Friday, July 22, 2016

Ghana Parliament Rejects November 7 Elections Date
21 JULY 2016

After a vote in Parliament on Thursday on the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2016, 125 Members voted YES in favour of the date change whilst 95 voted NO to reject the date change.

In all, a total of 220 Members voted on the amendment.

The House needed at least 184 YES votes for the two thirds majority in support of the amendment before it could have gone ahead to effect the date change.

The Minority members specifically indicated they were in favour of the date change but were disappointed in the manner the Electoral Commission had gone about it and felt the country was not ready for November 7 this year.

Whilst the majority were in support of the date change, they could not amass the numbers to support the amendment.

Why date change

Unlike the presidential elections which the Constitution does not stipulate the period within which a new President should be elected before the expiration of the tenure of office of a sitting President, the Constitution mandates that Parliamentary elections should be organised within 30 days before the expiration of the tenure of current members.

Article 112 (4) of the Constitution states that, “…a general election of members of Parliament shall be held within thirty (30) days before the expiration of the period specified in clause (1) of that article; and a session of Parliament shall be appointed to commence within fourteen (14) days after the expiration of that period.”

The swearing-in of new members of Parliament in Ghana is usually on January 7.

This means that before the EC can move the elections to November 7 from the usual December 7, giving it 60 clear days before the expiration of the tenure of office of the present Parliamentarians, the Constitution ought to be amended.

Ghana organises both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections concurrently.

In deciding to move the elections from the usual December 7 to November 7, the EC considered making room to be able to organise a run-off in case no candidate is able to secure the 50 per cent plus-one vote required for a first round victory and also to add more days for preparation for a handover on January 7.

A run-off is normally organised 21-days after December 7 on December 28 as stipulated by law.

1992 separate elections

Ghana’s first presidential and parliamentary elections in 1992 were held on separate days in November and December respectively.

Following a boycott of the December 1992 Parliamentary election by the main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party, due to allegations of malpractices in the presidential election,  a decision was taken to hold both elections on the same day to be able to prevent a another boycott in future.

The move was also to help cut down cost. Since there was no law preventing the change of date in holding the presidential election, that one was moved from November 7 to December 7, same day for the parliamentary one.

The 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections and subsequent elections have since been held on December 7 but there have been arguments that the process does not make room for the organisation of a run-off and the subsequent transition on January 7.

Hence, when the commission opened its doors for people to send proposals for electoral reforms, it was suggested that the election date should be changed.

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