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Opinions Thu, 6 Sep 2012

The Cloud Is Father Of The Storm

By Otchere Darko

“Cletus Avoka told Joy News’ Evans Mensah that the “controversial document” he laid but withdrew on August 15 will now be relayed on September 5, 2012.

According to him, the new CI will now bear the serial number 78 after the previous numbers of 73 and 77 were challenged on their own merits or demerits by the Minority.” [Source: Joy Online]

This write-up is my third on the crucial matter of creation of 45 new constituencies to raise the number of MPs in Ghana from 230 to 275. If the creation goes through, it will represent nearly a 20% increase in the size of Parliament. This huge increase is worrying, economically. A constitutional instrument number “CI78”, needed to create the new constituencies, which is already being described as a “controversial document”, is currently before Parliament and causing ‘parliamentary headaches’. The decision to create the 45 new constituencies, the legal process needed to create them, and the timing of the coming into effect of the constituencies, are collectively casting a very dense cloud on the political atmosphere in Ghana. One symptom of the dense cloud being cast is the ‘legislative confusion’ the creation has sparked, as seen from the quotation above which contains three consecutive ‘submit-and-later-withdraw’ constitutional instruments, CI73, CI77, and CI78; all three of which speak of one thing only, which is: ‘CONFUSION IN PARLIAMENT’.

A wise farmer uses the gathering of a dense cloud across the sky over his farm as a forewarning of an impending storm and, accordingly, hurries to leave for home. A foolish farmer defies this natural warning and risks getting caught in a storm where he has no defence. The purpose of this write-up is to warn Ghanaians that the creation of the 45 new constituencies, together with their coming into effect before the current Parliament has dissolved, is casting black clouds across the Ghanaian political atmosphere. Ghanaians of all political persuasion must therefore put pressure on those whose actions are creating the ominous political atmosphere to desist from doing what they are doing.

Personally, my main objection to the creation of the 45 new constituencies is not the fact that the Electoral Commission is creating these new constituencies. Rather, it is about the wrong timing of when the newly created constituencies become effective. Clause (6) of article 47 of the 1992 Constitution UNEQUIVOCALLY states that “where the boundaries of a constituency established under this article [47] are altered as a result of a review, the alteration shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of Parliament.” *This clause, without a filament of doubt, means that if the 45 new constituencies are created, they will only become effective after the current Parliament has dissolved. Until the current Parliament dissolves, therefore, the 45 new constituencies CANNOT be said to exist in law. And if they do not exist in law now, and can only exist legally after the dissolution of the current Parliament, then they, the 45 new constituencies, CANNOT be part of the impending December elections, because by the time the new constituencies become effective after the dissolution of the current Parliament, IT WOULD BE TOO LATE for them to be included in the impending general elections. Re-read this clause (6) of article 47 carefully, my dear reader, before you comment.

Readers should note that the NPP members, including former President Kufuor, who are criticising the Electoral Commission and NDC over the creation of the 45 new constituencies and the inclusion of these new constituencies in the in the December elections, breached clause (6) of article 47 of the 1992 Constitution themselves, by including the new constituencies they created in 2004 in the December 2004 elections. By breaching the law in 2004, NPP members should feel ashamed that they are spearheading the criticism of the Electoral Commission and NDC over the current creation and the inclusion of the newly created constituencies in the coming presidential and parliamentary elections. If it were for the sake of the NPP alone, I would not have bothered to criticise the Electoral Commission and NDC, because they, the NPP, deserve the ‘raw deal’ they are getting. “A bon chat bon rat”, the French man would say to NPP. And the English man would interpret this to mean “NPP deserve what they are getting”.

The issue of the creation of the 45 new constituencies and the timing of their effective implementation are, however, matters that concern the whole Ghanaian nation. The creation and the implementation should, accordingly, not be viewed from the prisms of the silly “tit-for-tat” policies of the two dominant parties, NDC and NPP. If Ghana burns as a result of the folly of this “tit-for-tat” action of NDC to pay NPP in their [NPP] coin, every Ghanaian will feel the painful effect. It is for this reason that I strongly urge all Ghanaians, irrespective of their political persuasion, to put party politics aside and put pressure on the Electoral Commission to either halt the creation of the 45 new constituencies altogether, or create them now while allowing them to come into effect after the current Parliament has dissolved, as directed by clause (6) of article 47 of the 1992 Constitution.

*It should be stressed that the creation of the 45 new constituencies per se is lawful, in my opinion, because clause (5) of article 47 gives the Electoral Commission the mandate to review constituencies within twelve months after the publication of the enumerations of a population census in Ghana. WHAT IS UNLAWFU IS TO ALLOW THE NEWLY CREATED CONSTITUENCIES TO BECOME EFFECTIVE BEFORE THE DISSOLUTION OF THE CURRENT PARLIAMENT. It should be noted that, BEFORE THE CURRENT PARLIAMENT DISSOLVES, any party elections or other actions taken now in relation to the 45 new constituencies will be illegal and can, in future, be successfully challenged in court.

*If, after the current Parliament has dissolved, it could be possible for the 45 new constituencies and their new constituents to know and choose people who can contest the coming elections; *if, after the current Parliament has dissolved, it could be possible for the Electoral Commission to supervise the conduct of all elections for all parties to choose those who will contest the 45 new constituencies for all parties in the 7th December 2012; *if, after the current Parliament has dissolved, it could be possible for the Electoral Commission to review the electoral register and other electoral documents so as to make provisions for the 45 new constituencies that become lawful after dissolution of the current Parliament; and finally, *if, after the current Parliament has dissolved, it could be possible for Ghanaians who would be affected by the boundary changes that would occur after the 45 new constituencies have been created to think over and know the implications of the resultant changes; if all these “ifs” could be answered in the affirmative, then there should be no legal justification, in my opinion, for anyone to complain about the creation or the coming into effect of the proposed 45 new constituencies. *We all know, however, that the answers to all these “ifs” are negative. This is why the on-going attempts to create the 45 new constituencies and, especially, the attempt to include these 45 new constituencies in the impending presidential and parliamentary elections even before the current Parliament has dissolved have the potential to cause problems that have the capability to disturb the peaceful conduct of the 2012 elections.

Source: Otchere Darko

Columnist: Darko, Otchere