Limiting The Number Of Representatives In The House Of Parliament

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A few weeks ago, the people of Ghana were awakened to news of the current government’s possible enlargement of the number of representatives in Parliament from 275 to 300. This change, according to media reports, was to take place before the 2020 general elections. The Electoral Commissioner described the claims as false and speculative, stating that even though consideration for the increment was on an agenda, no discussion had taken place. But the rebuttal by the Electoral Commissioner was, in and of itself, an admission of some truth to the news reportage, confirming it was an item on an agenda (whether Item-1, or Item-13, or Item-21) — with only time holding up the eventual discussion.

This writer holds the view that increasing the number of representatives in Parliament is, for now, unnecessary.  A large number will place a potential burden on the Consolidated Fund, which is the government of Ghana’s operating budget, and, if successful, create a mob house — rather than a Parliament house of ideas with oversight of the executive as its primary function. But perhaps of more concern is the Electoral Commission’s constitutional authority to determine the number of constituencies Ghana may have “at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of the enumeration figures after…a census”, per Article 47 Clause 5.

To give you more context, Article 47 Clause 1 of the 1992 Republican Constitution states that “Ghana shall be divided into as many constituencies for the purpose of election of Members of Parliament as the Electoral Commission may prescribe, and each constituency shall be represented by one Member of Parliament”. Clause 3 of the same Article 47 states: “The boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota”. The constitution goes on to define the population quota in Clause 7 of Article 47: “For the purpose of this article, ‘population quota’ means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Ghana by the number of constituencies into which Ghana is divided under this article”. But the “number of constituencies into which Ghana is divided under this article” is whatever the Electoral Commission (EC) says Ghana should be divided into in Clause 1. So what if the EC concludes that Ghana should have 500, 600, 1,000 or more Constituencies? Would such numbers eventually not become unwieldy?

It is about time to recognize the irrationality of allowing the EC to keep increasing the size of Parliament ad infinitum – without end or limit, by amending Clause 1 of Article 47 (not an entrenched provision) to cap the number of Constituencies and prevent the size of Parliament from increasing dramatically.Not too long ago, an MP complained to the Speaker asking when 23 MPs and their support staff would be allocated office space at the State House Complex.The Majority Leader’s response to the question on the floor of parliament was that the cost of over GhC92 Million required to refurbish the Job 600 Tower Block to accommodate them was the prohibiting factor.

By capping the number of constituencies or representatives in Parliament to the current 275, and employing the method of equal proportions, each of the 16 Regions should be entitled, only after a decennial census of the population, to a number of representatives in Parliament equal to dividing the Regional population by the population quota derived from Clause 7.

The accompanying worksheet represents a scenario where the 2019 estimated total population is 30 Million with a resulting population quota of about 109,000 persons, or one MP for no more than 109,000 persons. Based on thisarithmetic, Ashanti Region will gain an additional 6 MPs, while Central Region gains 1 and Greater Accra Region gains 11 additional MPs. However, Brong Ahafo and its new Regions will lose 3 seats, Eastern Region loses 4, the Upper East Region loses 3, Upper West loses 3, and Volta Region loses 2. Also losing 3 seats will be the Northern Region and its new Regions. Such gains and losses may well be due to population shifts from rural to urban areas of the country.

To create a truly representative government, the size of a Region’s representation in Parliament should be based on its resident population (citizen and noncitizen) and not on its geographic area. We therefore should not be silent on how large the future Parliament should be, and the method to use to automatically reapportion parliamentary seats after a national census.

The current 275 MPs already enjoy perquisites and a pension scheme bar none – collecting ex-gratia every four years. As you read, the President may be lacing his boots to appoint a Committee (if he has not already done so on the quiet) to review and determine their (Executive, Legislature, Judiciary) emoluments as enshrined in article 71 of the 1992 Constitution. Let us not lose sight of the salaries, benefits, and travel for the parliamentary staff as well. The number of Parliamentarians in the House of Parliament ought to, at most, be kept within a limit, in order to avoid confusion and the overindulgence of a multitude in the House.

The time to review and revise Article 47 is now, as we endeavor to seek Prosperity-In-Peace.

God bless our Homeland Ghana.

Figure-1 Worksheet

Regions 2012 Parliament 2020 Estimated Population Population Quota per MP   2019_Est_Pop Proposed 2020 Parliament
16 275 30,000,000 109,091     275
             
Region 2012 MPs 2012 Pop 2019 Est Pop 2020 MPs
1 AR 47 4,780,380 +6 5,815,825 53
2 BA 29 2,310,983 -3 2,811,549 26
3 Ahafo-BA        
4 BonoEast-BA        
5 CR 23 2,201,863 +1 2,678,793 24
6 ER 33 2,633,154 -4 3,203,503 29
7 GA 34 4,010,054 +11 4,878,644 45
8 NR 31 2,479,461 -3 3,016,520 28
9 NorthEast-NR        
10 Savannah-NR        
11 UE 15 1,046,545 -3 1,273,230 12
12 UW 11 702,110 -3 854,189 8
13 VR 26 2,118,252 -2 2,577,072 24
14 Oti-VR        
15 WR 26 2,376,021 0 2,890,674 26
16 WesternNorth-WR        
Total 275 24,658,823 30,000,000 275

 

 

Nii Allotey Brew-Hammond

niiallotey@aol.com

May 9, 2019

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