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Feature Article of Saturday, 22 September 2012

Columnist: Annan, Kobby

The Rule of Law or Rule of The Electoral Commission?

Ghana’s Election: The Rule of Law or Rule of The Electoral Commission? Kobby Annan

The announcement by Ghana’s Electoral Commission that it would limit registration of Ghanaians broad to only Ghanaians working at various diplomatic missions, students on government scholarship and UN service personnel to enable them vote in December 2012 general elections does not augur well and must be met with full opposition, protest and judicial restraint by all patriotic meaning Ghanaians home and abroad.

Although I recognize the hard won reputation of the electoral commission over the years in handling Ghana’s elections, it is also a fact that the EC has on some occasions been sued in court and ordered by the law courts to act differently than it originally sought to act in the dispensation of its constitutional mandate. It is hereby convincing that the commission like any other institution is fallible and not sacrosanct. Ghana’s Electoral commission must be reminded of Article 42 of the 1992 constitutions and the Representation of the People Amendment Law, (ROPAL). The EC should be made to understand that by such announcement and plans to register SOME Ghanaians living abroad, it would be embarking on a very vicious endeavour that has the potential ingredient to plunge this year’s election into disrepute.

Article 42 states “Every citizen of Ghana of eighteen years of age or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.” Further, Article 296 states that “Where in this Constitution or in any other law discretionary power is vested in any person or authority - (a) that discretionary power shall be deemed to imply a duty to be fair and candid; (b) the exercise of the discretionary power shall not be arbitrary, capricious or biased wither by resentment, prejudice or personal dislike and shall be in accordance with due process of law; and (c) where the person or authority is not a judge or other judicial officer, there shall be published by constitutional instrument or statutory instrument, regulations that are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution or that other law to govern the exercise of the discretionary power” Clearly the selection of some Ghanaians living and working abroad to be registered for the purpose of Public election and referenda which was legitimized by the then PNDC law 284(8) (a military Decree) that imposes limitation on the right to vote. That law has effectively been repealed by the Representation of the People Act 669 (ROPA) which became law in 2006. The law also gave true meaning and breath to the spirit of Article 42 of the 1992 constitution. Any selective registration of Ghanaians living abroad by the EC for the purpose of December 2012 election would be discriminatory and insulting to Ghanaians living abroad and in furtherance exercising discretionary powers unfairly, wrongly and arbitrary contrary to provisions in articles 296, and 42. We must not allow this go on.

If the EC has any legitimate cause why it cannot fully implement the Representation of the People Law (ROPAL 2006) on 7 December 2012, then it must as a matter of law, honourably proceed to act on Article 296 (c) by presenting a constitutional instrument (CI) to the legislature for its approval. The CI must state the ff: (a) the reason for the exercise of discretionary powers vis-a-vis the modalities of its intended partial or selective implementation of right to vote by Ghanaians living abroad. (b) An explanation to what its constraints are in fully implementing ROPAL. The contents of the CI must not be inconsistent with the provisions of the 1992 Constitution or with any other law that governs the exercise of the discretionary power in Ghana. I cannot accept the EC’s claim or argument that statistics on Ghanaian diplomats, student on Ghana government scholarship and UN service personnel abroad are documented and known; and therefore they can easily be identified for registration to vote. I challenge the EC to come out to inform Ghanaians about any attempts or efforts made by it to obtain official population figures on Ghanaians living abroad for the purpose of Public referenda and elections since 2006. Apart from initial travels by some EC and Government officials to some European countries at the cost of the tax payer, what other concrete steps have the EC taken since 2006 to enable Ghanaian living abroad exercise their franchise as provided by the laws of Ghana? The EC mentioned in October 2010 that it was in the process of setting up a committee that will come out with regulations and modalities for the implementation of the Representation peoples Amendment Law. Where is the committee? Who constitute the committee? Where is their report?

In a non-partisan position, I call on all civil society groups in Ghana and abroad to fiercely object and protest against the EC’s decision. Ghanaians living abroad must formally petition the EC and consider civil protests at various offices of Ghana Missions then finally resort to legal action in Ghana. All political parties must go every length to restrain Ghana’s electoral commission from exercising its powers arbitrarily, unfairly and contrary to articles 296 of the 1992 constitution towards 2012 General elections. THE RLUE OF LAW MUST PREVAIL AT ALL COST.

Kobby Annan The author can be contacted on kbbyannan@yahoo.com or 0031615100420

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