The Majority and Minority in Parliament have cast doubts about the intention of the Electoral Commission (EC) to hold this year’s elections on November 7.
While the Minority, according to its Deputy Leader, Mr Dominic Nitiwul, says the posture of the EC, especially its Chairperson, Mrs Charlotte Osei, did not support consensus building, and for which reason, there could be problems in the processes towards changing the date, the Majority Leader, Mr Alban Bagbin, said time might not be on the side of the processes for an amendment.
Although Mr Nitiwul also alluded to the long processes in amending the constitutional provision to change the date from December 7 to November 7, he said the major concern of the Minority was that the EC was leaning towards one side of the political divide in decisions concerning this year’s general election.
Speaking on an Accra-based radio station, Joy FM, he said the constitutional amendment would require that the two major political parties in Parliament worked together to endorse the amendment.
He explained that the amendment would not require just a simple majority but would need two-thirds majority of the house.
According to him, if one of the major political parties decided that it did not agree with the amendment, it would not be carried out.
Mr Nitiwul explained that besides his party’s concerns about the posturing of the EC Chairperson, a lot of work needed to be done before the bill was presented to the house.
What the Constitution says
According to Article 291 of the Constitution, a bill to amend a provision of the Constitution which is not an entrenched provision shall not be introduced in Parliament unless it has been published twice in the Gazette with the second publication being made at least three months after the first; and at least 10 days after the second publication.
It adds that the Speaker shall, after the first reading of the bill in Parliament, refer it to the Council of State for consideration and advice and the Council of State shall also give its advice on the bill within 30 days of receiving it.
It further states that where Parliament approves the bill, it may only be presented to the President for his assent if it was approved at its second and third readings in Parliament by the votes of at least two-thirds of all the Members of Parliament.
Additionally, it states that where the bill has been passed in accordance with this article, the President shall assent to it.
National consultations required
Mr Nitiwul said the processes of the constitutional amendment included two gazettes which, he was informed, had been done in March but that it would require that it was presented to Parliament within 90 days, which would be sometime next month.
He said the processes would involve wide consultations with the members of the public, including a consideration by the Council of State.
Mr Nitiwul also indicated that if elections were to be held on November 7, political parties would have to work fast on their programmes to be ready for the general election and if that became the decision, Members of Parliament (MPs) would not sit until September to get the amendment through.
Explaining further, Mr Bagbin admitted that there were serious constraints since the transition would have to go through the various processes.
He said the country had accepted the need for elections to be held on November 7 for a smooth transition to the next administration but added that the amendment process could be tedious and time-consuming.
He also said the amendment process was to be gazetted twice and, thereafter, it would take three months to be laid in Parliament and referred to the Council of State.
Mr Bagbin was worried about the likelihood of all these processes being completed for the bill to be passed before the end of July.
He said there could be an emergency recall of Parliament to consider the bill’s amendment but “as it is now, it is still December 7.”
A private view
A private Legal Practitioner, Nana Asante Bediatuo, expressing his view on the matter, said looking at the elaborate nature of the processes and the fact that a super majority was needed to carry out the amendment; it appeared that the country was behind schedule, especially the timing and getting everyone involved in the processes.
He also said looking at the Supreme Court’s ruling asking the EC to clean the register and re-register qualified voters, it would be difficult to meet the November 7 deadline but if that became necessary, “then the EC has a lot to do.”
Source: Graphic Online