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Opinions of Thursday, 9 February 2006

Columnist: Antwi, William

Diaspora Vote: ROPAB Vodoo And Consternation.

There is one constant about this government and its political and legal hacks: They have consistently and profoundly been wrong in every material particular when it comes to executing those things that will make our nation strong and our system of government more viable and durable. In fact, NPP party pooh bahs are teeing off the country for a chaotic and constitutional showdown - a titanic confrontation between the forces of reason (justice and fair play) and the forces of tyranny of the majority (repression). This battle of ideas clearly distinguishes between those who truly love democracy and dialogue and those who just pay lip service to those great concepts.

TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY:

What is so disquieting and instructive is that the government, asserting its numerical strength in Parliament and its control of the Presidency is ramming through Parliament a clearly divisive and flawed amendment to our electoral law - ROPAB - against all reason. We do not dispute the fact that our system of representative government is predicated on the concept of majority rule - the winner takes all kind of electoral system. This does not in any way mean that the majority - represented by the leadership of the party in power - should ignore the pure interest and cohesiveness of the whole society in pursuit of a narrow, parochial political agenda. When did it become fashionable to rush through parliament a political scheme that has the potential of undermining the integrity and legitimacy of the government in power? Does majority rule mean that commonsense, good reason and fairness should be banished from enlightened political discourse?

This whole amendment to PNDC LAW 284 revolves around the interpretation of Article 42 of our constitution. On its face, this article does not present any problem of constitutional interpretation but a closer look will reveal otherwise. Plainly put, this article says that before one can register and vote in Ghana that individual must

1. Be a citizen of our dear country.

2. That he or she must be eighteen years or above

AND

3.That he or she must be of sound mind.

The gripping issue then is should all Ghanaians - no matter their residence - who meet the basic qualifications be allowed to register and vote in any election or referendum in Ghana? We have argued extensively elsewhere particularly a piece we did last year entitled ?THE RIGHT TO VOTE: BLOODY LEGAL AND COMMONSENSICAL NONSENSE?, that there is nothing like ?unqualified right to register and vote? under Article 42 of the constitution. And, that it is an abuse of language and our intelligence to accused the government of an unconstitutional act for failing to provide electoral facilities for the exercise of the right to register and vote in a situation where a supposedly qualified Ghanaian had voluntarily burdened the exercise of that right! We succinctly stated then that ? It therefore stands to perfect constitutional wisdom to offer here that the government is not under any affirmative or compellable constitutional duty to supplement or for a better use of language subsidize diasporians? right to register and vote for the simple reason that diasporians themselves burdened that precious right. The self-evident truth is that, diasporians burdened the realization and enjoyment of that right when they voluntarily left the shores of our dear country in search of greener pastures abroad instead of staying home and coping with life?s difficult demands. By so doing, they conveniently and constitutionally took themselves out of the scope of Article 42 notwithstanding the fact that some of them are Ghanaians eighteen years and above and of sound mind. This easily explains why the government rightly and legitimately distinguished disaporians from other Ghanaians manning our diplomatic missions abroad, students on government scholarships, military personnel on peace keeping duties outside, etc.; As the NDC rightly pointed out ?this particular category of people were sent out to their countries of posting on special missions on behalf of the state. The government will therefore be acting unconstitutionally if it fails to provide the necessary facilities to enable this group of Ghanaians to fully enjoy their right to register and vote?.

We then went further to state the following: ?On the other hand of the constitutional equation, if the government decides to provide us with the means to actualize our right to vote outside Ghana, it will just be extending its financial and political largesse and not because the constitution compels it to do so! This situation further explains why it is imperative for the government to seek the political and economic backing of parliament to put in place such a herculean task of providing Diasporians with the means to exercise their right to vote?.

LEGAL/POLITICAL VOODOO!

Having decided to exercise this option - against all homely advice - in favor of undeserving non-resident Ghanaians, the government has fallen head-on into a political and legal quagmire. What did they do? They are telling us that though non-resident Ghanaians are deserving of the ?unqualified right to register and vote? like resident Ghanaians, the former can only exercise that right in Presidential elections and not Parliamentary or local elections! We are not here even talking about any referendum! As usual, this government is doing what it does best - making mockery of basic democratic values! Do they deserve our sympathy? You tell us. They must be exposed for what they are - shameless anti-democrats bent on destroying the decorum presently existing under our electoral system!

Now, can this frighteningly clueless government answer these fascinating questions for us?

1. Why are they limiting or impairing the right of non-resident Ghanaians to vote in any free and fair public election or referendum after having decided that they have the same ?unqualified right?to vote like all qualified resident Ghanaians?

2. Is that ?unqualified right? ?divisible? when it comes to presidential, parliamentary, local elections and referenda?

3. What is the underlying legal and/or political reason(s) for such mischievous electoral policy?

4.And, for emphasis, if they truly and honestly believe in the ?unqualified? and ?inalienable? right of non-resident Ghanaians to register and vote, why are they limiting the same?

5. Isn?t it intellectually dishonest to state that although a non-resident Ghanaian has an ?unqualified right to vote?, that right should be limited to only presidential elections?

6. What is so scary about allowing non-resident Ghanaians to vote in all elections or referenda conducted in Ghana?

7. Is it because the NPP government is so scared of the ?efficacy?, ?cost? and ?impact? of this deeply flawed legislation?? (Sorry Prof Mills, we did not intend to steal from your immutable wisdom)

In providing answers to these pointed questions, our opponents should be mindful of the fact that in any representative government worth its name, once the geographic unit is designated, candidates identified and qualified voters ascertained, all votes must be given equal weight. Having decided that where one lives on the planet does not matter when it comes to exercising the right to register and vote under Article 42, it does not make any constitutional sense for the government to invidiously discriminate against one sect of voters based on where they live! What contradiction! Simply put, individuals who are deemed qualified to vote under Article 42 should not be prevented from exercising that right based solely on where he or she lives. It is trite that any law that seeks to expand or contract votes of qualified citizens will almost invariably run afoul of the constitution. The government is confronted with such humiliating problem because it threw commonsense to the dogs in applying Article 42 to the distinct problem of non-resident Ghanaians!

Once again, we are entreating the government to abandon this misplaced and misguided political agenda in light of all the political, economic and legal minefields associated therewith. Why should our poor country burden itself with such ambitious but misguided electoral project, when the government should rather concentrate our energies and financial resources on the numerous problems afflicting our folks back home - problems which this government sadly continues to ignore to the detriment of our evolving democracy. Let?s face it; what is the essence of representative government if non-resident Ghanaians who are remotely affected by the savage problems confronting ordinary Ghanaians are the ones deciding the destiny of the country?

The battle to bring commonsense, accountability and selflessness to bear on our evolving democracy has just begun! We are bone-tired of this elitist propaganda that will surely not benefit the millions who are daily confronted with life?s humiliating depravities! We can better move our nation forward in a more dignified manner without this scandalous electoral waste!

We shall return.

WILLIAM ANTWI (BAFO) AKA OYOO BUSANGA.
NEW YORK.


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