in Ghana’s elections were also denied voting in 2020.
Today the year is 2022, two years away from the 2024 elections. What is the EC doing to prepare for the implementation of ROPAL?
Ghanaians overseas are second to only Nigerians in terms of numbers. Registration for Ghanaian diaspora voters in their country of residence would be an enormous undertaking and needs to begin right now to enable the EC to do this right.
Failure to begin now would risk another failure to implement ROPAL, which would place the EC in contempt of court because a Ghanaian group based in New York and led by Dr. Kofi Boateng successfully sued for an order of the Commission to implement the law.
Fortunately, there is as many as 16 existing non-partisan country committees set up during the 2017 Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit at the ready to assist the EC regarding logistical details on how ROPAL can be implemented.
Barring another pandemic-induced global travel restrictions, the EC may have exhausted all excuses that it could have for not implementing ROPAL for the 2024 elections.
Money should not be a factor because the DVC has crafted a proposed funding plan, not to mention that other less endowed African nations have figured out a way to implement their versions of the diaspora vote.
Another fear of neighboring countries unduly influencing the diaspora vote are unfounded.
First, residents in Togo, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire who intend to vote in Ghana’s elections are finding ways to do so anyway without ROPAL.
Second, Mali (seven neighbors), Senegal (five neighbors), Kenya (five neighbors), and Cote d’Ivoire (five neighbors), have all implemented the diaspora vote versus Ghana with just three neighbors.
In fact in the case of Kenya, its constitution was amended to accommodate the diaspora vote in 2010 and the law was implemented in 2013.
The Ghanaian Diaspora is waiting.
DNT News, Accra