One of the primary functions of Parliament is law-making. In 1957 when the gold coast attained independence from colonial rule, there was the need for a government of the people and a system of rule of law. To this end, there was an urgent need for a constitution. And dating back to 1960, Ghana has had four Republics with the present Fourth Republic being the longest of them all. The return to constitutional rule on January 7, 1993, marked the beginning of a new era for Ghanaians.
It is my contention that the 1992 constitution guarantees human rights, elegantly spells out the duties and limitations on the powers of three arms of government better than its predecessors.
Who can Become a Member of Parliament?
The 1992 Constitution has set out the qualifications, and eligibility of Members of Parliament (MPs). This has been provided for in Article 94 of the constitution. Similarly, the tenure of an MP can be found in Article 97.
Rule 4(1) of the Public Election Regulation, C.I 15 states that: “A candidate for election to Parliament shall be nominated by a separate nomination paper in such form as the Commission shall determine which shall be delivered in quadruplicate by candidate himself or the person who proposes or seconds his nomination to the returning officer of the constituency for which the candidate seeks election on the day and at the place specified in the writ between the hours of nine in the morning and twelve noon and the hours of two and five in the afternoon.”
No MP is allowed to represent more than one constituency. This has been affirmed in Rule 4(3) of C.I 15 which states that: “No candidate shall be nominated: (a) in the case of a general election to Parliament, for more than one constituency; or (b) in the case of a by-election to Parliament, if he or she is a member of Parliament (4) No person shall nominate more than one candidate for election to Parliament. The high court shall have jurisdiction to determine the validity of speaker and a member of Parliament Article 99 of the 1992 constitution.”
Structure and Procedures in Parliament
The one who heads the house is the Speaker. S/he is assisted by two deputy speakers before the Majority and Minority leadership in the House. The Speaker of Parliament is recognised as the third in command of the country after the President and Vice-President. In fact, where both the President and the Vice-President are unable to perform their functions, the Speaker is sworn in as the President of the country per Article 60 (11) of the 1992 constitution.
Every Member of Parliament is required to take an oath before taking his seat in the House. The oaths are (a) Oath of allegiance and (b) Oath of a member of Parliament according to Article 100 of the constitution. Why the Oath? The Oath is an accountability mechanism that ensures that MPS strictly adhere to their duties and keep promises made to both the citizens and nation.
Contempt of Parliament
Contempt simply means disobeying authority and defying the dignity of it. According to the constitution in Article 122, contempt is defined as an act or omission which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament from discharging his duties or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result. Where such an act is done it is an offence under the criminal law. One may be charged twice on accounts of two offences.
The 8th Parliament
The 7th Parliament was dissolved on the 6th of January 2021 at midnight, ushering in newly elected Members of Parliament. The elected MPs are mainly coming from the two main political parties namely the New Patriotic Party (NPP) with 137 MPs and the New Democratic Congress (NDC) also with 137 MPs with one Independent MP. The newly elected MPs met in the Chamber to elect the Speaker of the 8th Parliament, a night which was exceptionally long. Viral videos of the MPs misconducting themselves before the whole world has triggered vile criticisms from Ghanaians. Appalling attitudes displayed by lawmakers from both the ruling NPP government and the opposition NDC over an election of a speaker.
After a grueling night, veteran MP, Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin emerged as the winner in a close contest with Speaker of the 7th Parliament, Professor Mike Aaron Oquaye. History has been made when Mr Bagbin a member of an opposition party was elected as the Speaker of the 8th Parliament.
However, the issue at hand is that which of the two leading parties can claim the Majority or the Minority in the House?
Speaking of a Parliament headed by the opposition will mean a lot to the government. There are some likely consequences such as blockade on government borrowing, budget-cutting, and vehement opposition to government policies. However, such a system is good since it intensifies checks and balances to curtail excesses of the Executive.
All that matters to Ghanaians is not the debate over who is the Majority and Minority, but rather how the economy would be bolstered to create jobs and prosperity for all.