Parliament yesterday approved the new Constitutional Instrument (CI) 91 that gives authority to the Electoral Commission to register voters for public elections with some modified guidelines.
However, the incorporation of a portion of the old CI 72 into the new CI generated a huge debate between the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the majority National Democratic Congress MPs, with the minority kicking strongly against the provision in the CI 72 while the majority fully supported it.
The CI 91 provides that prospective voters can use passport, a driver’s licence, a national identification card or an existing voter identification card to qualify as a Ghanaian to be registered. The National Health Insurance card has been dropped as a result of the Supreme Court ruling against its use as a form of identification by a citizen of the country.
The MP for Abuakwa South, Samuel Atta Akyea, said the controversial provisions in the old CI 72 that had been lifted into the CI 91 could be a potential cause of chaos as some people could easily abuse that provision.
“This provision is clearly not in consonance with Article 42 of the Constitution and could also be open to abuse by some unscrupulous people,” he said, adding that he was tempted to believe that some political parties were likely to benefit from this.
He said to ensure that the system was not abused, the Chief Justice must as a matter of urgency set up a special court to prosecute people who would flout those provisions as well as other electoral offences.
The MP for Bodi, Sampson Ahi, who sent the whole House into rapturous laughter with his seeming difficulty in pronouncing the word ‘disenfranchise’, said if that provision was scrapped many eligible voters would be disenfranchised.
According to him, there are many qualified Ghanaians who live in rural areas who do not have a passport, driver’s licence, national identification card or voter identification card and therefore the only way out is for someone to vouch for their Ghanaian identity and so if registered voters could be their guarantors, it would augur well for the country’s democracy as many Ghanaians would not be disenfranchised.
The Minority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said that apart from those provisions, he also had a problem with the use of a driver’s licence as a form of identification as a citizen of the country, adding that its mode of acquisition is similar to the National Health Insurance card.
He wondered what modalities one could use to guarantee that someone is a Ghanaian and therefore must be allowed to be registered and vote.
He said the modalities were not clearly spelt out in the CI 19 and therefore the Instrument should be sent back to the EC for better work to be done on it.
The Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin, said he was in full support of the CI 19, stressing that in other countries like the UK and the USA, Ghanaians resident there are allowed to vote in their elections and that is what this new CI is seeking to do.
He said if that is not done many Ghanaians will not have the opportunity to vote, adding that democracy is all about involving as many people as possible in decision-making.
He, however, supported the argument that a special court be set up by the Chief Justice to prosecute electoral offences to serve as a deterrent to people who want to abuse the rules of the election.
Officials of the EC, led by its chairperson, Charlotte Osei, could however not proffer a reason behind one individual acting as a guarantor for a maximum of five people who cannot provide any form of identification to qualify for registration, when they (officials) appeared before the Subsidiary Committee of the House.
The new CI will come into force after 21 sitting days by Parliament.