Controversial 45 new seats come on board
By Stephen Odoi-Larbi & Fatima Adam
Eighty one Members of Parliament (majority side) yesterday called for the total rejection of the report of the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation that proposed for the annulment of the Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument 2012, (C.I.78).
Fifty six of the MPs from the minority side, however, voted in favour of the adoption of the committee’s report that was laid on the floor of the House last Friday.
That means the controversial C.I.78 would, by the close of today, become law, after exhausting the mandatory twenty-one sitting days needed to mature. This would give the Electoral Commission the legal mandate to create an additional forty-five parliamentary constituencies to bring the total seats to 275 in the next session of the legislature.
With the C.I.78 coming onboard, it also means that the existing Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument 2004 has been revoked by Parliament.
The Committee on Subsidiary Legislation, chaired by the MP for Nsuta/Kwamang-Beposo, Kwame Osei-Prempeh, had by majority decision proposed to the House to annul the C.I.78 in its report, citing, among other things, the omission and misplacement of some electoral areas in the C.I. 78.
In moving the motion for the adoption of the report, Mr. Osei-Prempeh told the House that due to discrepancies detected in the C.I.78, it would be suicidal for the Electoral Commission (EC) to use it in conducting the December general polls, hence, the committee’s recommendation to annul it.
Some of the omitted electoral areas include the Krayawkrom in the Juaboso/Bodi Constituency, Atintan in the Assin North/Assin Central Constituency; Alavanyo in the Hohoe/Afadjato South Constituency; Shiare/Kromase in the Nwanta South Constituency; Beposo in the Tano South Constituency; Fiankoma and Abota in the Odotobri and Ejura Sekyedumase constituencies; Kunyukuon in the Wa Central Constituency, as well as Nadundo in the Yendi/Mion Constituency.
According to Mr. Osei-Prempeh, should the C.I.78 become law, the legal effect of the omitted electoral areas was that voters in the affected constituencies would be disenfranchised, and could, therefore, not vote in the December polls, since those areas would be part of the constituencies created by the EC. This, he noted, would be an affront to the Constitution.
But, the committee’s submission was strongly challenged by the MP for Garu/Tempane, Dominic Azimbe Azumah. In his argument, he told the House to totally reject the committee’s report, since, in his opinion, the committee had flouted the rules and regulations of the august House, by first leaking the content of the C.I.78.
That notwithstanding, he said the report was hollow and lacked factual accuracy, because some of the omitted electoral areas, as stated by the Subsidiary Legislation committee in its report, were all represented in the C.I.78.
For instance, he noted that Awoshie, Alavanyo, Nadundo, Shiare/Kromase are represented in the C.I.78, and did not see why the Committee on Subsidiary Legislation captured them as being omitted.
“Mr. Speaker, all the electoral areas in the L.I. 1983 tally with the C.I.78,” he observed.
He also told the House that it was only at the polling station that one could vote, and not an electoral area, so the argument that some eligible voters would be disenfranchised in the December polls was a fallacy.
His argument was vehemently supported by the MPs for Tamale Central, Tamale South, Talensi and Zebilla, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, Haruna Iddrisu, John Tia Akologo respectively, and the Majority Leader, Cletus Apul Avoka.
However, their argument was countered by the MPs for Aburi/Nsawam, Manhyia, Akropong and Suame, Osei Bonsu Amoah, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, William Ofori Boafo respectively, and the Minority Leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu.
In the opinion of Dr. Opoku Prempeh, there were two Awoshie electoral areas, as captured by the L.I. 1983, of which the one in Anyaa Sowutuom was represented in the C.I.78, but that of Ablekuma North was totally omitted from the C.I.78.
That of the Maglaa electoral area in the Savelugu/Nanton, he noted, was of no exception to the Awoshie electoral area.
According to him, six polling stations were missing from the Fiankoma electoral area in the Odotobri Constituency.
“I can understand the passion, when people say people do not matter. Electoral areas might not matter. But, for a lawyer to stand up and say Article 45(b) does not talk about electoral areas, it is absurd.
“Article 45(b) empowers the Electoral Commission to create boundaries for national and district elections; local government elections which are held in electoral areas. So, if the Electoral Commission has no power to create the boundary, how can he have the power to conduct election there?” he queried.
He discarded the assertion that people vote in a polling station and not in an electoral area, arguing that “elections are held in an electoral area, and not a polling station.”
Responding to the argument put forth by Dominic Azumah Azimbe, Mr. Prempeh noted that his committee took solace from the L.I.1983, which the Electoral Commission used in creating the new forty-five constituencies and electoral areas, as stated by the honourable member as represented, was a complete fallacy.
To him, unless the members decide that what the Electoral Commission used in its deliberations was wrong, before they could arrive at the conclusion that his committee’s report was ridden with errors and factual inaccuracies.
After tensed debates on the matter, the First Deputy Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, who presided over the business of the House, called for a head count on the matter, as to those who support the adoption of the committee’s report, and those who oppose it.
At the end of the headcount, the minority, who had from the onset of the business of the day called for the annulment of the C.I.78, polled 56 against 81 by the majority. That of the annulment did not receive any vote from both sides of the House.
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