Minority leader writes to the President
HIS EXCELLENCY JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA
THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
THE CASTLE, OSU
APPEAL FOR RESTRAINT IN THE CREATION OF
FORTY FIVE ADDITIONAL CONSTITUENCIES
Subsequent to our informal engagement on this matter I had to attend an international Parliamentary Conference in the company of Madam Speaker and my colleague, the Majority Leader. I returned to Accra last Friday to a cacophony of positional expressions, many rather uninformed, relating to the proposed creation of the forty-five additional Constituencies for the conduct of the December 7, 2012 Presidential and general elections. The signals, in my opinion, are not good, Sir, and that is why I have chosen this rather unorthodox path to catch your ears.
THE POSITION OF THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION
Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution clothes the Electoral Commission (EC) with the following functions among others: the compilation of the register of voters and its periodic revisions; the conduct and supervision of all public elections and referenda; and (what is now topical) the demarcation of electoral boundaries for both national and local government elections.
Article 47(1) restates the power granted to the EC to demarcate the country into Constituencies. The EC with this authority under articles 45(b) and 47(1) insists that since the constitution gives him the power to review constituency boundaries “at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of enumeration (census) figures (Article 47(5)) they will do what the Constitution obliges them to do.
A school of thought has it that the power to divide the country into as many constituencies as the EC may deem fit (Article 45) refers to the 1992 situation when constituencies were to be created under the 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution which is why thereafter when boundaries of constituencies are to be touched, or tinkered with the terminology employed is “altered” not “created” (Article 47(5) & (6).
Your Excellency, “review” and “create” dot not mean the same thing. Altering constituency boundaries does not mean that after every seven years or ten years, as the case may be, the country must add to the number of seats in Parliament which is what Dr. Afari-Gyan erroneously believes he is mandated to do.
The principal consideration in establishing or altering the boundaries of constituencies is the population quota (Article 47(3), (4) & (5)) all of which suggest that the population in constituencies must be, as nearly as possible equal. Dr. Afari-Gyan has refused to disclose the population quota of this country. These, however, are not my main concerns.
C.I.73, CORRECTED C.I.73, C.I.77 AND C.I.78
Pursuant to Dr. Afari-Gyan’s determination a new C.I.78 has since September 5, 2012 been laid in Parliament after three earlier false starts on July 17, 2012, August 15, 2012 and September 3, 2012. The Speaker of Parliament has circumvented the rules of Parliament to satisfy the hand that is forcing the EC by forming a Committee made up of only NDC MPs contrary to our Standing Orders (№ 154) to work on the new C.I.78 before its introduction into Parliament.
As I write to you, Sir, baring any unforeseen circumstance the new C.I.78 which was laid on September 5, 2012 will mature on October 2, 2012 after Parliament has been compelled to sit on Mondays. Without shame a Deputy Speaker is contriving to have Parliament sit on Saturdays just so that the C.I.78 will mature earlier than October 2, 2012 in view of the massive public suspicion and outcry.
Your Excellency, as you might have heard already when the grandmother document of C.I.78 which is C.I.73 first came to be laid in Parliament on July 17, 2015 it was found to be error-ridden. But before that observation, three days after the purported laying of the original C.I.73 by the Majority Leader, it came to the fore that at the time when the leader did what he did on July 17, 2012 there was no document in Parliament. That simply was an act of fraud, and that is being very charitable. The question is, why did the Majority Leader do what he did if not to force the hand of the EC to do the bidding of the ruling party? The Subsidiary Legislation Committee which worked on the document concluded that the document was so much error-infested that it had to withdrawn. The NDC members led by a Minister of State Hon. Dominic Azuma resisted this and rubbished the Committees Report. Eventually, the EC themselves admitted to the numerous errors and called for its withdrawal. The 1st Deputy Speaker if he had his way would not allow that and stormed out of a meeting which was presided over by the Rt. Hon. Speaker and which involved the leadership of Parliament and the EC. Sanity returned when on August 15, a day before the C.I. could mature, it eventually came to be withdrawn. A corrected or revised C.I.73 was laid on same August 15, 2012. Parliament adjourned sine die a day after the laying of the corrected C.I.73.
Parliament was summoned out of recess to meet on September 3, 2012 purposely to ensure that the corrected C.I.73 matured on time for the December 7, 2012 elections. When Parliament returned the corrected C.I.73 which was laid on August 15 had assumed another name, C.I.77. The gazette date of this C.I.73 was August 16, 2012 contrary to the provisions of Article 11(7)(b) which states that when a C.I. is laid in Parliament it should be “published in the Gazette on the day when it is so laid before Parliament”. The corrected C.I.73 was laid in Parliament on August 15, 2012. Aside these, the C.I.77 turned out to be different not only in form and shape but also in content from the ‘corrected’ C.I.73 which was laid on August 15. Whilst the 1st Deputy Speaker by way of defence insisted that the differences in content stemmed out of “typographical errors”, the Majority Leader on his part blamed his “own over-zealousness” for the differences in the gazette date and the title of the C.I. Your Excellency, with your own deep knowledge in Parliamentary practice, I believe you will describe this turn of events as grotesque absurdity.
DEMOCRACY WITHIN PARTIES
Mr. President, Article 55(5) of the Constitution provides: “The internal organization of a political party shall conform to democratic principals….”It is pursuant to this that the Electoral Commission insists and indeed is served with Copies of the constitutions of political parties, to ensure compliance with democratic principles as provided for under Article 55(7). If the new C.I.78 matures on October 2, 2012 the country will be just two months away from the December 7 Presidential and general elections. A political party requires about one month to democratically constitute its Constituency Executives allowing for the provision of notice, the receipt of applications, the screening of applications and applicants and the holding of constituency delegates conference to elect the Constituency Executives. It is only after the Constituency Executives have been constituted that they can activate the mechanism to elect Parliamentary candidates on the ticket of a particular political party. The period required for the election of parliamentary candidates is at least one month because the processes listed above in respect of electing constituency executives apply.
The duration of the two processes which can only be legitimately initiated after October 2, 2012 is a minimum of two months. The EC has indicated that filing of nominations is on October 15, 2012. That date in itself has witnessed two earlier shifts – first from first week of September, 2012, then to mid-September, and now October 15. Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Djan when he came to Parliament on August 14, 2012 to withdraw the original C.I.73 was bold in his declaration that if the C.I.73 would not mature before September 30, 2012 then he could not work with it and the 45 additional constituencies then cannot be part of the December 7 elections. It is fascinating to hear Dr. Afari-Gyan now say that he can still work with it if it matures after September 30. Be that as it may, if the C.I.78 matures on October 2, 2012 and the parties have to resort to their internal mechanisms to conduct elections for constituency Executives and Parliamentary candidates which require a minimum period of two months when, practically, can Parliamentary Candidates who emerge from such exercises file their nominations?
Article 112(5) which provides for the filling of a vacancy in Parliament was amended in the 1st Parliament of the Fourth Republic to extend the period of holding the by-election to fill the vacancy thus created from 30 days to 60 days because it was considered that 30 days was too short a time to go through all the processes of selection of candidates, filling nominations, campaigning and elections.
Mr. President the world is aware that the CI 78 which proposes the creation of the 45 additional constituencies was laid in Parliament on September 5, 2012. Before September 5, 2012 the CI 78 and its contents and intents were not known to this country. The entire world is aware that on August 18th, 2012, the NDC, the party which you lead held Parliamentary primaries in so-called constituencies which are not known to or defined by any existing law. The world knows that the NDC cajoled the EC to follow it and supervise parliamentary candidates elections in these constituencies that at that time had no legal standing. Today, there is no legal basis for the creation of one hundred additional constituencies in the country. If the NPP woke up one day and informed the EC to supervise constituency Executive or Parliamentary elections in such constituencies which they suspect the EC might create, would the EC follow them? Your Excellency, can you deny anybody who points to a conspiracy between the NDC and the EC in these matters?
DR. AFARI-GYAN’S POSITION
Mr. President, the functions entrusted to the Electoral Commission in our constitution exist in the constitutions of almost all the commonwealth countries yet there is not a single country in the world where after every census the number of constituencies increases. The total number of Representatives and Senators in Nigeria is about Six hundred and sixty (660). The figures have remained the same even though Nigeria has had two censuses between 2000 and 2010 just like Ghana has. The population of Nigeria is about six times that of Ghana and the land size is about five times that of Ghana yet their number of Parliamentarians has remained the same. Ghana’s has moved from 140 to 200 to 230 and now to the proposed 275. It cannot be right.
Mr. President, you may recollect that in 1992 Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings the Chairman of the PNDC was for a long time after the ban on political party activities had been lifted undecided as to whether or not to lead a political party. It was not until the Electoral Commission increased the number of constituencies from 140 to 200 a few months to the elections 1992 that Flt. Lt. Rawlings then “accepted” to lead the NDC. Was the creation of the additional 60 seats intended to assure the then NDC Presidential candidate? Additional 30 seats were created under President Kufuor by same Dr. Afari-Gyan. The difference, however is that the 30 were not created at the outset of the elections that ushered in President Kufuor. Another difference also is that then, unlike now, Dr. Afari-Gyan created the 30 constituencies before districts were created under Kufuor. Today, districts have been created by ex-President Mills to force the hand of the EC to create corresponding constituencies, a colossal number of additional forty-five! That certainly will be construed as gerrymandering by any objective analyst.
Your Excellency, when Dr. Afari-Gyan was asked in Parliament about the propriety of creating constituencies after every ten years as he has been doing, his plaintive response was that “all governments behave the same way”. In other words, governments have been exerting pressure on the EC to create constituencies and his constitutional duty is to give a nod to such pressures. If the proposal to create additional forty-five comes true then under the (P)NDC the EC would have added 105 constituencies just as under the NPP they have created 30 additional constituencies. The implication is that Ghana must stand by to have additional constituencies created after the census in 2020. What figure would we be looking at 45, 55, 75 now that we are into odd numbers? What effect would such a situation have on our democratic journey? Undoubtedly, the path of institutional arrogance which Dr. Afari-Gyan and his EC have chosen appears ominous and may yield thorns, thistles and whirlwind for us. Dr. Afrai-Gyan describes those who are calling for caution in the proposal to create additional 45 constituencies as rabble-rousers. That category of “rabble-rousers” include former President Kufuor, eminent Clergymen, the TUC and many men and women of proven competence and merit in their various chosen fields. Respectable civil society groups like the CDD have also called for circumspection.
Mr. President, you are a Christian just as I am. Scriptures teach us that “everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial” to us. (1 Cor. 6:12). Again, Your Excellency, the Good Book provides in Matthew 18:7,“Hindrances (“sin” or “temptations” in other versions) will come to the world but woe to the man through whom they come”. Our Lord Jesus Christ has extolled us: he who has ears let him listen.
Your Excellency, I am convinced and persuaded that if it is given to you to win 2012 elections, you and your party could win without any taint. For in 2000 not many people gave the NPP a chance against the war machine of Jerry Rawlings. The NPP won against all odds. In 2008 not many believed the NDC would bounce back. You and your party did win. The NPP did not need any help from the EC to win in 2000 just as the NDC did not need any gerrymandering to win in 2008. You do not need it today.
Mr. President, you have the authority to ensure sanity prevails in this country and I appeal to you, Sir, to call for restraint on the part of the Electoral Commission. Whilst you are at this, Your Excellency, please be assured of considerations of my highest regard. Thank you, Sir.
OSEI KYEI-MENSAH-BONSU, M.P.
Short URL: http://thechronicle.com.gh/?p=48191