|Braa Timoo Writes: Blame 1992 Constitution over brawl in Parliament|
Wednesday, January 6, 2021 has gone into history for the bad reason over the chaos on the Floor of Ghana’s Parliament when the newly elected legislators converged to vote to choose the next Speaker of the 8th Parliament of the 4th Republic.
The opposition politicians from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) clashed with the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) counterparts, prompting a military intervention.
Apart from the heated argument over the eligibility of the Member of Parliament-elect for the Assin North Constituency in the Central Region, James Gyakye Quayson, which dragged the proceedings for hours, the chaos erupted after a lawmaker from the ruling party tried to seize the ballot box.
The ensuing clash lasted several hours until the army moved in to intervene in the pandemonium.
There had been earlier heated argument when the Clerk of Parliament, Cyrill Nsiah, announced that he was unable to recognize the Member of Parliament-elect of Assin North, James Gyakye Quayson as a member of the House because he had receiving the writ of an injunction against the Assin North MP-elect.
This was after the MP of the Effutu Constituency, Alexander Afenyo Markin had made enquiries to that effect during the inauguration of the 8th Parliament.
However, MP-elect for Tamale South, Haruna Iddrisu argues that Mr. Quayson is yet to be served the writ of injunction from the court thus should be allowed to participate in the proceedings of the house till he’s formally served.
“…Under the circumstances, let him err on the side of law and bear the consequences in court. So let him take the oath because he’s not been served any process,” he said.
The Minority MPs [NDC] yielded and rowed on Clark for his decision not to allow the MP to participate in the voting. It was like a movie or staged one, but it was real in life which brought disgrace to us as a nation.
After a heated argument over the issue for hours, the Clerk of Parliament, Cyrill Nsiah gave the Assin North MP-elect, James Gyakye Quayson the go-ahead to participate in the election of the Speaker, despite his confirmation of receiving the writ of an injunction granted against the Assin North MP-elect by a Cape Coast High Court preventing him from participating in the proceedings of the house.
Upon analysis of what transpired on the Floor of Parliament, I am of the view that the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana should be blamed over the chaos and confusion.
This is because, when it comes to the elections in Ghana, the 1992 Constitution is contradicting itself and the earlier we amend these Clauses and Articles, the better for us as a nation to avert what transpired during the election of the Speaker for the 8th Parliament.
First of all, Clause 1 of Article 110 of the Constitution states that: “Subject to the Provision of this Constitution, Parliament may, by standing order, regulate its own procedure”.
This Clause gives Parliament the power to handle any issue confronting them within their own circles but it does not give them absolute power because the “KEY” word in the Clause is “MAY”.
Therefore, it is not always that Parliament, as an institution, would always regulate its own procedures. Sometimes, it must allow a certain percentage of ‘intrusion’ from outsiders or other institutions to strengthen democracy and strengthen them as an institution.
Secondly, let us take a look at the Constitutional provisions in the Article 45 [Functions of the Electoral Commission].
The sub-section c of the Article 45 of the Constitution states that: “The Electoral Commission shall have the following functions …c. to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda”.
This means that, every public election, including election for school prefects [at all levels of education] must be supervised by the EC and no other institution.
Now, with the above in mind, which is also a constitutional provision, why must Parliament and for the matter, election of Speaker of Parliament, which is also a public institution, be conducted by Parliament without the constitutional institution, EC, which is mandated to organize and supervise elections in Ghana?
I am of the view that the Clause 1 of Article 110 of the Constitution states that: “Subject to the Provision of this Constitution, Parliament may, by standing order, regulate its own procedure”, must be explained well to Parliament, and if possible, amend this Clause to excuse the election of a Speaker from being immune to only Parliament.
In holding on to these provisions in the Constitution, it is contradicting itself because the Constitution that gave power to the EC to be the sole body for organization and supervision of elections in Ghana is the same Constitution that has given some amounts of powers to Parliament to disregard EC by conducting elections without recourse to EC.
By Kweku Antwi-Otoo|
The writer is a Producer/Editor at Media General and a Level 400 Students of Kings University College Law Faculty, Accra.
Editor’s note: Views and opinions expressed in the article does not reflect the editorial policies of the Media General.