Parliament has deferred a vote on whether to amend a provision of the country’s 1992 constitution to make the position of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) an electable one.
A motion seeking to amend Article 243(1) of the constitution to provide for MMDCEs to be elected by universal adult suffrage within a district was on Monday, July 29 moved in parliament by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General.
Article 243 (1) mandates the President to appoint MMDCEs who shall be approved by not less than two-thirds majority of members of the assembly present and voting at the meeting.
The motion triggered a debate from members from both divide of the House who agreed in principle for Article 243(1) to be amended to take away the power of appointing MMDCEs from the President to allow the citizenry to elect their own MMDCEs.
Parliament was expected have voted to amend that provision of the constitution but it was forced to defer it due to the presentation of the mid-year review budget by the Finance Minister.
When it was time to pose the question for the vote on the amendment, First Deputy Speaker Joseph Osei-Owusu who chaired proceedings, indicated if it was appropriate that the question was deferred because the Finance Minister was in the House to present the 2019 mid-year review budget.
The House agreed based on which the Speaker deferred the vote on the motion indefinitely.
A two-thirds majority of all the members of parliament is required to vote in favour of the bill for the amendment to be successful
While there was unanimity on the part of the MPs to amend that provision of the constitution, the minority took the view the House was putting the cat before the horse.
Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka said his side subscribe to the idea of electing MMDCEs, saying “We’ve all agree that election of MMDCE on partisan basis is unquestionable.
For him, the referendum on whether the election of MMDCEs should be done based on partisan lines should be conducted before parliament proceeds to amend Article 243 (1).
“In my view, if we decide to take the amendment and the referendum fails on Article 55(3), it means we open ourselves to election without limit,” he said, adding the amendment will seek to stampede the referendum scheduled for December this year.
Again, Mr Muntaka argued that the bill seeking to amend Article 243(1) is inadequate and not exhaustive as it fails to spell out who qualifies to be elected, how to remove an elected MMDCE among others.
He advised the House against rushing through the bill, saying “let’s be mindful about the process. Whereas we have agreed in principle that it is good, we should take our time…We are putting the process in the wrong gear”.
Mr Muntaka also suggested the election of MMDCEs is tied in to the country’s parliamentary election and not make it a stand-alone election. That, he held, would save the nation money.
Member of Parliament for Akwapim South O.B. Amoah, disagreed with Mr Muntaka on the issue of conducting the referendum before the amendment of Article 243(1).
For him the proper thing is for Parliament to amend the article to make the MMDCE position an electable one before the citizenry could be asked if there should be partisan involvement in the election process.
“…When parliament shows the way, then Article 55(3) will kick in and ask the people whether we should involve political parties,” he said.
For him, once the constitution has not been amended to make the position electable one, there is no basis to ask the citizenry as to whether there should be poilitical party involvement.
MP for Essikado Ketan Joe Ghartey , said there are several articles in this constitution that are not complete in itself, indicating that the issue of who will qualify to be elected MMDCE and their removal are something that “could be addressed in an Act of parliament,” something Muntaka rejected describing that as “misleading”.
For his part, Minority leader Haruna Iddrisu, re-echoed the consensus to have Article 243(1) amended to deepen the country’s decentralisation process.
“Anybody who believes in devolution of power will accept the principle of MMDCEs,” he stated.
He argued there are shortfalls in the bill which ought to be looked at.
Citing Article 289(2), he argued a constitutional provision cannot be amended by an Act of Parliament, stating “you can’t use an act of parliament to amend a provision of the constitution”.