Are we voting on November 7?

The Electoral Commission has said it is on course to organise this year’s Presidential and Parliamentary Elections on November 7, 2016 as planned.

However, the constitutional requirements that will enable it to organise, especially the parliamentary elections on November 7, is yet to be consummated with about seven months to the elections.

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

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.

EC on course

Explaining if the commission would be able to meet the timeline as Article 112 (4) was yet to be amended, Ms Georgina Opoku Amankwaa, the EC’s Deputy Chair in charge of Corporate Services, said the commission had done all that it needed to do as of now and it was up to Parliament to do the amendment.

“We are in the process of amending Article 112 (4) and fortunately it is not an entrenched provision in the Constitution so it is going through the process under Article 291,” Ms Amankwaa said at an interaction with the media on Tuesday where the EC launched its new five-year strategic plan, website and new logo.

“So as we speak, we have had an initial engagement with the constitutional and legal committee of Parliament. It has gone to cabinet and it has been approved at that point. The first gazette has been made, we are waiting to pass the second gazette somewhere early next week, and then back to Parliament, back to Council of State before it gets back to Parliament for approval,” she said.

Amendment

Article 291 (1) of the Constitution states that, “A bill to amend a provision of this Constitution which is not an entrenched provision shall not be introduced into Parliament unless –

(a) it has been published twice in the Gazette with the second publication being made at least three months after the first; and

(b) at least 10 days have passed after the second publication.

Section (2) of the same article also states that, “The Speaker shall, after the first reading of the bill in Parliament; refer it to the Council of State for consideration and advice and the Council of State shall render advice on the bill within 30 days after receiving it.

Section (3) also states that where Parliament approves the bill, it may only be presented to the President for his assent if it was approved at the second and third readings of it in Parliament by the votes of at least two thirds of all the members of Parliament.

Section (4) on its part also states “Where the bill has been passed in accordance with this article, the President shall assent to it.”

With all these yet to be fulfilled, there are concerns from the public that time is not on the side of the EC to meet the timeline, especially as Parliament is currently not in session.

Why November 7

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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