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Are bye-elections necessary or waste of resources?

botchway January 29, 2019

 

Barring any last minute hitches, the Electoral Commission will, tomorrow, Thursday January 31, 2019, organise a bye-election in the Ayawaso Wuogon Constituency in the Greater Accra Region to elect a new Member of Parliament (MP) to replace the late Emmanuel Kyerematen Agyarko.

Whilst wishing all the combatants the best of luck, questions are being raised as to whether it is necessary for the Electoral Commission (EC) to waste our scarce national resources to conduct the election and similar ones in future.

Immediately the death of the MP was officially announced, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Kunbumgu, Ras Mubarak, suggested to his party that it not contest the bye-election, and that NPP should be allowed to use its primary to elect someone to replace the departed Agyarko.

“I do not think the NDC or any other party should put up a candidate for Hon. Emmanuel Kyeremanteng Agyarko‘s vacant seat. We should have a convention/agreement amongst ourselves that if a sitting MP dies, the party from which he was an MP should select a candidate to serve his remaining term. It saves the country and the parties resources. Democracy can be made less expensive. It all depends on us,” Mubarak wrote on his Facebook page wall.

In reaction to this call, the National Chairman of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, argued that the holding of a by-election in the event of the death of a Member of Parliament (MP) was a constitutional matter. According to him, the Constitution was clear that a bye-election was supposed to take place 60 days after the death of a sitting MP, and that the stance was non-negotiable.

The Chronicle agrees with the NDC Chairman that by-elections are clearly spelt out in the Constitution, and failure to conduct it would breach the law. We equally agree with Ras Mubarak’s proposition, since it would help save the country from wasting resources.

What is, therefore, needed now is a common ground to deal with the situation. Going by Mubarak’s theory, the NPP currently has 171 seats in Parliament, as against 104 held by the NDC.

Should tomorrow’s bye-election even be won by the NDC, it would not change the permutation in Parliament, as the New Patriotic Party (NPP) will still be controlling the vast majority in the House.  It is, therefore, the view of The Chronicle that in situation like this, it is better for the other parties to throw in the towel and allow the party holding the seat to elect someone to represent the constituency in the legislative House.

As Ras Mubarak argued, it would save the country huge sums of money that would have been wasted on the election.

But, to avoid mischief-makers rushing to court based on the clause in the Constitution that mandates the conduct of bye-elections in case an MP dies, we suggest that particular provision be amended to allow the party holding the seat to nominate a person to replace the deceased, provided the party the latter was coming from has the vast majority in the House. But, in cases where the seats in Parliament are very close, the bye-election should go ahead.

Already, the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Jean Mensa, is complaining about the expensive nature of elections in Ghana, and one of the ways to ameliorate the situation and save the country resources to tackle other sectors of the economy is to adopt Ras Mubarak’s suggestion.

With the deficit of 67 seats in the current Parliament, The Chronicle does not see the difference it would make should the NDC win tomorrow’s bye-election, and that is why we think elections like this should be avoided in future.

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