“We passed the law and I can’t understand why 10 years later it is dormant on the statute books,” he said reiterating an NPP 2016 campaign promise to revive ROPAL.
Ghana has organised three general elections since the law was passed in 2007. But at each election, the elections governing body, the Election Commission, has signalled it is not ready to implement the law.
The then Electoral Commissioner Dr. Afari-Gyan remarked in 2007, “ROPAL is in stages and….we are in the preparatory stages.”
A decade later, the Electoral Commission’s 2016-2020 strategic plan states “there is currently no plan” to implement the law.
Nonetheless, the Commission has set a 2018 deadline to clearly define a roadmap for ROPAL implementation. The document mentions staffing and funding as some of the barriers to its implementation.
The signal from the President that “there is going to be an engagement by this government” on ROPAL, is likely to renew public discussion on the controversial law.
ROPAL and matters arising
ROPAL amended Section 7 and 8 of PNDCL 284 which states that Ghanaians abroad are allowed to vote except they should have continuously stayed in the country at least six months to the elections.
It meant that interested citizens should have returned to Ghana by July ahead of the December general elections.
The EC only makes provision for persons who work in diplomatic missions or international organisations of which Ghana is a member. Their spouses are also allowed to vote. Students on government scholarship and members of the Army and Police on peacekeeping duties are eligible to vote.
The commission has said administrative challenges such as mode of voting, either by proxy, mail or at an embassy would have to be resolved.
Opposition parties are skeptical about having the vote conducted at the embassies fearing incumbency could interfere with the process.
Opposition position on ROPAL
Critics of the law have said, ROPAL is not a priority for the ordinary Ghanaian looking to government to resolve ‘bread and butter issues’.
They pointed out that for a country that relies on donor partners to fund its elections, extending the process to cover citizens outside Ghana is an unnecessary burden.
The General Secretary of the Peoples National Convention, Bernard Mornah, described it as “an inimical law that should not find space in our political system.”
Some argued that if Ghanaians in the Diaspora are interested in voting, travelling to Ghana to do so should not be too much to ask.
Founder of the NDC and former President Jerry Rawlings accused the then government of planning to use the law to rig the 2008 elections.
The NDC also felt the NPP government was in a haste to pass the law and warned of possible conflict if ROPAL was used in the general elections in 2008.