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Ghana’s parliament blocks constitutional bill seeking new election date

By Dasmani Laary in Accra
Posted on Friday, 22 July 2016 12:17

The bill was to amend Article 112 of the country’s 1992 constitution, which states that elections must each time be held on 7 December.

Ghana’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Marita Brew-Appiah, moved the motion on the floor of parliament on Thursday, asking legislators to support the amendment bill.

We had our timetable geared towards 7 November

Article 291 Clause 3 of Ghana’s constitution stipulates that a two-thirds majority is needed for an amendment to pass in the legislature.

A secret ballot by the 275-member lawmaking body saw 125 legislators backing the amendment, while 95 were against it, falling short of the constitutional threshold.

The Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee chairman, Magnus Kofi Amo, expressed disappointment at the results, but said the outcome would give him more time to campaign in his constituency.

Expressing his frustration over the dismissal of the bill, Dominic Ayine, deputy minister of justice and attorney general, said the bill was rejected because of “strategic political convenience”.

Minority leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, prior to voting, said although his side agreed in principle to the change, it was disappointed at the “sloppy way” the electoral commission handled the process.

He said, in Kenya, electoral reforms took about 10 months of careful deliberations ahead of their general elections.

Legislator, Boniface Gambila, was quoted saying “the result is a victory for democracy because it expresses the sentiment of the representatives of the people”.

The minority lawmakers were, in principle, not against the 7 November proposal, he said, and stated that the rejection was due to the fact that the electoral commission and the Attorney General did not bring the bill to the House on time.

Some legislators argued that between now and 7 November would have created time constraints and problems for the elections because a number of activities like the updating of the voters’ register needed attention during the period.

But the majority leader, Alban Bagbin, rebutting those concerns, said “if you are not ready by November 7, you will not be ready by December 7”.

He said the commission and parliament have worked closely in the past to take important decisions at seemingly short notice.

Despite the set back to the electoral commission, officials said the commission is ready to go by the old date to conduct peaceful polls.

“If parliament has decided, then we will go by the 7 December date so we are okay with it,” Yusif Ayuba, an official of the commission told local radio.

“We had our timetable geared towards 7 November, but we are going to work with the new date,” he said.

The bill was meant to amend article 112(4) of the constitution to allow for parliamentary elections to be held ahead of the expiration of the tenure of parliament to ensure smooth transition.

The present dates set for the general elections is 7 December, while the swearing-in of the president takes place on 7 January.

One of the recommendations made by the Electoral Reform Committee after the 2012 election petition to Ghana’s supreme court was a change of date for the general elections from 7 December to the first Monday of November each election year.

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