TRANSITION FROM THE 7TH PARLIAMENT TO THE 8TH PARLIAMENT UNDER THE 4TH REPUBLIC.
On the midnight of January 6 this year, the seventh parliament of the fourth Republic stood dissolved, paving the way for the inauguration of the 8th Parliament. Under the Speakership of Rev. Prof. Mike Aaron Oquaye, the seventh Parliament could be described as the busiest and most efficient thus far. That Parliament saw the passage of about 125 Bills out of 196 Bills which were introduced into the House. It was the seventh parliament that saw the passage of the Right to Information Law and it was in that same outfit that the first Private Members Bill was passed.
The seventh Parliament was however not without controversies and scandals. The minority under the leadership of Tamale South MP, Haruna Iddrisu staged walkouts on a number of occasions, notably during the approval of the US defence agreement with Ghana as well as the Agyapa mineral royalties deal. Undoubtedly, the ruling NPP had a field day in Parliament having a comfortable majority of 169 seats as against the NDC’s 106. It was not surprising therefore that the NPP could afford calling on the Speaker to declare the Fomena seat vacant, after its occupant, Andrews Amoako Asiamah decided to contest the impending election as an independent candidate.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, the government cannot have that jolly ride in this 8th Parliament as both parties have equal number of seats, 137 each. The events of Wednesday 6th January night stretching into the morning of 7th January are clear signals of what awaits the nation in the next four years so far as our parliamentary democracy is concerned. The election of the veteran lawmaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin from the opposition NDC as Speaker of the 8th Parliament is a great hallmark for Ghana’s democracy.
However, that beautiful story was marred by the ugly incidents during the process. The soldiers who invaded the chamber and those who gave them the order must be fished out and dealt with. The incident in Parliament is a clear indication of how the just-ended election was executed and how the victories were procured. In any case, the ability and sheer determination of the NDC MPs to stand their ground and withstand every intimidation and machinations is worth commending. It will be unfair and unjust to condemn those NDC MPs who disrupted the voting process because what they did was in defence of the constitution and the country’s fledgling democracy so as to ensure the sanctity and integrity of the election.
One wonders why in clear contravention of the constitution and the standing orders of parliament, the NPP side wanted its members to show whom they were voting for when it was supposed to be secret balloting. Lawmakers should not be seen to be encouraging this open and flagrant violation of the law. Even though the independent MP for Fomena had given indications of his intention to sit with the NPP side, as things stand, neither the NPP nor the NDC can appropriately describe themselves as the Majority in Parliament. With the NPP forming the executive, the onus lies on them to reach out to their NDC opponents in the House.
Unlike previously, the administration cannot secure any parliamentary approval without the consent of the opposition. Consensus building is no longer an option but the only way. With equal number of seats, it will not be surprising if the NDC demands equal number of representation on committees and also chairmanship of them apart from the traditional ones reserved for the opposition/minority which are Public Accounts and Subsidiary Legislation. With the new composition of Parliament, it is very likely a president’s nominee for any kind of appointments be it as a minister or deputy or judge could be rejected after vetting. Same way even a budget or a loan could also be rejected. From the look of things, the 8th Parliament promises to be a very strong one, unlike previous ones which were more or less appendages to the Executive where the government always had its way irrespective of protests from the minority and even Civil Society Organisations.
However, the current parliamentary configuration should not make opposition MPs needlessly obstructive. They should eschew all trivialities and cooperate with the government when need be, bearing in mind that the country cannot be at a standstill. In line with the constitution, the President will be required to appoint majority of his ministers from Parliament, this will further weaken the numerical strength of the NPP in the House and put the NDC in the majority most of the time as MP ministers will be mostly outside parliament performing their ministerial functions. The success or otherwise of this Parliament will go a long way to strengthen the argument for the amendment of the provisions in the constitution which oblige the president to appoint majority of his ministers from Parliament.
In all of these, the Ghanaian people will count on the Right Honorable Speaker, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin to be a fair arbiter and steer the affairs of House well so that at the end of the day, the 8th Parliament can go down in history as the most effective.
BY: BUBU KLINOGO, GBC PARLIAMENTARY CORRESPONDENT.