The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho has referred the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2016 to the Committee on Constitution, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for Consideration and Report.
The referral of the Bill to the Committee follows the rendering of the Council of State’s Advice on the Bill to the House after the Speaker had referred the Bill to the Council of State on Tuesday, the 28th of June, 2016, for Consideration and Advice in accordance with Article 291 clause (2) of the 1992 Constitution.
‘Honourable Members, I did not refer the Bill to the appropriate Committee (Committee on Constitution, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs) on that day during the first reading in view of the pending advice from the Council of State. I now wish to inform you that I have received the Advice from the Council of State. It is my duty now to refer the Bill together with the Advice from the Council of State to the Committee on Constitution, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. Hon. Members, I accordingly refer the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2016 together with the Advice from the Council of State to the Committee on Constitution, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for Consideration and Report’, the Speaker stated.
The Committee on Constitution, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs will examine the Council of State’s Advice (input) on the Bill and present their Report to the House for the Lawmakers to debate on it.
The 1992 Constitution stipulates that ‘where Parliament approves the bill, it may only be presented to the President for his assent if it was approved at the second and third readings of it in Parliament by the votes of at least two thirds of all the members of Parliament’; (article 291 clause 3)
The Constitution further states that where the bill has been passed in accordance with the aforementioned article, the President shall assent to it; (article 291 clause 4).
The Bill, which is a one clause amendment, is expected to be passed into law before the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
The Bill amends article 112(4) of the 1992 Constitution to make provision for Parliamentary elections to be held well ahead of the expiration of the tenure of Parliament to ensure an effective and smooth transition. The Bill is entitled ‘Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2016.’
Currently, the dates set aside in respect of the conduct of both Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the country is the 7th day of December whilst swearing-in of the President takes place on the 7th day of January in the ensuing year. However, the one month period for the transition of one government to the other, has over the years proved insufficient for a smooth transition particularly, in instances where there is a run-off election as the case was in 2000 and 2008.
In light of the apparent weaknesses in Ghana’s electoral system and following the election petition in 2013, the Electoral Reform Committee was established on 23rd January, 2015 to propose reforms to the country’s electoral system. The Electoral Reform Committee comprised representatives of the Electoral Commission.
One of the recommendations made by the Committee was a change in the date for the conduct of general elections from the 7th of December to the first Monday of November in an election year. The Committee specified that the general elections should be held on every first Monday of November in an election year in order to have elections on a specific day instead of having elections on a specific date. A reference was made to the United States of America where elections are fixed on the second Tuesday of November in an election year.
According to the Committee, 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.
The Committee further stated that the reason for choosing the first Monday of November in an election year, as a convenient day of the week for elections, was that having a specific day of the week instead of specific date for elections, would prevent the inconvenience associated with some days of the week which have the tendency of affecting voters turn-out such as Friday or a Sunday. Other reasons were that having the elections on a day following a weekend would allow ample time for the preparation of the Electoral Commission by way of transportation and distribution of election materials. Parliamentary candidates would get more time with their constituents in their constituencies and it would be easier for people who had to travel to their various constituencies to do so on a weekend to cast their votes on a Monday.
Thus, to ensure that Parliamentary elections are earlier than the 7th day of December, the Bill amends article 112(4) of the Constitution to provide for Parliamentary elections to be held on the first Monday of November in every election year.
The Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Dominic Ayine who laid the Bill on behalf of the AG and Minister for Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah-Oppong explained the object of the Bill on the floor of the House.