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Politics Wed, 18 Feb 2004

Creation of 30 New Constituencies: EC lays C.I. before parliament

The Electoral Commission (EC) has laid before Parliament a Constitutional Instrument (CI) for the creation of 30 additional constituencies. The Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument, 2004 (C.I. 46) has been referred to the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament for consideration. C.I. 46 replaces L.I.1538, which has been in effect since 1992.


The passage of the C.I. is the first step towards the creation of additional 30 constituencies to bring the total number of Parliamentary seats to 230.


The ratification of the C.I. by Parliament will not assuage the controversy about whether the new constituencies will be contested as part of the parliamentary elections scheduled for December this year.


That controversy will have to be decided by the Supreme Court. The interpretation of article 47 (6) of the Constitution has triggered differences in opinion about whether the EC can feature the 30 new constituencies in this year's parliamentary election.


Article 47 (6) of the constitution states: "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."

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Legal heavyweights like B.J. Da Rocha and Sam Okudzeto have expressed opinions contrary to the EC and declared that the new seats could not be contested at elections until after the dissolution of Parliament in January 2005.


It was announced recently that a Sunyani farmer has decided to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court to interpret the relevant provision of the Constitution. It is expected that the ruling of the Supreme Court will settle finally the current controversy and set the convention guiding the creation of new constituencies in the future.


Various parties and personalities have taken contrary positions on the matter. The communications director of the NDC, Mr. John Mahama, was of the view that since "we are in a democratic dispensation, and the rule of law has to be abided by. I can confidently say for my party that if the matter goes to the Supreme Court, whatever determination the court would give as the interpretation we will abide by it".


Mr. Mahama said the timing was a bit of a problem if one considered the fact that Ghana was HIPC and the expenditure on 30 new MP's in respect of their remuneration, accommodation, vehicles and other fringe benefits could have a telling effect on her resources.


The general secretary of the NPP, Mr. Dan Botwe also said the party respected the mandate of the EC to create new constituencies but if any one had a problem with it being part of this year's election they could go to court.

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Mr. da Rocha, a senior fellow of at the Institute of Economic Affairs also said that the heated controversy over the issue was disturbing.


He said the litigation between any political party and the EC was undesirable as a prelude to the forthcoming general election as it would create an atmosphere of ill-will and suspicion at a time when good-will and mutual trust were needed.


Mr. da Rocha, who is also the chairman of the Ghana Police Council, said the litigation in any view was unnecessary since the Constitution's provision was clear, unambiguous and intelligible, and that the creation of the new constituencies could not come into effect until January 2005.

Source: Chronicle