4 July 2012

Ghana: These By-Elections Are Not Necessary

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, says his outfit will organise a by-election on July 31, 2012, in the Wulensi Constituency in the Northern Region, to find a replacement for Alhaji Sanni Iddi, who has joined his ancestors.

The Commission has also served notice that it intends to organise another by-election in the Kwabre West Constituency in the Ashanti Region, to replace the late Mr. Emmanuel Asamoah Owusu-Ansah, who died in Accra last week.

With barely five months to the next presidential and parliamentary elections on December 7, 2012, many have expressed the feelings that the two by-elections are a waste of time and a drain on the various political parties in the country, which would want to contest the by-elections, and a drain on national resources.

In defence of its stand, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission has referred to a clause in the 1992 Constitution, which stipulates that any loss of representation in the House of Parliament ought to be replaced through a by-election, and that it is only when the loss occurred, three months or less to general elections, before a by-election could be avoided.

Article 112(5) states: "Whenever a vacancy occurs in Parliament, the Clerk of Parliament shall notify the Electoral Commission in writing within seven days after the vacancy occurred, and a by-election shall be held within thirty days after the vacancy occurred."

Subsection (6) states: "Notwithstanding clause 5 of this article, a by-election shall not be held within three months, before the holding of a general election."

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission is arguing that by these two clauses in the 1992 Constitution, his hands are tied. There is nothing that he could do, other than to organise these two by-elections. The laws, he says, should be obeyed.

According to Dr. Afari-Gyan, the commission is forced to use the old voters register, because the commission has not finished compiling the new biometric register. From the floor of Parliament, the argument is that it would be illegal to use the old register, because the moment Parliament voted to approve the use of the new biometric register, the old manual register ceased to be valid for any exercise.

In other words, the Electoral Commission would have to resort to an illegality to respect the law on by-elections. At the end of the day, laws are made for man, and not man for the law. We are told that after new members of parliament are elected, both MPs would both be in the House for barely three weeks before Parliament rises for the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Chronicle is ill at ease with the recalcitrant stance of Kwadwo Afari-Gyan and his Electoral Commission. It does not make for much sense to waste a considerable sum from scarce state resources to contest the two by-elections, whose outcome would not impact positively on Parliament.

We sympathise with the Electoral Commission on its resolve to respect the laws of the land. We note too that by using the old voters register, the Electoral Commission would be performing an illegality. The old voters register and its voters' cards have been proscribed by Parliament.

We fear that long after the two by-elections have been conducted, someone could go to court to seek a declaration that the EC was involved in an illegality, by employing a register and voters cards which had been proscribed.

We would like to believe that this whole matter could be resolved by an Inter-Party Committee meeting. These two by-elections are unnecessary. The EC should spare us the time and expenditure on them.

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