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Opinions Sun, 19 Feb 2006

My View Of ROPAB

The current debate in Ghana about the Representation of the People?s Amendment Bill (ROPAB) should be of great concern to every Ghanaian. The Bill is to enable Ghanaians abroad to register and vote in Ghanaian elections from their resident countries. Not a bad idea, every citizen would have the opportunity to cast a vote. And it is the constitutional right of every citizen to vote. However, in this particular Bill, there are so many unanswered questions, and even some parliamentarians do not fully understand ROPAB.

It is obvious that the proponents of ROPAB have done a very bad job in educating the Ghanaian public. As we have seen in past, the citizenry did not fully understand HIPC, NHIS and other national issues. Based on the arguments being made for and against ROPAB, it is my impression that the dynamics of ROPAB might be misunderstood. The proponents should educate the public about ROPAB. Why ROPAB? When, where, and how will it be implemented? What will be the role of the Electoral Commission? Has there been any survey or discussions with Ghanaians in the Diaspora on ROPAB? Is ROPAB a priority? There is the need to educate the public on such important national issues; else you allow the media and the politicians to tell their own version of the ?truth?.

I fault the opponents of ROPAB for not allowing a debate; one of their reasons being that ROPAB is an effort by the NPP to ensure victory in the 2008 election. That is far fetched from the truth, because if even the Bill passes parliament, the implementation date can be argued out to go way beyond the 2008 elections. And what is the guarantee that those residing outside Ghana will vote for NPP?

I think the opportunity for Ghanaians abroad to vote in elections at home from their place of residence will be a great privilege and a step ahead for our young democracy. However, I ask myself if the country is capable of undertaking this task and if ROPAB is necessary at this time. Do we have the resources to fund this Bill even if it is passed? In which countries will elections be held? Take the US as an example. There are Ghanaians in almost all the states. Where will the polling stations be? If you allow Ghanaians in the diaspora to vote, can they form political parties? Can they contest in national elections? Can a political party based in London field a presidential candidate? Backed with pounds sterling? There again lies the issue of campaign contributions. The cash strained local politician could be at a disadvantage. Do the political parties have the money to campaign abroad? Will losers accept electoral results in good faith?

Honestly, i do not believe we are ready as a country to allow elections outside Ghana but a debate about ROPAB can be encouraged. Take a look at the implementation of the dual citizenship, and there is no doubt that it has been a hassle. As a step forward, improve upon the process for dual citizenship to enable citizens with such status to register in Ghana, and I believe most of these people will come home with pride to vote in national elections. In the interim, the government can set up a panel which should include Ghanaians in the diaspora to undertake an extensive discussion on ROPAB. Then we shall be well equipped to debate the issue.

As a Ghanaian resident in New York, it would be a great honor to cast my vote in a national election. It will give me such pride, but I am faced with reality: funding and implementation will be difficult. And of course, there are other very important issues that affect the life of the ordinary Ghanaian: food, water, education, health, electricity, among others. Our voices can still be heard in different ways.

We are faced with a very important national issue. If we do not proceed with caution, ROPAB will deal Ghana a heavy blow, the like of which we have never seen. Stability is what we need, and our growing democracy is on the right path.

Kofi Akoto Yankey, New York
February 9, 2006


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Yankey, Kofi Akoto