Diasporian News of Sunday, 11 April 2010

Source: PA News Desk Report

Ghanaians to vote in UK Elections

Usually, you need to be a British citizen or a permanent resident of the United Kingdom (U.K.), not less than 18 years of age, be of sound mind and possess a valid voter identity card to be able to take part in a U.K. poll. But that is on course for fundamental change as campaigners in the U.K. push for Ghanaians to be allowed to vote in the May 6, 2010 elections coming up in the United Kingdom, using text messaging.

The campaign, dubbed 'Use a U.K. Vote', was launched at La Wireless, in Accra yesterday. The UK based volunteer network Egality, which is organizing the campaign, says the crusade is to allow Ghanaian citizens to cast real votes in the upcoming British elections.

Endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the 'Use a UK Vote' campaign will facilitate a nationwide vote in Ghana on April 30th by SMS and through an election hub in the capital. The votes will then be transferred to thousands of British citizens, pledging to vote on behalf of the Ghanaians.

The British citizens will comprise of those who voluntarily want to donate their votes and those who do not wish to vote because they are disenchanted with their politicians over UK's foreign policy, Agnes Agyepong, an Egality coordinator in Accra told Public Agenda on Wednesday afternoon.

She said "Ghana is affected directly by decisions made by British politicians within the British foreign policy framework, and in their multilateral engagements on matters such as international trade and development aid, where the power relations place Ghana at a disadvantage".

The campaign aims to address the democratic deficiency in global decision-making, by enfranchising people worldwide affected by UK government decisions on war, climate and trade. The campaigners have planned three simultaneous movements in Ghana, Bangladesh and Afghanistan over the period.

Over the next month people will see live debates across Ghana on different British policies. There will also be intense media campaigns geared at sensitizing Ghanaians about the essence of the campaign and the need to get involved. Besides, there will be sustained education back in the UK. Ms. Agyepong said the movement "will fundamentally rock the existing order" and indicated that organizers are aware of potential disagreements that may come from some British citizens.

She said that organizers will consider even a single Ghanaian vote as a big success.

Meanwhile, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has endorsed the 'radical' campaign linking it with his own experience of the anti-apartheid struggle: "During apartheid, we did not fight for hand-outs, we fought for an equal voice and the power to make our own voices."

The renowned South African noted "We need to rethink our politics for today's world. We must strive for a global democracy, in which not only the rich and the powerful have a say, but which treats everyone, everywhere with dignity and respect.

"I support the campaign because it is exciting, brave and emphasizes our common humanity. It is a radical call for a world where all human beings have an equal say in the politics that affect them."

James Sadri of Egality UK has said "We celebrate our democracy in the UK, yet every day our government is making decisions which affect millions around the world who have no chance to respond. We have to think beyond borders when it comes to political solutions."

Philip Ayambe, a sustainable farmer in Bolgatanga said "Aid agencies have an agenda decided by somebody in London. They have no knowledge of the real situation. I will be using a UK vote because I would rather have a voice and be empowered to make chances than be pitied."

Fanny Rhodes-James, a UK citizen who will be giving her vote in the UK elections said, "I'm giving my vote as an act of solidarity with people around the world affected by my government. I want them to know that people in the UK see them as equals. I'm not giving something away - I am making my vote more powerful."

Some Ghanaian civil society groups though support the campaign, think Egality's strategic objective will be better served if the campaign rather focuses on influencing the generality of U.K. voters to vote for politicians committed to the course of social justice in our globalized world, as Ghanaians may be unfamiliar with U.K. politicians, their ideological orientation and their values, and so may be make uninformed judgments.