Ghana: Failure to amend voting date, landmark judgements played up in Ghana

Accra, Ghana (PANA) – Parliament’s failure on Thursday to pass a bill that sought to amend the constitution to move Ghana’s voting date forward by one month and two landmark judgements by the Supreme Court were some of the stories played up by media this week.

The media also highlighted the conviction of panelists and owners of an Accra-based radio station Montie FM.

The whole country had expected Parliament to pass a bill to change voting day from 7 December to the first Monday in November to give an incoming government, especially in case of a runoff, enough time to prepare to take over.

But when it came to voting for the bill on Thursday, MPs of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) shot it down. The motion failed to garner the two-thirds of the 275 MPs needed to pass, so Ghanaians will vote, once again, on 7 December this year.

The story published in the state-owned Graphic newspaper on the developments in Parliament read, “Parliament shoots down Nov 7, voting day remains Dec 7.”

It said Parliament on Thursday rejected the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which sought to amend Article 112(4) of the 1992 Constitution to provide for elections to be held on the first Monday of November, instead of 7 December, in every election year. The result of the secret ballot was 125-95 against the amendment.

The Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had recommended the passage of the Bill, but the NPP voted against it.

The minority leader in parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, said the NPP, in principle, was not against the amendment, but the time was too short for the Electoral Commission (EC) to go through all the processes to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections.

He said if the EC wanted to conduct the elections in November, then the NPP would not support the amendment.

The majority MPs argued that the amendment for elections to be held on the first Monday of November was necessary to give the EC enough time to conduct any possible run-off.

The majority leader, Mr Alban Bagbin, said the parliamentary committee, after consultations with stakeholders, including the EC and political parties, had recommended the change of date for the elections. He added that the EC was ready to conduct the elections if the date was brought to the first Monday of November.

The Graphic in another story said the vote had been greeted with mixed reactions from political parties.

While some of them said the decision not to change the date for the election would be of little consequence to them, others said it had thrown their programmes out of gear.

NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketiah said he was not surprised at the stance taken by the NPP MPs in voting against the bill.

He said their stance portrayed double standards because they had agreed at the beginning that they would go by the consensus arrived at during discussions with the other political parties.

NPP Communications Director Nana Akomea said the party decided to rescind its decision on the 7 November date because it had become apparent that the EC was not ready to hold the polls on that day.

The state-owned Ghanaian Times also had the headline, “Nov 7 polls date shot down” with the story saying that Parliament on Thursday rejected the bill, which sought to change the date to conduct Presidential and parliamentary elections from 7 December to the first Monday of November every election year.

It said the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Marietta Brew Appiah- Oppong, moving the motion for the second reading and debate, argued that the date set aside in respect of the conduct of both Presidential and Parliamentary elections in the country was on 7 December while swearing in of the President took place on 7 January in the ensuing year.

However, the one-month period for the transition of one government to the other hand, over the years, proved insufficient for a smooth transition particularly in instances where there is a run-off as happened in 2000 and 2008. In case no presidential candidate gets more than 50% of votes in the first round, a run-off takes place after 21 days.

The Supreme Court during the week ruled that the President did not flout the constitution by appointing Supreme Court judges and the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.

The Graphic in a story under the headline, “Prez never erred in appointing justices of Supreme Court, EC boss,” reported that the apex court on Wednesday dismissed three suits challenging the methods adopted by the President in appointing justices of the Supreme Court and the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC).

The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) filed the suit on the appointment of justices of the Supreme Court, while a broadcast journalist, Mr Richard Sky and Kwesi Danso, a lawyer, filed two suits on the appointment of the Chairperson of the EC and other members of the commission.

In a unanimous decision read by Mr Justice William Atuguba the seven-member panel held that the President was not bound by the advice of bodies such as the Judicial Council and the Council of State.

The court, however, asserted that the President was mandated to seek such advice before making the appointments.

“The President must at all cost have this advice and if he does not have this advice, the appointment is not valid,’’ it said.

On the appointment of justices of the Supreme Court, the court held that although the President was not bound by the decision of the Judicial Council, he could not appoint someone not recommended by the Judicial Council as a justice of the Supreme Court.

“If the Judicial Council recommends a particular person and the President does not feel obliged to appoint that person, there is no obligation on the President to have that person appointed. The only thing is that the President can also not go outside the names or list of persons recommended to him by the body,’’ it held.

On the suits challenging the appointment of the Chairperson of the EC and its members, the apex court dismissed them, saying that “there is no allegation of a breach or threatening breach of any constitutional provision in any of them’’.

“Montie trio, directors convicted,” was the headline of the contempt case involving panelists and owners of the radio station.

The story said two political commentators who threatened the lives of judges of the superior court were found guilty of contempt of court by the Supreme Court.

Alistair Tairo Nelson and Godwin Ako Gunn were found guilty of scandalising the apex court and bringing its reputation into disrepute.

Apart from the two, Salifu Maase, alias Mugabe, the host of the programme on which the said comments were made, and the owners of Montie FM, the radio station where the two panelists issued the threats, were also found guilty of contempt of the court.

All the commentators apologised for what happened. They will be sentenced on 27 July.
-0- PANA MA/AR 23July2016

23 july 2016 08:59:51

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