Political parties in Ghana are engaged in a blame game after the country’s parliament rejected a constitutional amendment bill that sought to change the date for the country’s general elections.
The west African country has since the start of the fourth republic held its presidential and parliamentary elections on December 7, but challenges with handing over to a new government which assumes office on January 7 among other issues, led to a proposal for the change of the election date to November 7.
A majority vote of 184 was required to pass the bill. Only 125 Members of Parliament voted to change the date to November 7.
Waiting till the dying minutes of an election period and then running a crash programme, it creates an unnecessary suspicion
The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) which said it agreed in principle to a change of date for the general elections, withdrew its support for the bill citing a shortage of time to execute the legal processes required for the change in date.
“Even if you did the amendment, for the presidential date, you need to go with a constitutional instrument. The constitutional instrument must lie in the parliament for twenty-one working days, which means the whole of August” noted the opposition New Patriotic Party’s Communications Director, Nana Akomea.
“Parliament is going to rise on the 29th of July, so getting parliament sit for the whole of August for the CI on the presidential election to pass is a problem that we need to sort out,” Akomea added.
He argued that with all the challenges associated with the process “which have come about largely because of the Electoral Commission’s own inability to act, we don’t think that we should go and constrain ourselves with a date that is one month ahead”.
But the ruling National Democratic Congress’ (NDC) Deputy General Secretary Koku Anyidoho says the opposition NPP sabotaged the bill.
“It was not the Electoral Commission that plant the date change on the political parties, rather, it was the political parties that engaged and convinced the EC, and the EC bought into it” he argued adding that “the NPP has been part of the process” all along.
He noted that when the EC pushed the bill to parliament the NPP was involved in the deliberations of the bill at the subsidiary legislative level.
“It was rather surprising that at the floor of the house, then they chose to ambush the process, and create the impression as if they have never been part of the process,” a move he said had become a “stock in trade” for the opposition.
Smaller political parties in the country are equally divided over the failure of the bill. The National Democratic Party (NDP) led by former First Lady Nana Kondu Agyemang-Rawlings argues that the timing for the change is wrong.
It’s Communications Director Ernest Owusu Bempah insisted that “we are not prepared enough based on our programming, incentives and things that were to be put in place to make sure that we have a successful election”.
Chairman of the People’s National Convention, Bernard Monah however felt the outcome of the vote showed parliament’s lack of independence.
“It is a bit of a worry that our parliament is beginning to lose its sense of independence because if you are elected to parliament, you represent a constituency despite the fact that you may or you might have been elected on the ticket of a political party,” Monah said.
The Convention People’s Party, the country’s oldest surviving political party said it was prepared for a November 7 election and described the outcome as a surprise.
“It came as a surprise to me because we all agreed at a meeting that we were gong to have the election in November and we have all prepared towards that date,” the party’s Chairman Prof. Edmund Delle told Africanews.
“Even if the majority was not in favour once the minority has agreed, for the peace of the country, we just go ahead. It is going to affect our programme though and affect the programmes of the electoral commission because they have put all their plans on November. It also means changing the date and also leading to financial loss and the financial needs of the EC,” Prof. Delle added.
A political scientist with the University of Ghana, Dr. Ransford Gyampo is however unhappy with the parliament’s partisan approach to the amendment bill explaining that the proposal “formed a part of a set of proposals for electoral reforms that were submitted to the Electoral Commission and it received a lot of input and ownership from the political parties across the divide”.
He also chastised the Electoral Commission for delaying the start of the process.
“Waiting till the dying minutes of an election period and then running a crash programme, it creates an unnecessary suspicion that you want to rush people through things and you want to smuggle things through the electoral process in a manner that may not favour some parties.”
The Ghanaian parliament’s rejection of the proposed amendment means that the country’s general elections will go ahead on December 7 as has been the norm and not on November 7 as anticipated.