General News Fri, 30 Sep 2011

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Row Over 21 New Seats in Parliament

Though the Electoral Commission (EC) is yet to officially announce the creation of new constituencies, based on Article 47 of the 1992 Constitution, players in the industry have already started heated debates about the mode being allegedly used by the EC.

Article 47 reads: (1) Ghana shall be divided into as many constituencies for the purpose of election of members of Parliament as the Electoral Commission may prescribe, and each constituency shall be represented by one Member of Parliament.

(2) No constituency shall fall within more than one region.

(3) The boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota.

(4) For the purposes of clause (3) of this article, the number of inhabitants of a constituency may be greater or less than the population quota, in order to take account of means of communication, geographical features, density of population and area and boundaries of the regions and other administrative or traditional areas.

(5) The Electoral Commission shall review the division of Ghana into constituencies at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of the enumeration figures, after the holding of a census of the population of Ghana, whichever is earlier, and may, as a result, alter the constituencies.

(6) Where the boundaries of a constituency established under this article are altered as a result of a review, the alteration shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of Parliament.

(7) For the purposes of this article, "population quota" means the number obtained, by dividing the number of inhabitants of Ghana by the number of constituencies, into which Ghana is divided under this article.

Pursuant to the provisions of above article, the EC has reportedly created 21 additional constituencies, bringing the total number of the constituencies to 251.

The new constituencies are based on the landmass of the affected areas, but the Member of Parliament (MP) for Manhyia in the Ashanti Region, Dr. Mathew Opoku Prempeh, strongly disagrees, arguing that the EC had over the years breached the Constitution, and must be brought to book.

According to him, Ghana is a small country, and that there is no need for the EC to keep on creating new constituencies to overburden the economy. Basing his argument on clause (3) of Article 47, the Manhyia MP contended that it was wrong for the EC to use landmass to determine the creation of new constituencies, instead of using the population quota.

He noted that because of the quota system being implemented by the United States of America, it has managed to maintain the 435 membership of Congress for a very long time.

The advantage of this system, he argued, was that it helps to lessen the financial burden on the economy, since the creation of more constituencies means the entry of more people into Parliament. He wondered whether Ghana could still continue to cater for a large number of MPs, if the current trend continues.

Napo, as he is popularly known, also argued that the creation of new constituencies must be based on figures provided by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), as provided for under Article 47 clause (5), after conducting a national census, but the latter is yet to come out with population figures for the various districts and constituencies for the 2008 population census.

He is, therefore, at loss as to how the EC should contemplate creating new constituencies. A source contacted at the GSS hinted The Chronicle that the final census results would be released before the end of the year.

To Napo, the EC has no option than to wait for the results to be released before thinking about new constituencies, which it must use the population quota to determine. If the quota system is implemented, the total number of people living in Ghana will be divided by the current number of seats in Parliament. The figure obtained would then be used to determine the boundaries of the various constituencies.

This means that constituencies which fall below the quota would have to merge with others, until they obtain the right population quota. The Manhyia MP told The Chronicle that as a result of the quota system, the state of New York in the US is losing more seats in Congress, because the population had moved to other states.

The Propaganda Secretary of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr. Richard Quashigah, however, disagreed with the argument being advanced by Napo. He noted that the EC had over the years been using the geographical landmass to determine new constituencies without any protest, and wondered why Dr. Mathew Prempeh should be raising the issue now.

"Until cogent reason is raised, the view of single individual must not hold sway," Quashigah noted. According to him, notwithstanding the provisions enumerated in Article 47 of the Constitution, there was also an Act of Parliament that gives the EC the mandate to use landmass to determine the creation of new constituencies.

"The constitution is a skeleton with an Act of Parliament acting as flesh, and the two always move together," he noted.

Mr. Ebo Qunasah, Editor of The Chronicle, also told this reporter that though Dr. Prempeh's argument sounds good on paper, it would be dangerous to implement the population quota system to determine the electoral boundaries of the country.

He noted that though Northern Region is a wide area, it is sparsely populated, and that if the quota is used, only a few constituencies would be created there, which would not serve the interest of the country.

Source: Chronicle

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