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Ghana Opposition Resumes Protests Over New Voting Law


Ghana's opposition has resumed protests over a new voting law that would allow Ghanaians living abroad to cast ballots. The opposition fears it could lead to rigged elections.

Thousands marched from Accra's city center to a park near a fishing community. Baton-wielding police lined both sides of the protest route.

Some of the protesters held signs, saying "We Want Jobs, Not ROPA." ROPA is the acronym for the Representation of the People Amendment Law. They are asking for the law to be repealed.

It could give up to three million Ghanaians estimated to be living abroad the opportunity to vote. It is unclear yet if it will be applied by the next presidential election in 2008, or if it will apply to other elections.

Opposition parties and the Concerned Citizens of Ghana group were the organizers of the protest. A main critic, , the opposition spokesman for judicial affairs, said Ghana's elections are already suspect, so adding Ghanaians abroad could be dangerous. "The reason that we are saying that there is a need to set out the process very clearly is the fear of rigging," he explained. "We know that, even in this country, unless we have an effective monitoring process, the process internally could be rigged."

He said it is very hard to distinguish Ghanaians from other nationals in neighboring countries. "You know that half of the ethnic groups in Togo are also in Ghana, the Ewe population," he said. "Can you imagine, how many Togolese citizens can make a claim to being Ghanaian and entitled to register and vote? It's the same with Ivory Coast. You have ethnic groups that are spread across the borders. It's the same with Burkina Faso. It's the same with all these countries. These are the difficulties that we are talking about. So, in the end, you are going to have an electoral process that is going to be muddied and difficult to [put into operation], and that is the fear that we are entertaining."

But one Ghanaian who lives in Ivory Coast said he is in favor of the law. He believes it is part of the process to make Ghana a more modern country. "Because I am a Ghanaian, and I am staying in Cote d'Ivoire," he said, "so, if in Ghana there is an election, I am supposed - and I would like it - to vote."

His earnings in Abidjan as a cook help feed his wife, two children and relatives who all live in Ghana, as well as pay for school tuitions. He said he should be able to vote, and that embassies and consulates are improving on how to identify who the real Ghanaian nationals are. He also believes dual nationals should have the right to vote.

"Of course, because we have some Togolese nationals, like Ghanaians, so they must vote, because, if they have Ghanaian nationality, or have their passports, or their cards [showing they are] Ghanaians," he added, "unless you are not Ghanaian."

He also said the opposition should not fear that all Ghanaians living abroad will be voting for the ruling party. He said he will vote for the opposition in the next election. In 2004, he cast his vote for the opposition, but had to take time off and travel to Ghana to do so.