The Electoral Commission (EC) says the position of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) that the commission can only compile the register of voters once at the inception of the Constitution and not on multiple occasions is an interpretation by the party to serve its ‘parochial interest’ and not a proper appreciation of the 1992 Constitution as a whole.
The EC, in its response to a suit filed by the NDC at the Supreme Court seeking to stop the electoral management body from compiling a new roll, says the party’s understanding and interpretation of Article 45(a) is absurd, strained and far-fetched.
“If successful with this absurd, strained and far-fetched interpretation of Article 45(a), the plaintiff (EC) wants this honourable court to declare that the 2nd defendant no longer has the mandate to compile a register of voters because that constitutional mandate has already been exhausted/used and it is left with only the mandate to revise the already existing register.
“This view of the plaintiff is rather unfortunate and misconceived. It is an artificial interpretation of this Article of the Constitution in particular and the whole Constitution in general. It is an interpretation impossible to come to upon reading the Constitution as a whole except for some subjective ends of the plaintiff’s parochial interest,” the EC’s response signed and filed by its lawyer, Justin Amenuvor, noted.
In late March this year, the NDC sued the Attorney General (AG) and attached the EC over the commission’s decision to compile a new voters’ register for the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.
The opposition party wants the Supreme Court to declare that the EC, per the 1992 Constitution, can only compile a voters’ register once and subsequently review it over time and not compile a new one instead.
The NDC is contending that the EC “can only revise the existing register of voters, and lacks the power to prepare a fresh register of voters for the conduct of the December 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections.”
Among the declaration being sought by the NDC is that the current Voters ID card which was issued to prospective voters can and should be used for the purposes of identification and enable them to vote.
The NDC is also seeking a declaration that the decision by the EC to amend the regulations that guide the registration of voters “to exclude existing voter identification cards as proof of identification to enable a person to apply for registration as a voter is unconstitutional, null and void and of no effect.”
The AG’s Department has already opposed the suit by the NDC through the Deputy AG, Godfred Yeboah Dame, stating that the NDC’s position is “patently absurd, far-fetched, outrageous and grossly erroneous.”
The AG, in its response filed, insisted that a number of reliefs claimed by the NDC “are not cognizable,” adding that the NDC “has no cause of action as there is no enactment properly so-called in respect of which the action has been instituted. The proposed constitutional instrument the subject matter of dispute has not come into force in accordance with Article 11(7) of the Constitution.”
The AG’s department is arguing that the NDC also has no cause of action against it and the EC because the action is predicated on a proposed constitutional instrument (C. I.) laid before Parliament and yet to go through the full processes prescribed by Article 11(7) of the Constitution for its entry into force as part of the laws of Ghana,” adding “in terms of the procedure enshrined in Article 11(7), the earliest date that the proposed C. I. laid before Parliament on 1st April, 2020 comes into force is 5th June, 2020.”
The EC has also filed its response to the suit and insists that the interpretation of the Article being urged upon the court by the NDC is ‘parochial’ which seeks only to suit the ‘interest’ of the NDC alone and not the entire country.
“It is our further submission that it is far-fetched and inconceivable to assume that the interpretation being urged on the court by the plaintiff would have been the one contemplated by the drafters of the Constitution. The implication is dire. The Constitution in its totality rarely grants repeat powers expressly; in fact, it mostly grants its powers in the singular,” the EC’s response indicated.
The EC maintains that careful reading of Article 297(b) will clearly reveal, without any ambiguity, that there are no single-use powers under the 1992 Constitution in general and Article 45(a) in particular. The powers granted under the Constitution are to be exercised and the duties performed, from time to time, as occasion requires.
The EC also insisted that its duty to ensure that every qualified voter gets the opportunity to register and take part in elections is not lost on it but “that duty is as important as ensuring that only qualified voters get the opportunity to register and vote and where unqualified voters find their names on the register, steps are taken to clean the register to improve its credibility even if it requires that a new one be compiled.”
It said the NDC’s case is in respect of a law (regulation) which is going through its motions in Parliament and is yet to mature.
“The existing voter register is not and cannot be the only mode of identification without which qualified voters will lose their opportunity to register. Actually, there is no law in stating that it must be included therefore not including is not in breach of any law, not to talk of a constitutional provision. The modes of identification in the proposed amendment offer all qualified voters equal opportunity to register.”
“It is the 2nd defendant’s case that, as at the date of this action, there was no existing enactment inconsistent or in contravention of any provision of the Constitution brought before this court for declaration as unconstitutional, null and void. Under the circumstance, we humbly invite this court to dismiss the plaintiff’s action for disclosing no cause of action,” the EC added.
BY Gibril Abdul Razak