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General News Sat, 20 Dec 2003

EDITORIAL: More Than Two Terms As President?

EX-PRESIDENT Jerry John RAWLINGS, who in a recent interview called on the media to take him off their front pages, has put himself there again, promoting an apparent dream that has been interpreted by a section of the media as that of a possible return to the Castle, Osu, the seat of government.

In a Voice of America (VOA) interview, he suggested that Article 66 sub-section 2 of the 1992 Constitution, which regulates how long a Ghanaian can serve as Head of State, is ambiguous and that it is possible that someone who has served two terms as President could come back for a further two terms, ad nauseam.

He hinted that the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which he founded, could go to the Supreme Court for interpretation of the subsection.

That subsection states: “A person shall not be elected to hold office as President of Ghana for more than two terms”.

To us on Gye Nyame Concord the subsection under reference is clear enough. Our interpretation of it can only be one way: once a Ghanaian had served for two terms of four years each, making a total of eight years, he CANNOT ever, ever become the President of Ghana again.

But differences of opinion are fundamental to all democratic dispensations. That is why most constitutions establish an impartial institution to arbitrate between contending and differing opinions.

We are however gratified that the ex-President and his party could seek judicial interpretation on whether a President of Ghana after serving two terms could go home on sabbatical and later come back for a second dose at being the master of all that he surveys.

In our opinion, because of the demeaning suggestion that any one Ghanaian is indispensable, we doubt that any crop of Supreme Court of Ghana Justices would ever interpret Article 66 (2) to allow a former head of state who had served two terms to re-contest for the presidency. We do not believe that even the late Chief Justice I. K. Abban would have given Mr Rawlings such an interpretation, despite the “antiquity” to which they trace their relationship.

A cursory look at the 1992 Constitution indicates that the section on “The Executive” is one of the entrenched clauses. We thank God for little mercies. Should the unthinkable happen and the Supreme Court agrees with Rawlings interpretation or any other political party who would choose to so interpret it, they would have the electorate to contend with, since any act for the amendment of an entrenched clause can only be passed by Parliament after the idea had been endorsed in a referendum by 75 percent of 40 percent of all the names on the Voters Register.

Mr Rawlings’ VOA interpretation Article 66 (2) serves to confirm speculation in the run up to Election 2000 that if the NDC had not lost concentration and had gauged the time correctly, it would have amended the sub-section to give its founder more terms at the Castle, assuming the people went along with it.

It also confirms that former Speaker of Parliament Justice D.F. Annan’s use of the phrase “if Rawlings goes…” was not a slip of tongue in his one-on-one encounter with Kweku Sakyi-Addo as it was made out to be afterwards, but an unconscious slip of a deliberate NDC policy.

But the Gye Nyame Concord will appeal to Mr Rawlings to, please, let go. After 19 years at the Castle, we submit that the next best role for him is the power behind the throne of the government of the party that he founded. No matter the protestations to the contrary, no NDC President would dare refuse to consult him 24 hours of the day. Not even a President Obed Asamoah, should all that we hear about the frostiness in their relationship be true.

Source: Gye Nyame Concord