Parliament has rejected the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2016, which seeks to change the date to conduct Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the country from December 7 to the first Monday of November of every election year.
As a result, the decision to conduct this year’s elections on November 7 has been reversed back to the original date (December 7) to give the Electoral Commission enough time to prepare for the polls.
The bill sought to amend Article 112 (4) of the Constitution to provide a date to conduct the election to ensure smooth transition but could not gather the needed two-thirds approval of the entire membership of the House.
In all, 125 members voted in support of the bill while 95 members voted against it, but the number was not enough to secure the approval.
The bill needed a total approval of 180 votes from the law makers to be carried.
Moving the motion for the Second Reading and debate of the motion to amend the Constitution earlier, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah- Oppong, argued that the date set aside in respect of the conduct of both Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the country was on the
7th day of December while swearing in of the President took place on the 7th day of January in the ensuing year.
However, she said the one month period for the transition of one government to the other had, over the years, proved insufficient for a smooth transition particularly in instances where there is a run-off as was the case in 2000 and 2008.
She explained that holding the Presidential and Parliamentary elections in November would allow for sufficient time between elections and the handing over of power to an incoming government.
“This would also ensure a smooth transition and reduce
acrimony as well as prevent the chaotic situation whereby former ministers of state are recalled to provide information to the in-coming government on matters of the state,” she said.
The Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Magnus K. Amoatey, who seconded the motion, said the various stakeholders the committee engaged during its deliberation on the bill were in support of the need to change the date to conduct the polls.
He noted however that some members raised concerns which bothered on the readiness of the Electoral Commission (EC) to conduct the election in November this year, should the bill be passed.
As a result, he said the commission engaged the commissioner of the EC who gave the assurance that the commission would be able to meet the November deadline.
Mr. Amoatey pointed out that the Ministry of Finance had also released the second quarter of the total amount the commission was requesting for to be able to conduct the polls
Contributing to the debate, the Minority Spokesperson on the committee, Joseph Osei Wusu, said when the committee met the stakeholders, they practically agreed in principle that the amendment was legitimate and desirable.
However, he said the nine out of the 10 institutions which appeared before the committee raised concerns about the readiness of the EC to conduct the elections.
Aside that, he said the EC confirmed that the government had released funds for the elections but pointed out that the release did not necessarily mean the monies had been disbursed.
“Whereas on paper it has been released, only a fraction of the amount has actually been given to the EC,” he said and added that the commission could also not explain how it was going to fund the GH¢400 million shortfall of its GH¢1.2 billion budget, since the government had only pledged to release GH¢800 million.
The debate was wrapped up by the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader, Alban Bagbin and Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu.
While Mr. Bagbin wanted the law makers to vote for the bill, Mr. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said he would support the amendment if its implementation would be suspended to 2020.
The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill was first published on March 9 this year and published again on June 15 before it was first laid in the House on June 28, in accordance with Article 291 of the Constitution.
Article 291 states that a bill to amend a provision of the Constitution which is not an entrenched provision shall not be introduced into Parliament unless it has been published twice in the gazette with the second publication being made at least three months after the first one.
After it was laid, the Speaker, Edward Adjaho, referred the bill to the Council of State for advice. The Council presented its report six days later before it was referred to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
By Yaw Kyei