Ghana: The 8th Parliament and the Drama with it

One word that can be used to describe the moments leading to the coming into being of the Eighth Parliament of Ghana is drama. But, it seems the country may not be up for it. Events of Wednesday night, 6th January 2020 through to the morning of Thursday, 7th January 2020 show the increasingo polarization of the country which cannot be good for citizens. The two dominant Political Parties with the largest representation in Parliament, incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) could be pursuing their individual interests at the expense of progress and national development evidenced by the actions of the Members of Parliament (MPs) throughout the night, people would do what it takes to take power. A section of the populace which followed proceedings on television on that night as the tenure of the Seventh Parliament came to an end through to the commencement of the Eighth Parliament have described those moments as embarrassing especially at the point in time when armed soldiers were called into the parliamentary chamber to break up a fight during the election of the Speaker. Some names have come up about the person who ordered armed uniform military personnel to enter the chamber. The leader of the NDC parliamentary caucus, Mr. Haruna Iddrisu (MP, Tamale South) has called for a parliamentary inquiry into how armed servicemen barged into the chamber of Parliament.

Political Parties are funded/supported by oligarchs, business people in exchange for certain favours such as tax waivers on goods to be imported into the country, as well as contracts for the businesses operated by the party financiers. The ultimate decision to grant all these is the Parliament and it is very much easier to push such deals through if the parliament is on the side of the incumbent government therefore one could see the stakes for the elected representatives thereby ensuring that their party’s choice for the Speakership emerged victorious from the election that night. A long serving legislator and former MP for Nadowli-Kaleo, Mr. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin was voted as Speaker of the Eighth Parliament. He won through a secret ballot by 138 votes against former Speaker Prof. Aaron Micheal “Mike” Oquaye’s 136; 1 rejected ballot

The election of the Speaker of Parliament is held in accordance with Article 95(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and Parliament of Ghana’s Standing Order 9(1) in the case of two nominees presented for the Speaker role and Article 104(4) on the secrecy of ballot.

The NDC’s jostling for control of the House arises from the need for effective parliamentary oversight on the Executive particularly on the suspicion that the incumbent NPP government of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo mostly gets away with its wants without a thorough scrutiny by the House. The dreadful Agyapa Royalties deal under which an offshore account would be setup for the lifetime receipt of mineral royalties from Ghana and managed by somebody related to the President of Ghana, was hurried through Parliament without a full debate on the plenary floor despite opposition from NDC MPs who were in the Finance Committee meeting. According to the NDC, the deal robs future generations of Ghana of their share of mineral wealth and investment by one family.

With the House split on 137/137 seats and one independent, there is no clear Majority although the NDC caucus are strongly on the conviction they have the majority by 140 seats, they are currently testing this claim in court. NPP also believes they have majority. On Friday, January 15, however, House Speaker Alban Bagbin declared that the NPP parliamentary caucus and the independent MP together have become the Majority Group after reading a letter from the independent, Andrew Asiamah Amoako (MP, Fomena) indicating that he will be doing business with the NPP caucus. It is important to note that, the NPP caucus are not the majority because they as a Political Party in Parliament do not have the numbers to constitute a majority. The independent MP shall only side with the NPP when it comes to voting on matters on the floor that would make-up the majority of votes however by a slim margin.

House Speaker Bagbin in his commencement address at the second sitting of the Eighth Parliament on Friday, January 15th 2021 assured Ghanaians that he will not allow the legislature to be used to funnel Executive motions without scrutiny. He will also not allow the House to stampede the Executive branch. He said, that public perception of the legislative branch as a ‘rubber stamp’ or an ‘obstructionist’ is borne out of the two-party structure and the composition of Parliament, within the context of a winner-take-all politics. The House is made up of two sides, majority and minority, where the majority is made up of party or parties holding up a larger number of seats in Parliament. The minority on the other hand is made up of party or parties holding up fewer seats. In the Eighth Parliament, however, there is no majority or minority party as the number of seats held by the NDC and NPP are 137 apiece, the one independent seat has chosen to work with the NPP in the House. This means there will be a great deal of backroom negotiations on every major government motion that comes up on the floor of the House for debate, but how will the citizens of Ghana reap the benefit from this current arrangement?

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Press Corps have congratulated Rt Hon Bagbin on his election to the high office of Speaker of the House. In a press release signed by the Dean of the Corps, Mr Bagbin’s new role as the third gentleman of the land is a win for press freedom based on his experience as a media freedom advocate and his support for journalist capacity-building training in enhancing Ghana’s fledgling democracy. According to the statement, Mr Bagbin a proponent of the Right to Information law worked immensely towards its passage in 2018. As a celebrated lawmaker with over 28 years of legislative experience he has contributed to the crafting of several laws in the country.

The Corps wished him well and hoped that he will bring to bear his wealth of experience in legislative business into his new role as the Speaker.

Source: Frank Bruce || kwasibruce.medium.com

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