Members of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) are emitting confusing signals about their position on the new voters’ register, with their two recent actions pointing palpably at their befuddlement.
The lull in their demonstrations among other forms of resistance to the compilation of a new voters’ register gave way to an unusual action when they fired a correspondence to the Electoral Commission (EC) with demands which appeared to suggest that now the NDC has rethought its stands on the register.
Their May 18, 2020 letter to the EC demanding training manuals for registration officials and political party agents for the new voters’ register could not have put more clearly the reality of their coming to terms with the inevitability of the compilation of a replacement for the old roll and, therefore, ready to partake in the exercise.
A letter reportedly signed by NDC General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said they were requesting “training manual for registration officials for the 2020 registration exercise, training manual for political party agents for the registration exercise and other documents and forms relevant to the 2020 registration exercise.”
Even before the EC could prepare a package of copies of the training manuals for delivery to the NDC, the party varied the signal as it sought to have Parliament block the EC from compiling a new voters’ register.
“As a major stakeholder, whose agents have important functions to perform during the exercise to ensure its credibility, we are by this letter officially requesting the commission to supply the NDC with the above-named documents and any other material that would enable the party to prepare our agents adequately for same,” the letter said.
The party’s varying actions as it tackles the reality of a new voters’ register is consistent with vacillation, having exhausted all available options from its rulebook on resistance and stubbornness.
Last week, as the party sent signals of preparedness to partake in the compilation of a new voters’ register, it was at the same time exploring the possibility of using the parliamentary process to stall the EC action.
They are seeking, through MPs, to have Parliament reject the Public Elections (Amendment) Regulations 2020, C.I. 126, which is expected to mature in less than 10 sitting days of the House.
The EC has asked Parliament to amend Regulation 1 of Constitutional Instrument (C.I.) 91 to enable the Ghana Card and passport to be used as the only evidence of identification for a person who applies for registration as a voter.
Apart from the two documents, the EC is also pushing that an eligible voter could guarantee for up to 10 prospective applicants.
Last Friday, the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu, disclosed in the Chamber that his colleague for the Bawku Central, Mahama Ayariga, had filed a motion seeking a two-third majority vote from the legislators to reject the Public Elections (Amendment) Regulations 2020 C.I. 126.
According to him, the motion was yet to be admitted by the Speaker, Prof. Aaron Michael Oquaye, and that he was using the opportunity to alert the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and the entire House of the intention of the NDC Minority.
In response, Mr. Mensah-Bonsu said “it does not lie with me to admit or reject the motion,” and explained further that it was the Speaker who had that authority, adding that “the Majority side is also ever prepared to debate the motion.”
“If what you have told me is right, situating it within the context of Article 11 (7), we shall come there and if Mr. Speaker admits it (motion), there will be a full-blown debate on that, and we shall know the place it will fall,” he stated.
Article 11 (7) of the Constitution provides further that any order, rule or regulation made by a person or authority under a power conferred by the Constitution or any other law, shall be laid before Parliament, published in the Gazette and comes into force after 21 sitting days of Parliament, unless two-thirds majority vote indicates otherwise.
Earlier, the NDC Minority group had reiterated its demand for the EC chairperson to be summoned to Parliament to brief the MPs about the commission’s preparedness and readiness for the upcoming 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Haruna Iddrisu, who was exposed by the EC after claiming the government had bought PPE for the commission, said the EC had a duty to inform Parliament on its procurement for electoral materials, budget and other things, adding that the commission also needs to provide a roadmap on how it intends to carry out the elections in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We all need to know what is it that the EC is going to do, including whether there are additional instruments. We need the programme to ensure that it meets the mandatory 21 days.
“They have to get all their constitutional instruments intact, in place and on time for the purpose of the elections,” he stated, while responding to the explanatory memorandum on the Business Statement of Parliament on Thursday.
On April 30, 2020, Haruna Iddrisu, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Tamale South, made a similar demand for the EC to be summoned to Parliament to brief the House on its programmes.
He indicated that it was important for the country to know the roadmap for the December 7 elections, indicating that the 1992 Constitution requires that the presidential and parliamentary elections be held this year.
He noted that the independent electoral management body, which was created under Article 45 of the nation’s constitution, owes it a duty to inform Parliament and the entire country about its preparedness for the elections.
Mr. Mensah-Bonsu countered, saying there was no shred of doubt that the country would not hold general elections this year and that President Akufo-Addo had given strong indication that he does not intend to stay beyond his constitutional mandate even a single day.
According to him, the President is aware that the constitution does not make any provision for extension of his mandate unlike Parliament, and he would do anything within his powers to ensure the conduct of elections as required by the 1992 Constitution.
By A.R. Gomda