Opinion: NDC, NPP tie in 8th Parliament – Analysis & implications

I have broken into 11 key points the quest by the two main political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), to have majority Members of Parliament – for the purpose of this analysis.

Following the December 7 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, both NDC and NPP are struggling to get majority in Parliament, as one or two constituency results remain unannounced by the referee – the Electoral Commission (E.C.).

Many election watchers have described the situation as good for Ghana’s democracy because two parties having almost equal number of seats in the House can ensure more accountability by the Legislative arm of government.

On Thursday 10th December, 2020, the E.C., in a statement, declared that the NPP had picked 137 Parliamentary seats as against 136 by the NDC – out of the total 275 seats.

The Commission said the Sene West parliamentary election result was outstanding, while the Fomena seat was won by an independent candidate, Andrew Amoako Asiamah.

Though some have contended the next Parliament holds strong potentials, I hereby put forward some of the challenges Ghana and President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s government stand to encounter in the House from January the 7th.

  1. Constitution and election of the Speaker at commencement of Parliament

At the start of Parliament after a general election, there shall be a Speaker of Parliament. Article 95 (1) of the 1992 Constitution and Standing Order 8 (1) of Parliament of Ghana says: “There shall be a Speaker of Parliament who shall be elected by the Members of Parliament from among persons who are Members of Parliament or who are qualified to be elected as such under the Constitution.”

Order 9 (1) also states that: “Where more than one person is proposed, a motion shall be made and seconded in respect of each person, and the House shall proceed to elect a Speaker by secret ballot in accordance with the provisions of this Order.”

So, as it stands now, if the NDC wins the Sene West seat, both parties will have 137 MPs each in the House and an Independent Member of Parliament for Fomena.

In such a circumstance, the selection of a qualified person for the speakership position for the 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic may be problematic. Whereas the NPP will like to nominate their favourite to occupy the noble position to do the bidding of the Executive arm of government, the NDC will be bent on getting their own to take that position for obvious advantages. The selection of the First and Second Deputy Speakers may run into similar challenges.

  • Election of Committee Chairpersons
By norm, the ruling party’s Members of Parliament chair the 14 Standing Committees and 16 Select Committees. Indeed, the only exceptions are the Public Accounts Committee and the Subsidiary Legislation Committee of Parliament which are chaired by the Minority. There is also one Ad-hoc Committee chaired by a Majority MP, as stipulated in Order 151 (1-2) and Order 152.

From the ongoing, it is clear the selection of chairpersons, vice chairpersons of committees and ranking members will be as contested as the positions are crucial. And, the E.C.’s determination of who wins Sene West, though very important, is not going to totally preempt the obvious tension proceedings in the 8th Parliament are going to be predictably packed with.

  • Quorum of Parliament

At the commencement of business on the Floor of Parliament, one-third of all MPs must be present, in fulfillment of Article 102 of the Constitution which states that: “A quorum of Parliament, apart from the person presiding, shall be one-third of all the MPs.”

Order 48 (1) says: “The presence of at least one-third of all the Members of Parliament besides the person presiding shall be necessary to constitute a quorum of the House.”

Per the above provision, 91 MPs constitute one-third of all 275 MPs. This means the ruling government must ensure that close to 80 of its members are always present in the Chamber to guarantee smooth transaction of public business. I foresee a problem there, however; looking at the habitual absenteeism in Parliament, which seems to have taken a turn for the worse in recent times.

  • Votes of censure and removal from office

Looking at the nearly equal numbers of MPs that both the NDC and NPP are carrying into the 8th Parliament, it will be difficult – if not impossible – for a group in the House to impeach a president, his or her vice, Speaker and Deputy Speakers or a Minister of State through a vote of censure. The only way, say, the NDC can do that is to get the support of some members of the NPP – an almost impossibility.

Article 69 of the 1992 Constitution, Section 106 (1-2) stipulates that, “A motion for resolution to remove from office the President or the Vice-President shall, in accordance with Article 69 (2) of the Constitution, and Standing Order 106 (2a), be in writing signed by not less than one-third (91) of all the Members of Parliament.

Order 106 (1) also says: “The House may pass a resolution to remove the President, the Vice President, Speaker and Deputy Speakers and a vote of censure on a Minister of State. The House may consider such motion and come to a decision or refer it to a Committee on a motion made by any Member. The motion for the removal shall be supported, in a secret ballot, by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the Members of Parliament after prior debate.”

What this means is that the House needs 183 MPs to remove the said public official from office after it has established a prima facie case.

  • Execution of Treaties

Execution of Treaties between the Government of Ghana and other countries or governments is crucial for democracies such as Ghana’s; and, growth of bilateral relations among this and other legislatures is quite useful. Article 75 (1) states that: “The President may execute or cause to be executed treaties, agreements or conventions in the name of Ghana. (2) a treaty, agreement or convention executed by or under the authority of the President shall be subject to ratification by –

  1. Act of Parliament; or
  2. A resolution of Parliament supported by the votes of more than one-half of all the Members of Parliament.”

Per this provision, votes of more than one-half of all MPs should be more than 136 MPs of the 275 members, so if just two MPs of the ruling party or a Minister of State is out of the jurisdiction or critically ill, such agreements can suffer in the hands of opponent MPs due to how partisan the current parliament is – and how the next Parliament looks set to be.

  • Protecting Natural Resources

One of Ghana’s most vital natural resources is arable land which covers approximately 20.66% of the country’s total land area as of 2014. Also, the UN reckons that such natural resources as gold, timber, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese, fish, rubber, hydropower potential, petroleum, silver, salt and limestone abound in the land of Ghana. With all these natural resources in mind, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and some other bodies have been set up to implement policies to sustain the mining industry in Ghana. But Article 268 (1/2) spells out how such ratifications must be conducted:

“Any transaction, contract or undertaking involving the grant of a right or concession by or on behalf of any person including the Government of Ghana, to any other person or body of persons howsoever described, for the exploitation of any mineral, water or other natural resource of Ghana made or entered into after the coming into force of this Constitution shall be subject to ratification by Parliament.”

Clause 2 says: “Parliament may, by resolution supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the Members of Parliament, exempt from the provisions of clause (1) of this article any particular class of transactions, contracts or undertakings.” The votes of not less than two-thirds of all the MPs is 183. In view of this provision, both sides of the House must by consensus agree to such deals for smooth passage without boycotts which may eventually affect the government of the day.

  • Strengthens Parliament’s supervisory role over the Executive

The 8th Parliament can (and should) enhance the supervisory role over the Executive devoid of politics but in the interest and wellbeing of the country. Parliament’s check on the Executive arm of government and its agencies over the years keeps dwindling due to how polarised Parliament has become over the years.  It is the duty of Parliament to watch over the performance of the Executive to ensure the implementation of public policy conforms to the approved development agenda of the state and expenditure in accordance with parliamentary authorisations.

Parliament also exercises other functions by way of scrutiny of policy measures and executive conduct through its Committees.

The government of the day cannot rush through Parliament with bills or loan agreements by using its majority numbers as has always been the case over the years.

  • High Attrition rate in Parliament

The 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic will see many new faces, as about 100 incumbent members of the 7th Parliament will not return to the House. Out of the 275 seats, 35 incumbent NPP MPs lost their seats on December 7, while 18 incumbent NDC MPs also tumbled. Prior to the Parliamentary elections, 41 incumbent NPP MPs and 10 NDC MPs had flunked at their party primaries. Four (4) NPP MPs voluntarily decided not to contest again. On the part of the NDC, seven MPs are retiring.

High attrition will affect the work of the 8th Parliament, as most of the experienced MPs are exiting, especially when it comes to law making. In view of this, there’s the need for Parliament as an institution to build capacities of the new entrants on time to catch up with the experienced MPs. But the political parties must also amend their constitutions on how they elect their parliamentary candidates at the primaries to protect Parliament as an institution.

9. Amendment of Article 78 (1) of the 1992 Constitution

The appointment of majority of MPs as Ministers of State continue to be a disincentive to development and it should be of concern to all Ghanaians. Twenty-eight (28) of the 123 ministers of the Akufo-Addo administration lost their seats, the major reason being their workload – according to political watchers. Thus, an amendment of the provision is crucial to reduce the huge burden on some MPs so they concentrate on their legislative functions.

As the Constitution stands now, Article 78 (1) that, “Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament from among MPs or persons qualified to be elected as MPs, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among MPs.”

The just ended presidential and parliamentary elections justify calls for amendment of this clause and other provisions.

  1. Winner-Takes-All syndrome

The Politics of Winner-Takes-All in Ghana and other parts of the subregion has made elections a do or die affair; because, the political party which wins an election automatically controls every sector of the economy. This system excludes other parties or members of the opposition in the governance process. The Winner-Takes-All system has a negative influence on minority political parties – leaving them with no choice than to do anything possible – including violence – to capture power. Such a political architecture poses danger to the country’s young democratic gains and peaceful coexistence; hence, the need for action to amend the Constitution to abolish the system.

The Winner-Takes-All system has also become a stumbling block for the eradication of political vigilantism. And, successive regimes have failed at it, despite the passage of the Vigilante and Related Offences Act 2019 and similar ones predating it. Fact is, parties in power dread losing grip on power: they dare not touch those who breach the peace in pursuit of keeping the party in power.

11. Consensus building

Per the outcome of the 2020 Parliamentary Elections, there is the need for the 8th Parliament to build consensus and put the interest of the nation at heart for the betterment of the citizens who voted them into office as suggested by the President-elect – Nana Akufo-Addo – during his acceptance speech at his Nima residence following the declaration of result by the Electoral Commission.

The Writer, Abednego Asante Asiedu is a Broadcast Journalist and Parliamentary Correspondent for Adom FM, Adom TV. You can reach him on abednego.asante-asiedu@adomonline.com

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