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Unnecessary fight over the Speaker of Ghana Parliament

Parliament House New 2020 MPs in Parliament

Wed, 30 Dec 2020 Source: Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin

The fight over who serves as the Speaker of Ghanaian Parliament, for the House to get on carrying out its fundamental role, is getting very interesting as some political analysts are preoccupying Ghanaians over who should be given the title of "majority" in parliament and who should be named the "minority" in parliament. So, these individuals are more interested in the political colours of persons with vague ideological persuasions and politically tribal in parliament, than the actual business of the Ghanaian parliament, for which the electorates voted for them. So, when the number of seats in parliament is not balanced enough for the traditional dominance for the House to continue as mere rubber stamp of the President, some people are bent on going to any extent to circumvent the will of Ghanaians in parliament.

These individuals are being totally blind to the core purpose of parliament which is to make laws for the country, for the executive arm led by the president to carry these laws out. These people are rather fixated with who occupy majority seat and who occupy minority seat in parliament, when the business of parliament and parliamentarians, is about the quality of laws in Ghana. In a country where lawlessness has become cultural to everyone and disorder has become the order of the day, it is absurd for Ghanaians' elected members of parliament to be fighting as nuts over who gets the title of majority and who gets that of minority, instead of focusing on the complicated task of law-making, when Ghanaians have indicated otherwise by their votes.

In addition to the parliament playing its fundamental role of law-making, the parliament also keeps an eye on the activities of the executive to ensure the executive and all government departments’ work by the law, in achieving the objective of the nation. It is totally irresponsible and unparliamentarily for any MP or political party to think they are in parliament to bring down the executive, by their confused understanding of bringing down "government". The word "check" here does not mean to "destroy" at all cost, as the duty of nation-building is the responsibility of every Ghanaian.

The decision of which political party assume the largest number of representatives in parliament is that of the Ghanaian electorates. When the electorates vote for more number of MPs of a political affiliation to have a larger number in parliament, what the electorates have done is give the party a dominant role of influencing the business of parliament. When the dominant party turn out to be the same as the party of the executive, then the president becomes very powerful as all his bills table before parliament are rushed through the House, without adequate scrutiny. In fact, the president becomes a law unto himself. The president does anything he likes and gets away with anything. And when other MPs with smaller number of seats in parliament disagree with the excesses of the executives, enough to want to restrain the president and his team from their act of being power-drunk, their party representatives in parliament use their dominance to block the move.

The above has been the trend in Ghana since the inception of the Fourth Republican Constitution. Since all decisions in parliament are arrived at by all MPs voting and the will of 2/3 majority carry the day for a decision made to pass into law, everything the president wants, the president gets. Often than not, the main business of parliament is shoved aside and the dominant political party walks over the state.

Now, God has answered the prayers of most of us and the Ghanaian voters have divided the seats equally between the two main political parties, for none to have the fetish dominant role in parliament.

Here we are with some people trying all dirty tricks to rob Ghanaians of their choice, by making caricature of the sacred sovereign decision. These individuals are making false claims that it will be impossible for a Speaker of Parliament to be in place because the decision of the electorates in their voting pattern has resulted in an imbalanced parliament, as the seats are shared equally between the two main political parties. These alarmists are saying because the political party, of which the president belongs, could not get a clear majority of parliamentary seats, for the Speaker to be from the same political party as the President of Ghana, the parliament will not have a Speaker.

There is nowhere in the 1992 Constitution that says the Speaker of Ghana parliament, must be from the same political party as the President of the Republic of Ghana.

Under Article 95 (1), the instruction of the Constitution states "there shall be a Speaker of Parliament who shall be elected by the members of Parliament from among the persons who are members of parliament or, are qualify to be elected as members of parliament".

It is without doubt the first part of Article 95 clause (1) is very clear. Everything regarding the election of the Speaker is solely about parliament and parliamentarians under clause (1). What the constitution had in mind here is a clear majority of the members of a political party being MPs for the election of the Speaker to be decisive and give the alternative members of parliament little or no choice. So even when those of the party with the majority of members in parliament present a donkey to House, the donkey will be voted in to be the Speaker of Parliament.

The constitution still did not say the President or the Supreme Court must present, or impose anyone as a Speaker on Parliament. This therefore implies, if the political party other than the same party to the President emerge as the one with majority of the seats in parliament, the election of the Speaker will be decided by their dominant number and surely one of those from the opposite party to the president. What this part of clause (1) did not address is, when there is no clear majority enough for any political party representation in parliament to dominate in the choice of who becomes the Speaker.

To make up for the above possibility, the second part of Article 95, Clause (1) is inserted to address that challenge. This latter part of the 95 (1) might have been included to make room for the kind of parliamentary figure we have today in Ghana where there is no obvious imbalance in the number of MPs.

When the clause said '... or qualify to be elected as members of parliament", the constitution is not suggesting that anyone qualify to be elected as a member of parliament can participate in the election of the Speaker and be elected as a Speaker as well. The Constitution is simply saying, the elected members of parliament as a house, can opt to have an unelected but qualified Ghanaian to stand as a candidate for the speakership, in which only and all elected parliamentarians vote for the seat of a Speaker?

I have no doubt the intention of the constitution is to have an independent, strong, neutral, decisive, nationalist, patriotic and firm Speaker, whose sole objective shall be putting Ghana first in starring the affairs of the House. The constitution is therefore making a room for the parliamentarians to look beyond the walls of Parliament in coming up with a person of such characteristics, to play the role of stirring the affairs of parliament, if the parliamentarians are unable to identify such person from among themselves.

The voices we are hearing from the National Patriotic Party (NPP) is the threat of dragging the National Democratic Party (NDC), who have created an impression of fear of court, to the Supreme Court, for the Court to declare the NPP as the so-called Majority in Parliament. The impression these alarmists are giving us is, a political party called the Majority in Parliament automatically have the overriding authority of choosing who becomes the Speaker of Parliament, even when such party does not have the number of the required MPs. So, such persons want their political party to impose a person as a Speaker who will be doing the biddings of NPP, and the executive president.

"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts", for which we opted for the Presidential system of government, to clearly have separation of power among the various arms of our government so that checks and balance work for the rule of law to prevail in our nation.

This culture of powerful president against weak parliament that has been with us since 1992 has been responsible for weakening and corrupting every institution in Ghana. Both Former President John Dramani Mahama and the current President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo have made public this concern regarding the unfettered power of the president. Instead of the Rule of Law, we are all suffering the Rule of Dictators. Our fate is like that of the fate of a chair with one leg, instead of three legs.

The problem of those leading in this confusing spree lies in their misinterpretation of the Majority in Parliament. What "majority" means when it comes to the decision making in parliament which includes the decision of who serves as the Speaker, is the majority of votes by all members of parliament and not necessarily the political party with majority of members in parliament. What both parties are expected to do is to decide who their leaders in parliament are and use these two offices to scout for candidates they both believe will effectively serve the core objective of the parliament. This means both leaders must first agree on any potential candidate, whether such individual is an MP or not, before presenting them to the House for MPs votes.

This act of the parliamentarians working together in deciding who the Speaker of parliament becomes has nothing to do with a Presidential candidate contesting the result of the presidential election in the Supreme Court.

Of course, the parliament needs a Speaker urgently in place for the House and the executive arm, to work. In addition to the president's constitutional instruction of getting 60% (sixty per cent) of his ministers from Ghanaian parliament to form the executive team, every one of these ministerial nominees must be presented to parliament for vetting before the president can go ahead to confirm them as ministers. The president will also have a problem of getting his bills pass by parliament, without which the president cannot function, if the House is not urgently in place and the worse is the budget of the Finance Minister that need parliamentary approval to pass into law.

The argument that the President has to get sixty per cent of his ministers from parliament does not make the Ghanaian system Parliamentary for the executive arm to ignore certain aspect of its relationship with parliament. Sure, the president who has been declared the winner of the last election will continue to function until the Supreme Court decides otherwise.

It is so sad and petty for the NPP to be threatening the NDC with court, believing that the NDC political party is scare of the court. Little did the NDC political party knows that she has the option of proceeding to the ECOWAS Court of Justice if the verdict of the Supreme Court of Ghana is unfavourable to her.

From the claims of the NDC, the party has no confidence in the Ghana Supreme Court and believe the judges are compromised to do the bidding of the sitting president. So, since justice is about confidence in the institutions of justices and justice must be seen to be done in this case, it will be historical for the NDC to proceed to the ECOWAS Court of justice after exhausting the quest for justice in the Ghana Supreme Court, as the evidence speaks for themselves.

Columnist: Kofi Ali Abdul-Yekin
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