25 YEARS OF THE 4TH REPUBLIC; PARLIAMENT IN FOCUS

As we celebrate or mark uninterrupted 25 years of return to constitutional rule, we focus our editorial today on the institution of Parliament, one of the three important arms of government.

Indeed, we cannot celebrate our 25 years of return to constitutional government without mentioning Parliament, the bastion of our democracy.

The first Parliament of the Fourth Republic came into being when 200 Members of Parliament were sworn into office on January 7, 1993 with the swearing-in of the First Speaker of Parliament, the late Justice Daniel Francis Annan, at a makeshift Parliamentary chamber, in the Accra International Conference Centre.

Parliament had to be sworn into office first, before the President, Jerry John Rawlings, the Presidential Candidate of the winning National Democratic Congress, because the practice is that the President must be sworn into office before Parliament, who are the representatives of the people.

The functions of Parliament can be categorised under law-making, that’s passing of laws to regulate the conduct of citizens and state institutions; deliberative function, raising important national issues for debate to find the way forward; investigative functions, which include gathering evidence to address  problems.

Parliament serves as watch-dog over the executive by scrutinising the activities of the executive through ratification of international treaties, approval of loans and the budget estimates to run the machinery of state.

The legislature ensures that the executive engages the right caliber of people to form part of the government, by vetting government nominees to determine their suitability for public office.

Significantly, the first Parliament of the Fourth Republic, though deprived of the opposition parties because of  their  boycott  of the Parliamentary elections,  after crying foul  over the 1992 Presidential elections, performed a yeoman’s job to get our democracy on the right footing.

The first parliament ensured that all the constitutional independent institutions were established within the time frame, so as to reap the dividend of democracy.

These are the National Media Commission, the Electoral Commission, National Commission for Civic Education, National Council for Tertiary Education, District Assemblies Common Fund and the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.

The institution of Parliament has nurtured and produced two personalities to occupy the highest office of the land: Former President John Dramani Mahama, who had served three terms as Member of Parliament for Bole-Bambio Constituency in the Northern Region, and President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who was the Member of Parliament for Abuakwa, in the Eastern Region from 1997 to 2004 and Member of Parliament for Akim Abuakwa South between 2005 and 2009.

Quite interestingly, Parliament has  also produced the longest serving member of the Parliament in the history of Parliamentary democracy in Ghana, in the person of the Second Deputy Speaker, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, who has been the Member of Parliament for Nadowli and now Nadowli-Kaleo constituency since the inception of the legislature in 1993.

He served as the Majority Leader when his party, the National Democratic Congress was in power and similarly as the Minority Leader, as opposition party.

As we celebrate our 25 years of parliamentary democracy, we commend parliament for playing an important role in sustaining our democratic governance.

Especially, the Ghanaian Times commends the Speaker and Members of Parliament for their consensus-building skills and persuasive communication abilities in calming down nerves, when the debate becomes hot and tempers flare.

And, looking into the future, we urge Parliament to do well to purge itself of some of the perceptions in the minds of the public and bribery allegations that had rocked the institution in its 25 years of existence, to regain the confidence of the citizenry.

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