Major constitutional crisis? No Majority Caucus in Parliament!

Contrary to reports emanating from a section of MPs, mainly from the NPP side group, there is no majority Caucus in Parliament, this writer can state on authority.

With the imminent crisis circling within the precinct and floor of Parliament, the House Speaker on Tuesday, January 12th met with the leadership of the House to resolve mainly, the sitting arrangement of the two main political parties in Parliament.

The sitting would determine which of the two parties would be referred to as majority, a tag description that has thrown the House into commotion since its inauguration on January 7th, 2021.

However, many constitutional experts have explained that the resolution was more of a symbolic gesture backed by the House standing orders. The decision by the independent candidate, Amoako Asiamah to do business with the NPP, which decision compels him to sit with the NPP, according to the leader of the NDC caucus, Haruna Iddrisu, does not add up to the numbers of the NPP in Parliament.

The Fomena MP represents independent-minded constituents who voted for him to represent their interest in Parliament. So the decision by the Fomena MP to align himself with the NPP is only in line with a stated conventional practice developed by the 4th Republican Parliament since its inception in 1992.

Therefore, on the count of their membership representation in Parliament, the NPP hold 137, same as NDC’s 137. So strictly speaking, the deadlock still stands.

Relying on Standing Orders

MPs from both sides of the isle have admitted that the decision by the Fomena MP to sit with the NPP caucus does not make the NPP the majority group in Parliament.

The NPP’s stake-call is therefore premised on a Parliamentary Standing Order that states that in event of a stalemate like the current deadlock, the MPs belonging to the ruling government party will form the majority in Parliament.

The order even state that in event where MPs of the governing party are in the minority, they will still be considered as the Majority group in Parliament with the reason being that the Government Business is always presented by the leader of the Governing Party in Parliament.

In event of the opposition party forming the majority in Parliament, the majority leader is bound by Parliament’s Standing Orders to present or lay Government’s Business on the floor of the Chamber.

By extension, such a Majority Leader, if picked from a majority party in Parliament, but belongs to an opposition party, is expected to be part of a Cabinet that is headed by an opposition President; and expected to attend and be part of Cabinet meetings and decisions. How can that work? This is exactly the position of Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, the leader of the NPP group in Parliament when he addressed the issue with the media yesterday.

Defects in Constitution & Standing Orders

But how can a clear majority group in Parliament pretend to be minority because they belong to an opposition party? Clearly it confirms that popular belief that our 4th Republic was faulty at birth.

 

The Standing Orders were adopted by a one-sided Parliament, particularly in 1993, when the NDC had absolute control in the House. That was the time a party in the Progressive Alliance—the National Convention Party (NCP) put up a cosmetic representation as the minority in Parliament.

The NPP boycotted the parliamentary elections, claiming that the presidential election which preceded the parliamentary was flawed by massive thievery, rigging and other acts of irregularities.

It’s significant to note that the NDC, NCP and the EGLE party constituted the Progressive Alliance that put up one candidate for the 1992 presidential election; but went their independent ways in the parliamentary elections.

The three parties adopted Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings as their presidential candidate who eventually won that year’s election; while the NCP had 7 MPs and the EGLE one (1).

Matters did not improve that much in 1996 because the NDC still enjoyed overwhelming majority in Parliament.

 

It’s the belief of many political watchers that these loop-sided orders that seem to benefit the President and the executive more than Parliament were not dealt with when the NPP assumed the majority position in Parliament.

And the reason is simple: They also used it to the advantage of the sitting President and his executive or cabinet. All sides of the House know of such inherent defects in the Standing Orders, yet pretend all is well in the belief that each has the benefit of enjoying from such flaws in event they come into power.

The problem with our Parliament is the adopted hybrid system, where there is no clear cut distinction on whether the country is practicing an absolute Presidential or the Westminster type or system of government.

Historical precedent

In 1979, Ghana had a strict Presidential system of government where Parliament operated exclusively out of the executive. If a member of Parliament should catch the attention of the President for any executive appointment, that MP would have to resign his/her seat in Parliament.

A classic case was Mr. Harry Sawyer, who went to Parliament as the MP for Kpeshie; but had to relinquish his seat when President Limann picked him as the Minister of Transport.

The Majority leader at the time, C.C. Fitih, had nothing to do with the executive and remained the leader of the majority People’s National Party (PNP) MPs; with the mandate of carrying through the mandate of the governing party.

Today, Americans are using numbers of party representatives to determine which side of the Congress/Senate (their Parliament) is in majority. Presidents Obama and Trumps had to, at a point in their administrations, deal with opposition Congress, which leadership reflected their majority status in the House.

How did the Americans do that? Despite her problems, America still remains the beacon of global democracy and it’s about time we stayed to such tenets or decide something else as a country.

 

 

 

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