As NPP Minority Continues EC Bashing Agenda To Discredit Election Results
Parliament yesterday rejected a landmark amendment to change the election date to November after it failed to amass 184 (Two-Third) votes needed to effect the historic change in spite of the huge contributions of political parties and civil society organizations toward the change of date.
Out of the 275 members of parliament, 125 Members of the Parliament voted for the November 7 date, whiles 95 voted against it, with 45 being absent from the House.
The rejection of the otherwise noble ideal to give adequate room for the a possible runoff elections and a proper and meticulous handling over process – not rushed – in the event of a change of government, was largely influenced by the Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Parliament by its leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu.
Yesterday’s decision, affords the 72-year old NPP flagbearer; Nana Akufo-Addo who is already in the United Kingdom for his routine medical checkup, additional time of one month to properly crisscross the country with his presidential campaign in a more relaxed manner rather than being vigorously rushed.
The event once again witnessed the vitriolic attack on the EC and its chairperson Charlotte Osei that the NPP is these days known for including one of its member Kennedy Ohene Agyapong claim that she had gotten the job by trading sex with the appointing authority.
Yesterday’s decision to vote against the amendment, was taken at an NPP secret meeting on Wednesday to further mistrust for the EC and its administrators. The party recently won a Supreme Court order forcing the EC to names of the National Health Insurance Card holders who registered as voters calming their the nationality as Ghanaians were not proven enough.
According to Joy FM, after a secret ballot, the Speaker of Parliament Edward Doe Adzaho said The House was unable to obtain the 184 needed to pass the bill.
Mr. Adjaho, said, “the results of the secret ballots are as follows, the I’s 125, No’s 95. Honourable members, Article 291 clause 3 requires that Parliament needs at least the votes of two-third of all members of Parliament to approve the Bill at the second reading stage and that two-thirds is 184, because the two thirds of 275 is 183.333. Therefore the constitution amendment Bill 2016 is rejected at the second reading.”
The vote quashing the change became predictable after the Minority signaled it would not support the Bill which needed a super majority to succeed.
Debating the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2016, Minority Leader and the Member of Parliament (MP) for Suame; Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu said although the Minority agrees in principle to the change, it is disappointed in the sloppy way the EC has handled it.
He argued that in Kenya, important electoral reforms took about 10 months of careful deliberations ahead of their general elections. It pass an amendment barely five months to presidential and parliamentary elections is too late, he suggested.
He condemned the EC for the poor management of the process and said the EC had demonstrated that it was not ready for November 7.
The Minority leader said the EC has a Continuous Registration Exercise to conduct to allow more eligible voters to register.
He believes many could be disenfranchised if the change is effected because the EC would be hurried through other important registration exercise.
But Majority Leader Alban Bagbin and Nadowli West MP rebutting said “if you are not ready by November 7, you will not be ready by December 7”.
He said the EC and Parliament has worked closely in the past to take important decisions at seemingly short notice.
He said all parties to the date change have worked hard to get the amendment to this point.
Every person and committee has done its job and it is now the turn of this house to perform its duty. “This house cannot fail the people of Ghana”, he said.
The Speaker after the debate called for a secret ballot according to Article 104 clause 4 and Standing Order 110.
The Article required that voting should be by secret ballot in relation to matters of election or removal from office.
Elton John Brobbey told Joy News that out of the 148 MP in the Majority caucus; only 125 were present at the time of voting. He said the Majority Whips were working to increase their numbers.
Although the Minority controls 122 MPs, not all of them were present. At a party meeting Wednesday night, the NPP which constitutes the Minority in Parliament agreed to kick against the bill.
With a weakened Majority in Parliament, it was feared the Bill will fail to pass. At things stand, Ghana remains set to vote on December 7, 2016.
Before voting yesterday, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong, made an attempt to canvass support for the passage of the Bill.
The AG on the floor of Parliament contended that, changing the dates will ease the stress in government transitions by providing ample time.
But the Minority Spokesperson on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Joe Osei Wusu, casted doubts over the preparedness of the Electoral Commission.
He argued that the electoral calendar is tight and may cause problems if the EC still wants to run the election in November. He further cited delays in the procurement of election materials and training of election officers as some of the many reasons why the polls on the new date might not be feasible.
The Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, had recommended the passage of the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2016, which seeks to amend Article 112 (4) of the 1992 Constitution, to change the country’s date of election from December 7th to the first Monday of November in election years.
In the committee report to Parliament had examined all the key issues that have come up in relation to the preparedness of the EC to hold the elections in November.
The Speaker of Parliament, had received advice from the Council of State on the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2016, and consequently, referred it to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for consideration and report.
Accra-based Citi FM had indicated that, the committee took into consideration the EC’s assurance that it would be in the position to organize the elections in November despite the delays and adjustments made to its original calendar.
The Commission also told the committee that government has honored its financial obligations to them so far, and that they do not see any challenges with funding for this year’s elections.
A key concern that came up during the public forum on the bill, was that amending the constitution would be in breach Article 2 of the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance, which disallows modifications in electoral laws six months to elections.
But the Attorney General (AG), has told the committee that since the law was being modified with the consent of the majority of stakeholders in the country, and has popular support, the enactment would not constitute a breach of the protocol.
The AG also clarified that, the amendment cannot be passed now, and implemented later in 2020, as some MPs and civil society groups have suggested, whilst indicating that, the implementation cannot be postponed because this piece of legislation is a CI.
One of the recommendations made by the committee was a change in the date for the conduct of elections from December 7 to the first Monday in November in an election year.
The committee specified that, the elections should be held on the first Monday in November in an election year, in order to have elections on a specific day such as Monday, instead of having elections on a specific date.
Reference was made to the United States of America (USA), where elections are fixed for the second Tuesday of November of an election year.
According to the committee, holding the presidential and parliamentary elections in November would allow for sufficient time between elections and the handover of power to an incoming government.
That would also ensure a smooth transition and reduce acrimony and prevent the chaotic situation where former ministers of state are recalled to provide information to the incoming government on matters of the state.
The committee further stated that, the reason for choosing the first Monday of November would prevent the inconvenience associated with some days of the week which had the tendency of affecting voter turnout, such as Friday or Sunday.
Currently, the date set aside in respect of the conduct of both presidential and parliamentary elections in the country is December 7, while the swearing-in of the elected President is January 7 of the following year.
However, concerns have been raised that the one-month period for the transition of one government to another, is insufficient for a smooth transition, especially in instances of a run-off as was the case in the years 2000 and 2008.
In the light of the apparent weakness in the electoral system and following the election petition in 2012, the Electoral Reform Committee was established on January 23, 2015, to propose reforms to the country’s electoral system. The committee comprised representatives of the EC.
The NPP’s 2016 Campaign Manager, Peter Mac Manu, had made the suggestion at a public forum on the Constitutional Amendment Bill which is currently underway in Accra.
“CI75 is in the offing which is regulations on elections, that is on the table for amendment, when is it to mature so that it can take effect for the upcoming elections looking at the date and that even when the amendment is passed by Parliament, you will still need a CI which will also take another 21 days. Are we ready for that? These are issues but I can assure you that the NPP is ready for the election any day and any time,” Mac Manu added.
The NPP MP for Akuapem South constituency, O.B Amoah “We don’t have a certified register and we have three months to go into the election. We should have finished some of the processes by September. I can assure you on the floor that I will not vouch for November,” O.B Amoah stated on Eyewitness News.
O.B Amoah further tasked the Commission to submit a new timetable to Parliament for the conduct of the November 7 elections.
This, he believes will assure the House that the Commission is ready to conduct elections on November 7 instead of December 7.
“If you want to hold your election on November 7, give us up to date calendar for us to know that even if the date has shifted we can still meet the deadline.”
He was however quick to remind the EC to consider the law in producing a new calendar.
“They [EC] are promising that by tomorrow they will produce the calendar but we also need to look at the law. For instance when it comes to proxy voting, special voting, transfer of votes, we should be able to do it 42 days before the elections. When it comes to continuous registration, if you register less than 60 days before elections, your name will be on the register but you can’t vote…”