SC’s judgment upholding right of Deputy Speakers to vote constitutional – Kwasi Prempeh

Professor Kwasi Prempeh, the Executive Director of the Center for Democratic Development-Ghana (CDD-Ghana), has stated that the Supreme Court’s judgment upholding the right of Deputy Speakers of Parliament to vote is “a constitutionally correct decision, no matter what one might feel about the outcome politically”.

“If we do not want presiding Deputy Speakers to vote, the solution is, do not let them be MPs, make them like the Speaker; not an MP and not entitled to vote and the influence of Deputy Speakers has been overestimated in the ongoing controversy,” he asserted.

The Apex Court presided over by Justice Jones Dotse ruled that a Deputy Speaker can be counted during formation of quorum for parliamentary decision-making and participate in voting while presiding over parliamentary business.

There has been an enormous uproar following the judgment with the Majority in Parliament describing it as a ‘refreshing’ outcome while the Minority in Parliament described the ruling as absurd and can destroy processes in the House.

But Prof. Prempeh indicated that “the longevity of a practice does not cloak that practice with constitutionality” and no matter how longstanding a practice, its constitutionality could not be presumed unless it was challenged in appropriate constitutional case.

He noted that the fact that was how Parliament had conducted its business all this while was not good enough argument, constitutionally speaking adding that “presiding does not present much of a conflict of interest to cause Deputy Speakers to forfeit their vote, especially if he or she was required by House rules to cast a vote; only when there is a tie”.

According to him, as long as presiding Deputy Speakers are, first and foremost, Members of Parliament (MPs) elected to represent communities of voters in Parliament, it could not reasonably deprive them of their right to vote merely by virtue of presiding over a sitting of Parliament.

Nevertheless, Prof. Prempeh said there was no need for constitutional amendment for his proposal and there was nothing wrong with both Deputy Speakers being MPs and retaining their vote when they presided hence the Constitution must be taken seriously when it stated First and Second Deputy Speakers must come from different parties. –

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