ROPAL: To Be or Not To Be?

President John Dramani Mahama has re-ignited the debate as to whether or not Ghanaians abroad should vote in our general elections. He made this comment during his interaction with the Ghanaian community in Worcester, Massachusetts last weekend.

Asked when the Representation of the Peoples Amendment Law, which gives diaspora Ghanaians such voting rights, would be implemented, President Mahama said it depended on them and the Electoral Commission.

President Mahama urged Ghanaians abroad “to make a strong case” to the Electoral Commission to implement the ROPAL, which was enacted eight years ago in 2006.

The President believed that the “directive issued by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the 2012 Presidential Election Petition to the EC to make reforms in its operations”, provided a good opportunity for Ghanaians living abroad to forcefully put their case before the EC to extend voting rights to them.

Reminded that the EC has attributed its inability to implement the law to lack of funds, President Mahama replied that the “government should be able to provide funds for the exercise” if the EC decided to implement ROPAL.

That really leaves the ball squarely in the court of the EC and the Diasporans. The Chronicle will, however, urge the EC not to allow itself to be stampeded into making any rash decision on implementing ROPAL.

First, as it transpired during the petition, the integrity of the Voters’ List of Ghanaians abroad cannot be guaranteed. The politicians in ambassadorial clothing at any point in time in our Missions abroad, with any eye on possible partisan advantage, would not allow a credible register to emerge.

Unless the Electoral Officer in each Embassy is a known member of the largest opposition party, either the NDC or NPP, as the case may be. Second, even the national Voters’ List, compiled under the eagle eyes of the various political parties locally, has almost always suffered credibility problems.

While the party in power is usually happy with it, the opposition is not, amidst accusations that the EC had become the concubine of the party in power.

Thirdly, 2016 is the wrong time to implement ROPAL if we are ever to implement it. With the 2012 dispute and the motivations of the two major candidates, the tensions surrounding 2016 are already palpable.

We do not wish for any misunderstandings on the ground to be exacerbated by reports of external shenanigans. It was the massive GH¢8.7 billion deficit in the last quarter of 2012 that laid the foundation for the “economic challenges” or “economic crisis” that has brought the Cedi to where it is now.

We are not going to embark on another spending binge in 2016 to create similar or worse difficulties for in 2017 and thereafter. Implementation of ROPAL will definitely bring its own financial burden.

Luckily, an International Monetary Fund “hatchet man” will be around at the Finance Ministry to ensure that no such financial nonsense occurs in 2016. For now, any Ghanaian abroad who wants to vote in 2016 to elect his preferred candidate should walk the talk!

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