When I had the privilege to address the Liberal Democrats Group of the ACP-EU Joint Parliament in Brussels in August 2007, as the then Ghana Parliamentâs Permanent Delegate, the topic I chose was âGhanaâs Electoral Commission (EC), The Anatomy Of An Inspiring Democracyâ.
Among the constitutionally created bodies, with the supportive financial resources, the EC has become the cynosure of all eyes in the African body politic in the discharge and execution of its constitutional mandate.
No wonder its current Chairman, Dr Afari-Gyan (my former lecturer), whose reign dates from 1993 to date, remainsÂ one of the leading global electioneering consultants, having been the Executive Secretary of Africa Association of Elections Authorities since 1998.
In the lecture, I highlighted the three main factors that have put the EC on such a political and electoral pedestal. The first of these is the independence of the EC as captured under Article 46 of the 1992 Constitution.
The second element is the resolve by the distinguished appointees to uphold the dignity and integrity of the office without fear or favour.
The third as captured under Article 44(2) and (3) is the provision which offers security of tenure of office for the Chairman and his two deputies, which are equivalent to the status of a Court of Appeal and High Court Judges of the Superior Courts.
Concluding, I drew the attention of newly emerging democracies to take inspiration from Ghanaâs model which received much applause by the group, and that the Kenya political debacle which led to the loss of over 4000 lives would have been averted if there were such provisions in their constitution then.
Lowest PointÂ Â Â Â Â
Notwithstanding all these enviable achievements in the discharge of its constitutional mandate, the ECâs attitude and conduct of the recent district level elections represent a sad chapter and lowest point in our current political dispensation evolution. Indeed, it was nothing to write home about, especially where in the same district, elections were conducted in three phases. No wonder Ghanaians labelled it âOlonkaâ or âTot Totâ elections.Â Â
However, the EC has redeemed itself in respect of its attitude, conduct and registration of eligible Ghanaians for the Biometric Voters Register under CI 72.
Â Powers Of EC
Under Article 47(5) of the Constitution, the EC has the exclusive mandate of reviewing existing constituencies.
The power of EC in the alteration of existing constituencies which may lead to an increase or decrease in the number of constituencies and its operationalisation is further buttressed or strengthened by the Supreme Courtâs decision of Luke Mensah Vrs Attorney-General, where elected members of the new constituencies created could take their seats in Parliament immediately upon the dissolution of Parliament.
Pronouncement And Interactions
The EC, in its recent briefing of Parliament, interactions with the press, both in Accra and Kumasi, has demonstrated its âintentâ of creating new constituencies.
While politically alive, Ghanaians are not disputing the power of the EC in taking such a decision; the million dollar question on their lips is: By what formula or criteria does it intend to rely on?Â Is it the over criticised formula of 2004, which I will call âGyannomicsâ, or a new one altogether which could stand the test of time?
Sir, at this juncture, it would be appropriate to send you down the memory lane of 2003/2004.
In your briefing paper in February, 2003, Preparations Towards Election 2004: Prospects And Challenges, you outlined three main principles used in the demarcation of constituencies in Ghana without any year or years of referral.
Ghana as a sovereign nation is never subject to any national or transnational dictates. However, since Ghana is part of the comity of nations, any formula adopted must fall in line with internationally accepted standards and best practices in the world. That is why the first principle espoused by you, the principle of population quota, with its variations of population density and geographical size permissible, remainsÂ the universally accepted UN principle, as captured under Article 47(7) of the 1992 Constitution.
It is the adherence to this principle that will enable you to ensure equal and fair representation of constituencies into which Ghana is divided, and nothing else. Adherence to such a principle will clearly reveal to you which regions should get extra, reduced or re-alignment of constituencies and the reasons thereof.
A classic example is the UK case where the number of constituencies in the next general election will be reduced by over 30, out of the existing number of about 660.
The second principle of special factors, like existing traditional areas, geographical features and distribution of ethnic or language communities, is sparingly allowed but does not become the core.
The third principle which received wide criticisms from some prominent Ghanaian authorities like Professors Kwasi Prempeh, Kwaku Asare, and recently Professor Smith, is based on each district having at least one constituency, and constituency boundaries should not cross either region or district boundaries.
Sir, where does this âlumping principleâ come from? What is really captured in the constitution per Article 47(2) is that no constituency shall fall within more than one region.
By your over-reliance on your third principle, you are proposing that an inferior Act should drive a superior law of the land instead of the vice-versa.
Anyway Sir, why were you so infatuated with this formula formulated in 1967 by the Siriboe Commission? Can it stand the test of time today? Per the constitution, you are enjoined to devise your own in line with the Articles of the constitution.
As politicians, we learn history but we do not learn from history. The previous Kufuor-led New Patriotic Party administration, conscious of time in respect of the creation of districts, and the likely ramifications of constituencies review, had published a White Paper on this matter as far back as March 2003.
Hence, Ghanaians had adequate time, spanning a period of 22 months, for both the creation of districts and constituencies review exercise, taking cognizance of protestations, petitions and court battles for possible annulments and declarations that could dog the exercise.
What is the situation today? We are left with just five months for the national election to be held but no Ghanaian can today lay hand on the document called âPopulation and Housing Census of 2010â which should constitute the premise for the supposed review of constituencies.
Given that the formula, which the EC intends using is okay, has the commission made adequate room for the full operation of Articles 48(1) and (2) of the 1992 Constitution, or is the EC asking for a waiver?
Framers of our constitution, in their manifold wisdom of ensuring that the legitimate concerns and rights of Ghanaians will not be compromised, pushed for such provisions.
These provisions make it possible for Ghanaians who are aggrieved with this review of constituencies to be heard by a tribunal of three appointed by the Chief Justice, and further appeal to the Court of Appeal as the final arbiter, where they are dissatisfied with such decisions.
Is the EC resting on unsubstantiated assumptions that with their declaration of new constituencies, there is cessation of all petitions and that the Courts will not adjudicate because of time exigencies?
I will conclude by borrowing a word from Senior Nutifafa Kuenyehia, then President of Ghana Bar Association (GBA) in 1994 in Koforidua, with reference to the Togolese Bar President’s presence in a famous Ewe saying: âNe klo yi mugbe la, abobo gboe wodze naâ to wit, when the tortoise travels or goes to a funeral, it lodges with the snail.
Obviously both are from the shell family and share the same or similar place of abode. The crab too is of the same shell family; however, its place of abode, being the bunker, is different from that of the snail and the tortoise.
By the operation of our Constitution, there is a fusion between the Executive and the Legislature, hence some members of Executive could be found in the Legislature. However, the EC, like the crab family, has a constitutional mandate distinct from the Executive.
The Akans, as in other languages, have a wise saying that âSe oketebo ne okotere se din mu a, na nkyere se, won se honam mu,â to wit, you may be identical in name but colour-wise, there is differentiation.
Therefore, for the EC to be espousing that if the Executive has created new districts, it has no mission than to also immediately respond without recourse to convenience, with the creation of new constituencies along these administrative boundaries is begging the whole issue.Â
Sir, there is a famous Akan saying, which is also reflected in other lingua franca in the country, that âOpanyin tiri ho na ye hom akumaâ, to wit wisdom normally resides with the elders.
It is therefore not belated if the EC goes back to the drawing board, and in the larger interest of peace in respect of the 7th December 2012 elections, and for want of time, recoils into its shell with the proposed creation of additional constituencies which are likely to create acrimonies and disturbances among the hitherto peaceful Ghanaians.
God bless Ghana.
The writer is the Member of Parliament for Kumawu in the Ashanti Region and a fellow of the Danquah Institute.
By: OpaninYaw Baah