Parliament has rejected the Electoral Commission’s (EC’s) use of the Ghana Card as the sole source of identification to register people onto the voters register.
The House unanimously recommended to the EC to include the guarantor system in the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulation, 2023 before it could present it for consideration.
Legislators were of the view that unless and until the challenges confronting the issuance of the Ghana Card were dealt with, using the card as the only medium of voter registration would negatively impact the electoral roll and thereby deny some otherwise qualified persons from registering to vote.
“The EC should tarry slowly until every eligible voter is afforded the opportunity to register and procure the Ghana Card before the legislation of such a compulsion,” the MPs agreed last Friday.
In line with Article 11 (7) of the 1992 Constitution, the EC had laid a Constitutional Instrument (CI) before Parliament to regulate the continuous voter registration exercise.
The CI was seeking to, among other things, make the Ghana Card the sole identification document for the exercise and the only means for registration.
According to the article, when laid in Parliament, the CI will come into force after 21 sitting days, except the house annuls it by a vote of not less than two-thirds of all Members of Parliament (MPs).
Last month, the Chairperson of the EC, Jean Adukwei Mensa, told Parliament, as part of the pre-laying of the CI, that the Ghana Card as the sole registration document would ensure that only eligible Ghanaians registered as voters.
Such a move, she said, would give the country a credible voter roll and enhance its electoral process.
The House took the decision after legislators adopted the report of the Committee of the Whole on the draft CI.
The report, signed by the Chairman of the Committee of the Whole, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, who is also the Speaker of Parliament, said it was not the time for the EC to introduce and
implement the Ghana Card as the only means of identification of citizenship for the purposes of voter registration.
The report was presented to the House by the First Deputy Speaker, Joseph Osei-Owusu, who moved the motion for the House to adopt the committee’s report.
The reports captured the concerns of MPs from both sides of the House, raised during previous meetings by the Special Budget Committee and the Committee of the Whole with the Chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, the Executive Secretary of the NIA, Prof. Ken Attafuah, and the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta.
It was premised on the fact that the EC could only lay the new CI in Parliament for admission and consideration if it gave favourable consideration to the concerns raised by MPs.
Ready to support reforms
The report said MPs, having thoroughly interrogated the issues and reforms being contemplated by the EC, were ready to support any effort that would enable every Ghanaian to get a Ghana Card because it was the law.
It, however, said the legislators would not accept and would reject any effort that was geared towards making the EC use the Ghana Card as the only medium to qualify a person who was eligible to vote in the 2024 elections.
That, it said, was premised on the fact that, indeed, Ghana had come of age and could boast a credible national identification card (Ghana Card) to transact business with.
“However, even in the face of a number of identification options given in the past, and even in the operation of the NIA, some citizens are unable to register for the national card due to the existence of serious challenges the authority is confronted with,” it said.
Per the report, MPs noted that the introduction of the Ghana Card to deal with the challenge of multiplicity of identification cards and documents was most laudable and supported by all parties and governments.
They, however, proposed that a person who applied for registration but could not provide as evidence of identification a card issued by the NIA because he or she had not been registered by the NIA or had registered but was yet to be issued with the national identification card shall be required by the EC to produce a relative to provide evidence of identification on oath, in accordance with the provisions of the Oath Act.
“Where a person applies for registration as a voter but has no relative to provide evidence of identification on oath, the EC shall require two persons registered with the NIA and issued with the national identification card to identify that person under oath, in accordance with the provisions of the Oath Act,” it said.
The report further said the MPs drew the attention of the EC, the NIA and the Finance Ministry to an earlier promise by the NIA, as of July 2022, that it would complete a full registration of all citizens aged 15 and above.
New registration centres
The Committee also expressed strong objection to the limitation of registration centres to only the regional and district capitals and centres determined by the EC, emphasising that access to such centres by Ghanaians from many communities might pose serious challenge.
“The explanation of the EC that Regulations 2(1) and 2(2) of the new Cl have given the EC sufficient authority to create centres when the need arises is not specific and mandatory enough.
“The areas for the centres to be created must be specifically stated in the CI, as done in the case of the district centres. In that regard, the committee urges the EC to go further downstream by adopting registration centres at the various electoral areas,” it said.
With regard to the sharing of data between the EC and the NIA, the members sought to find out the technical infrastructure put in place for such a purpose.
The committee was informed that there was no such technical infrastructure for automatic sharing of data between the EC and the NIA.
“However, the EC said it would provide data of persons to be expunged from the register to the NIA for verification,” it said.
The Committee of the Whole called on Parliament to consider the CI when presented to the House,
subject to the above proposed revision and amendments.
Soon after the House had adopted the Committee of the Whole’s report, the Speaker said the House would now not depend on the assurances from the EC or the NIA but “we are now making inputs into the preparation of the CI”.
He indicated that a CI was different from an Executive Instrument which was issued by the Executive and Parliament did not have a hand in its passage.
“In the CI, we have a hand; by law we cannot compel the EC to perform its functions and neither can they also compel us to perform ours,” he said, emphasising that when the concerns of the House were captured in the new CI, it would be admitted and considered by the House
“If that is not done definitely, we have a say and it was agreed by leadership that the CI will not be admitted and considered by the House,” he added.
Dr Afari-Gyan’s objection
Even before the EC Chairperson had appeared before Parliament, a former Chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, had criticised the plan to discard the guarantor system for the continuous voter registration exercise.
In a statement shared with the Daily Graphic, he said the contention of the EC that the guarantor system was not robust and, therefore, the Ghana Card should be the sole means of registration was untenable.
Dr Afari-Gyan, who is the longest-serving Chairperson in the history of the EC, argued that as far as the NIA allowed the guarantor regime in the registration for the Ghana Card, nothing prevented the EC from doing same for the voter registration exercise and making that system more robust as it wanted it.
“What prevents the commission from instituting, in the upcoming CI, a guarantor regime as robust as or even more robust than the one being used by the NIA for doing the Ghana Card?” he queried.
In a previous statement to the Daily Graphic in August last year, he had said making the Ghana Card the sole identification document would disenfranchise millions of qualified Ghanaians and as such the move by the EC was against electoral inclusivity, fairness and justice.
In his new critique, he said he was not against the use of the Ghana Card and did not also disagree with the EC that the Ghana Card was of great importance and would go a long way to sanitise the electoral roll
His disagreement was because the EC was gradually making the Ghana Card the only means of citizenship, which is the criterion for one to register as a voter.
It was his contention that the Ghana Card did not bestow citizenship on anyone, but rather validated that citizenship; therefore, making the Ghana Card the sole means of registration meant the EC was trying to define those without the card as not citizens of Ghana eligible to vote.
“In my view, as of now, it cannot be reasonably assumed that every Ghanaian of voting age has the Ghana Card, or can get one well ahead of the next elections,” he said.
A Political Science lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Dr George Asekere, in a reaction, described the decision by Parliament to include the guarantor system as part of electrical reforms as a welcoming decision, Emmanuel Bonney reports.
“It is a welcome decision by our MPs who obviously are aware of the reality on the ground,” he said.
That, he said, was because the legislators were aware of the reality on the ground with regard to the Ghana Card.
He told the Daily Graphic that the difficulty in acquiring the Ghana Card meant that a contrary decision by Parliament would certainly disenfranchise many people, which would be a dent on our nurturing democracy.
Three political parties have also welcomed Parliament’s recommendation to the Electoral Commission (EC) to include the guarantor system in the registration of new voters, reports Dickson Worlanyo Dotse.
They are the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the Liberal Party of Ghana (LPG).
The General Secretary of the CPP, Nana Yaa Akyempim Jantuah, said abolishing the guarantor system had the potential to disenfranchise many Ghanaians, especially those in the rural and remote areas who were yet to be issued their Ghana cards.
She, therefore, recommended that Parliament put in place procedures to turn the guarantor system into law to make it a permanent feature in the future.
Ms Jantuah also advised the EC and the National Identification Authority (NIA) to synchronise their platforms to ensure that eligible Ghanaians who had registered but were yet to receive their Ghana cards would be able to vote because the EC would be able to verify their registration.
“The NIA could issue codes to whoever has registered but has not received his or her card to enable that person to register. Also, the two agencies should collaborate at the voter registration points in the districts to enable the NIA to register persons who are yet to be registered entirely,” the CPP General Secretary said.
The PPP also welcomed the development and advised the EC to take the opportunity to carry out more consultations in order to include the views of all stakeholders in matters relating to the new Constitutional Instrument (CI) to avoid the controversies that occurred when the document was first introduced.
“The EC should embrace participatory democracy in delivering its duties at all times, since it is a very important principle for democratic consolidation. Doing that will help restore the trust and credibility of the EC required to administer its functions,” a statement signed by the PPP’s Communications Director, Emmanuel F. Mantey, said.
It urged state institutions to work with a sense of urgency to provide a robust national identification system that could be used in all aspects of our lives, including voting.
It said there was always the need to embrace flexibility in the democratic system.
The General Secretary of the LPG, Jerry Owusu Appiah, said although the party was not against the guarantor system, the Ghana Card could be used as the sole document for the registration process.
That was because the NIA had said it had been adequately resourced and was ready to clear the backlog of applications.
Mr Appiah was also of the view that the EC’s attempts were aimed at saving the state a lot of money by clearing minors and foreigners from its systems, adding that no one was going to be disenfranchised because it was going to be a continuous process.
Gov’t to restrict importation of rice, ‘yemuadie’ and other products
The government is set to lay before Parliament today, November 21, a Constitutional Instrument (C.I) seeking to restrict the importation of selected strategic products into the country.
The items, numbering over 20, will include rice, tripe (popularly called “yemuadie” in Ghana), and diapers.
The government said the move is part of efforts to enhance local production.
Speaking during a press briefing in Parliament, the Minister of Trade and Industry, K.T Hammond said, “Stomach of animals, bladder and the chunk of intestines (yemuadie), the country had had to put in an amount of about $164 million towards the importation of these items. We are taking steps to ensure that in terms of rice, there’s no poverty of rice in the country.”
He emphasized, “By these restrictions, we are not going to ensure that there’s no food in the country at all; that is not the point at all. There have to be some efforts by the government to ensure that we go back to Acheampong’s operation feed yourself. There are about 22 items on the list, one of them, I think, is diapers.”
He announced the introduction of the Ghana Standards Authority Regulations 2023, which also seeks to streamline the manufacturing of cement to ensure competitive pricing.
Mahama doesn’t understand 24hr economy; don’t vote for him – Bawumia
Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia says former President John Dramani Mahama does not understand the 24-hour economy policy he is proposing.
According to the Vice President, that policy is already being implemented in the country, as hospitals, fuel companies, among others, operate a 24-hour system.
Dr. Bawumia, therefore, urged Ghanaians to ignore Mahama during the 2024 polls since he has nothing new to offer and vote for the New Patriotic Party.
“John Mahama says he has a new idea. What is the idea? He says he wants a 24-hour economy. He doesn’t even understand that policy. Today in Ghana, our hospitals work 24 hours, our electricity company works 24 hours, our water company works 24 hours, our fuel stations work 24 hours, and many chop bars work 24 hours. Today because of digitalisation, you can transfer money 24 hours, you can receive money 24 hours… So he doesn’t understand his own policy. It doesn’t make sense.”
“So I want you to vote for me in 2024 because I will bring a new vision, I will bring a new policy. Mahama is the past, Dr Bawumia is the future. If John Mahama was there, we would say we have a dumsor economy, you can’t have a 24-hour economy in dumsor. So, you want to vote for Dr Bawumia in 2024, we will take the country to new heights,” Dr Bawumia stated.
Bagbin rebukes IMF over alleged pressure to pass some bills under certificate of urgency
The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, has accused the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of pressuring the House to pass a number of bills under a certificate of urgency.
Mr. Bagbin cited bills such as the Affirmative Action Bill, which is allegedly being pushed by the IMF as part of the conditionality for the balance of the $3 billion credit facility for Ghana.
Speaking at the Speaker’s Breakfast Meeting on Monday, Alban Bagbin insisted that the House will not be coerced by the IMF to pass the bill.
“Even in this budget, you can see the arm of the IMF in a lot of provisions in the budget. A critical bill like the Affirmative Action Gender Equality Bill has come to Parliament under a certificate of urgency. Please, it won’t happen; we won’t pass it under a certificate of urgency.”
“There are critical stakeholders we must consult and make sure we go together. We will not be dictated by the IMF; that one, you can be assured. This is a very critical bill that the IMF should know that we need the buy-in of the stakeholders to be able to implement it,” Alban Bagbin said.
The Affirmative Action Bill, when passed into law, would seek to expunge the historically low representation of women in decision-making spaces and promote democracy and development through all-inclusive participation.