Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2016 (General Elections): Speaker refers Bill to Council of...

Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2016 (General Elections): Speaker refers Bill to Council of State

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Ghana’s Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho has referred the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2016 to the Council of State for Consideration and Advice.

The Deputy Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Dominic Ayine presented the Bill on behalf of the AG and Minister for Justice on the floor of the House.

‘Hon. Members, the Constitutional procedure that governs this type of bill is laid down in Chapter 25, Article 291 of the 1992 Constitution. In terms of the notice of the amendment bill, the bill is required to be published twice in the Gazette, with the second publication being made at three months after the first and at least ten days have passed after the second publication before its introduction in parliament’, the Speaker enunciated.

The Speaker also highlighted that the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2016 was first gazetted on 9th March 2016, and same was given a second Gazette notification three months later on 15th June, 2016 per the requirements of article 291 clause 1, sub clause (a) of the Constitution. Ten days have passed since the second publication and it has now matured for presentation and first reading in Parliament.

He added that in accordance with the Constitution, upon the first reading of the Bill, the Speaker is required to refer the Bill to the Council of State for Consideration and Advice to Parliament and the Council of State shall render Advice on the Bill within 30 days after receiving it.

‘I therefore at this stage refer the Bill having been presented for the first time, and it is my responsibility in terms of the Constitution to refer the Bill to the Council of State for Consideration and Advice and ask the Council of State to render the Advice within 30 days after receiving it and I so refer the Bill to the Council of State’, the Speaker said.

The Bill has been duly laid before the House and Parliament cannot take any further steps on the Bill until the House receives the Advice from the Council of State. Even though the Council of State has 30 days (within 30 days) to render Advice on the Bill to the House; however, the Council of State could report back to parliament within some few days rather than the whole stipulated 30 days.

The Bill, which is a one clause amendment, will be debated on the floor of the House after the Council of State’s Advice (input) and it is expected to be passed into law before the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.

The Bill

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 ensuring 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 in election as was the case 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.

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