ONLY ELECTED ASSEMBLY MEMBERS QUALIFY TO FORM ELECTORAL COLLEGE IN THE UPCOMING COUNCIL OF STATE ELECTION UNDER THE CURRENT STATE OF THE METROPOLITAN, MUNICIPAL AND DISTRICT ASSEMBLIES
Pursuant to Article 89 clause 2(c) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana, the Electoral Commission (EC) has scheduled February 12, 2021 for the election of Regional Representatives to the Council of State.
According to the Saturday, February 6, 2021 edition of the Daily Graphic newspaper, One Hundred and Two (102) Persons have filed to contest in the Sixteen (16) regions of the country.
This has generated interesting debates in the political space with pertinent questions and answers being sought as to the eligibility of those who are mandated to elect the representatives.
Some of the questions being asked are but not limited to:
1. Who forms the Electoral College or who qualifies to vote in the election of Regional Representatives to the Council of State?
2. How were those qualified persons selected to form the Electoral College?
3. Is there any breach of Article 89 clause 2(c) of the 1992 constitution?
While the law is not clear on modalities to be used in the selection of delegates, however, there have been established precedents or conventions at the assemblies in the selection process. Decisions regarding the process are normally taken by the General Assembly, Executive Committees, or through consultation and consensus among members of the assembly. In all the aforementioned, Presiding Members (PMs) have always been automatic members of the Electoral College.
Unfortunately, in a bizarre twist of established protocols that took cognizance of this non-partisan electoral process, allegations are rife about some unqualified delegates including Immediate past Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chief Executives (MMDCEs), and Government Appointees being handpicked to constitute the Electoral College.
It must be stated clearly that, under the current circumstance of the country’s MMDAs, only elected assembly members qualify to form the electoral college in the sixteen (16) regions. And they are the ones who are mandated to cast votes for the election of Regional Representatives to the Council of State.
MMDCEs and Government Appointees to the Assemblies have their tenure of office expired per scheduled 6 of Section 14 of the Presidential Transition Act, Act 845.
MMDCESs are yet to be properly nominated and confirmed or otherwise by the assemblies in accordance with Section 20 ( Subsection 1) of the local governance Act of 2016, Act 936; Article 243 (1); and Article 246 (2) of the the1992 constitution. As per the above, it is unequivocal that no MMDCEs is qualified to be part of the electoral college, let alone to attempt to vote in this constitutional exercise.
Additionally, the tenure of all government appointees to the assemblies have since expired, and until they are properly re-appointed and sworn in, they must not be regarded as members of the assemblies and therefore do not have any voting rights.
Also, in accordance with the Local Governance Act and the Presidential Transition Act, these categories of Government Appointees do not transit automatically beyond the swearing-in of an elected president. Therefore, they have to wait for their appointments or re-appointments to be properly carried out by the president.
It is worth noting that in 2016, the NDC government, passed Act 936 which gave four-year security of tenure to government appointees to the district assemblies. However, the NPP government upon assumption of office in 2017, hurriedly amended Section 10 (Subsection 9a) of Act 940, thereby giving discretionary powers to the President to revoke the appointment of government-appointed members to the assemblies.
The discretionary powers given to the President in my candid opinion is a clear violation and contradiction of the President Transition Act 845. This must be seen as a desecration of constitution normalcy unless the violators have in mind that the district assemblies cannot be treated as corporate entities in accordance with Section 4 (Subsection 1) of the local government act of 2016, act 936 as backed by the schedules in Section 14 of the Presidential Transition Act.
It is becoming very clear that Central Government has no respect for the integrity, autonomy, and independence of the district assembly structures and systems. Perhaps the time has come for local government actors and assembly members in particular to protect and defend the integrity, autonomy, and independence of the local government structures.
This has become more urgent in the face of the Central government’s overly manipulation of the assemblies. The complete disregard for rule of law undermines participatory democracy and governance at the local level which in turn is affecting socio-economic and political development at the local level.
There are good lessons our assembly members can learn from the operations of Parliament even though the assemblies are non-partisan and are not divided on majority and minority lines. And these useful lessons must be anchored to their critical independence in serving their communities and exercising constitutional power at the local level on their behalf by insisting on their rights.
By: James Gunu
Fmr DCE, Akatsi North and NDC Volta Regional Secretary