Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) Mrs. Jean Mensa, on Thursday inaugurated the Representation of the People’s Amendment Act (ROPAA) Consultative and Implementation Committee.
The nine-member Committee is made up of three representatives from the EC, the Peace Council, Civil Society Organisation, the Academia, one each from the ruling party and the main opposition party, while the minority parties were to nominate one representative.
The Committee is chaired by Dr. Eric Bossman Asare, Deputy Chairman, EC, in-charge of Corporate Services with Christian Owusu-Parry, EC Director of Administration as the Secretary.
Other Members of the Committee include Mrs. Adwoa Abrefa Asuaman, EC Member; John Boadu, General Secretary of the New Patriotic Party (NPP); and Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor, a leading member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The rest are Reverend Dr. Ernest Adu Gyamfi of the National Peace Council; Professor Ransford Gyampo of the University of Ghana, and Dr. Kojo Asante of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana.
The other minority parties however, failed to agree on a common representative, therefore they were tasked to meet later and present their representative to the EC.
The Committee shall commence sitting in January 2019 and shall present its final report to the Commission by May 31, 2019.
On the terms of reference of the Committee, Mrs Mensa tasked the Committee to do a “desk research” on countries that were implementing ROPAA and how it was being implemented in those countries.
The committee is also to hold regional consultative meetings, pay working visits to countries already practicing external voting namely Mali, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Undertake stakeholder consultations with a view to seeking the opinion of key stakeholders on the best approach to the implementation of ROPAA.
She said the implementation of ROPAA requires that the Commission puts together regulations, in the form of a Constitutional Instrument (CI), to regulate registration of voters and the conduct of elections in foreign countries.
Mrs. Mensa said at the end of the work of the ROPAA Consultative and Implementation Committee, a technical group would be constituted to draft regulations for external voting and would eventually be passed into a CI by Parliament by the close of December 2019.
The EC Chairperson said ROPAA, today gives the Ghanaian citizens living outside the country the right to be registered as a voter and to vote where he/she lives.
“It has been 12 years since ROPAA became law, but Ghanaian citizens living outside the country are yet to benefit from the opportunities presented by ROPAA.
“This is because of the obvious challenges that are likely to be encountered in the implementation of ROPAA,” she said.
Mrs. Mensa recalled that in the past, attempts were made by the EC, under the leadership of Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan to find a way of implementing ROPAA that would be acceptable to all stakeholders, by setting up a committee in 2011 to make recommendations for the ROPAA implementation.
“Seven years on, the right to be registered as a voter and to vote in public elections and referenda remains elusive to the Ghanaian living outside Ghana.
“Earlier, the Human Rights Court in Accra, in the case of Kofi Boateng, PHD; Agyenim Boateng, SJD and others versus the EC and the Attorney-General ordered the Commission to take steps to implement ROPAA,” she said.
Mrs. Mensa said a lot had changed since the Committee set up by Dr Afari-Gyan presented its report; stating that, it was necessary that in trying to implement ROPAA now, stakeholders takes into account the new developments in Ghana’s electoral process.
She said it was for this reason that this Consultative and Implementation Committee was being formed to continue with the process after it was put on hold from 2011.
Dr. Asare said the implementation of ROPAA was an exercise that would help advance Ghana’s democratic credentials.
It would be recalled that following advocacy by interest groups a Bill was introduced in Parliament in 2006, the Representative of the People Amendment Bill (ROPAB) to amend the representation of the People’s Law of 1992 PDNC Law 284.
The PNDC Law 284 did not make provision for Ghanaian citizens other than person working in Ghana’s diplomatic missions, persons working with international organisations of which Ghana is a member and Ghanaian students on Government scholarship, to be registered in the countries where they reside.
The ROPAA, Act 2006, ACT 699 was therefore passed to extend the right of the Ghanaian to participate in voting in public elections and referenda to Ghanaians living outside Ghana.