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General News of Tuesday, 26 February 2008

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Parties Hail No ROPAL

Representatives of political parties and a democratic institution have described the intention of the Electoral Commission (EC) not to implement the Representation of the People’s (Amendment) Law (ROPAL) during the 2008 elections as welcome news. The representatives from the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and the People’s National Convention (PNC) said the EC’s intention was appropriate, given the controversy, lack of consensus and misgivings that characterised the passage of the law.

Although the representative of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) did not acknowledge the EC’s comments as welcome news, he indicated that the party had no problem with the commission’s intention.

In the Friday, February 22, 2007 issue of the Daily Graphic, a top official of the EC was reported as saying that the commission could not implement ROPAL during the 2008 elections because it was not adequately prepared in terms of funds and logistics for that exercise.

That was the issue about which the Daily Graphic asked a Fellow of the IDEG, Mr Kwesi Jonah; the National Organiser of the NPP, Mr Lord Commey; the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu-Nketia; the General Secretary of the PNC, Mr Bernard Mornah, and the Publicity Committee Chairman of the CPP, Mr Kosi Dedey, for their views.

Mr Asiedu-Nketia said right from the onset, the NDC had made its opposition to ROPAL very clear to all because it did not believe it was an appropriate law, reports Charles Benoni Okine. He said the party’s strong position against the law informed its constant argument and public demonstrations against it.

When asked what the NDC would do if the EC decided to implement ROPAL, Mr Asiedu-Nketia said, “When we get to the bridge, we’ll cross it.”

On the re-opening of the voters’ register, as announced by the EC, he said the NDC was not aware of it because the commission had not discussed the issue with the party. Mr Asiedu-Nketia said in the past, the EC and the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) discussed such issues in detail, particularly to ensure that no party had an advantage over others. He said the parties needed to be well informed on such issues to enable them to plan adequately for the elections, adding that it was unfortunate that the EC made the announcement without recourse to the IPAC.

In his opinion, Mr Mornah said the decision of the EC “is a vindication of our party’s long-term position that ROPAL is an inimical law that should not find space in our political system”, reports Kofi Yeboah. He said any law that had the potential to bring about chaos and anarchy in the country should not be entertained.

“We are gladdened by the news. The EC has done precisely what society expects it to do,” Mr Mornah remarked, but noted that the EC should have gone further to admonish the government to repeal the law. That, he said, was to avoid a situation where the commission would be dragged to court so long as the law remained on the statute books.

Although Mr Mornah agreed with a suggestion that taking the EC to court might not necessarily bring judgement in favour of the applicant, he pointed out that the commission could not afford the cost of time with the engagement of “unnecessary litigation”.

The PNC General Secretary said any legal engagement could divide the attention of the EC and that could affect its performance in the elections. According to him, ROPAL lacked relevance in the country’s political dispensation because it did not take into consideration critical issues such as where to place ballot boxes and cost implications and especially when it portended danger and chaos for the country.

Mr Mornah also suggested a review of the Political Parties Law, 2000 (Act 574) to, among other things, ensure public funding for political parties and revoke the powers granted to the EC to disqualify political parties without facing legal challenge.

For his part, Mr Dedey described the declaration on ROPAL by the EC as “welcome news” because adequate measures had not been put in place for its successful implementation, reports Daniel Nkrumah.

He said the CPP had initially expressed some misgivings on the way ROPAL was rushed through Parliament and called on the EC to come out with a very workable timetable on its implementation. “Naturally, some of our members abroad will be disappointed, but we need to be provided with a general timetable on its implementation,” he stressed.

Mr Dedey said the implementation of ROPAL would require political parties to mobilise resources to ensure that their branches abroad were well resourced and in a position to serve their interests effectively.

He said the EC needed to provide guidelines for political parties as far as the implementation of ROPAL was concerned to enable the parties to have a better idea of the amount of money or resources they needed in order to get maximum benefits from the implementation of the law.

Mr Dedey stated that education on ROPAL had also not been adequate enough, explaining that, for instance, there was the need to identify the countries that ROPAL would cover and the basis on which those countries were going to be chosen.

He argued that there was no need to rush the passage of the bill into law if the government was not in the position to implement it and cited the Disability Act, which, according to him, was delayed for a long time because the government did not have adequate resources for its effective implementation.

Mr Jonah also described the announcement by the EC as welcome news which was in everybody’s interest, reports Donald Ato Dapatem.

That, he said, was because the initiation of the law to its passage had been characterised by controversy and lack of consensus, adding that the EC had not even completed its report on the familiarisation tours it made recently to countries that practised that law.

Mr Jonah said the implementation of the law also required huge sums of resources which the EC currently did not have. He said that meant that the EC must tread cautiously and take its time before it would undertake the implementation of the law. He also called on Ghanaians in the Diaspora to exercise restraint in their demands for the implementation of the law and allow the EC to finish its work.

Making his intervention, Mr Commey said the NPP had no problem with the announcement by the EC that it would not be able to implement ROPAL during the 2008 election. He said the party had always had a lot of confidence in the EC and its time-tested integrity to come up with the right procedures and other policies to guide the implementation of the law when it was ready.

Mr Commey said the NPP, being a body that adhered to the tenets of the rule of law, had always held the position that ROPAL, which was constitutional, must be applied to the letter, saying that explained the decision of the party to initiate moves to pass the law through the legitimately accepted procedure, Parliament, after broad consultations, both locally and internationally.

He, however, stated that as required by law, the EC must take the decision as to when and how to implement the law.

Asked about his reaction to those who claimed that the party wanted to use the law to rig the 2008 elections, Mr Commey said the government initiated the move to pass the law to empower all Ghanaians to vote, as demanded by the Constitution.

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