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Monday, November 14, 2011

Ghana’s president accused of using prisoners to win votes

Ghana’s president accused of using prisoners to win votes

Posted Sunday, November 13 2011 at 19:47

It looks Ghana’s President John Evans Atta Mills has no way of satisfying the public because every policy decision he makes is given a different meaning.

In a recent move to endorse the decision by the Supreme Court to allow prisoners to vote in elections, opposition critics claim he is now turning to convicts for votes because the electorates are fed up with his regime.

But President Mills, a former law lecturer says, it was down to his total belief in the fundamental rights of every citizen that has pushed him to endorse the ruling which now being used against him by his opponents.

Commissioning a new prison facility in the central region, President Mills said, in line with the Supreme Court ruling, the country’s prisoners should be allowed to vote and gave the signal that, convicts would cast their votes in next year’s elections.

But opposition activists think the government is turning to the prisons for votes because it is becoming clear that, the people are just waiting to kick them out of power in December next year.

Central regional secretary of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) Mr Kwabena Duncan, said in a radio interview that, “it is only a failing government, a President that is groping in the dark that would want prisoners to vote only because that is an easier way to garner votes to stay in power.”

Mr Duncan accused President Mills of hinging his hopes on the votes of prisoners to retain power because defeat is staring at him in the 2012 elections as a result of the ruling National Democratic Congress’ (NDC’s) failed electoral promises to Ghanaians.

He said, the only thing that could have informed President Mills’ decision to allow prisoners to vote is that “they are scampering for votes because things are not going well for them”.

He said the NDC’s thinking is that, they will get their support largely from those in the prison and those who are not from literate background.

President Mills’ officials have dismissed these claims by the opposition and insists that, his decision is in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling that, inmates have the right to vote during elections and wants his government to abide by the ruling and nothing more.

He has promised to enable the Electoral Commission (EC) to put in place “the necessary machinery and structures to enable inmates to exercise their God given rights”.

Before the prisoners could be empowered, there some few issues to be sorted even though, chairman of the EC, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan has said, it is possible to go ahead with the plans to allow prisons to vote.

Initial concerns have been expressed by opposition groups who say, allowing the prisoners to vote can only be for the presidential election but not with the parliamentary poll.

This is because, voting for parliamentarians take place in the Constituencies and it is not clear how the EC would be able to provide the facilities across the country’s numerous prisons for over 230 constituencies.

In addition, Mr Duncan is making further demands on the EC that is likely to create more problems.

He said, if the prisoners should be allowed to vote, there is the need for political parties to have access to the prisons to campaign since that is the only way to convince those behind bars to vote for the party of their choice.

“This is the only way that Ghanaian can be sure that there is going to be some fair play if indeed President Mills and the EC really want to allow prisoners to exercise their franchise in the 2012 General Elections,” Mr Duncan added.

The decision has also re-opened the argument that Ghanaians living outside the country should be allowed to vote.

In Mr Duncan’s view, the prisoners are not more Ghanaian than those living outside the shores of the country.

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