The newly-laid Representation of the People (Parliamentary Constituencies) Instrument 2012 (C.I.78) risks being withdrawn from Parliament for the third time, following the detection of mistakes, omissions and misplacement of some Electoral Areas by the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, The Chronicle can authoritatively report.
The nature of the mistakes and names of the missing Electoral Areas are immediately not known, but the Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, Kwame Osei-Prempeh, in an exclusive interview with the paper, hinted that the mistakes were so grave that they would disenfranchise eligible voters from voting in the 2012 polls.
"I have looked at the new document, C.I.78, and some Electoral Areas are still missing. That means, if passed, those missing Electoral Areas cannot be part of any constituency for the 2012 general elections. When this happens, it means that eligible voters in those missing Electoral Areas are going to be disenfranchised," Mr. Osei-Prempeh asserted.
The Nsuta/Kwamang-Beposo Member of Parliament (MP) opined that the way forward in ensuring that no one was disenfranchised in the coming general elections was for the Electoral Commission (EC), chaired by Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, to withdraw the C.I.78 like it did to the C.I.73, and lay a new document correcting the mistakes and omissions detected.
The C.I.78, which has already spent ten working days in Parliament out of the twenty-one sitting days it needs to automatically mature into an Act and to revoke C.I.46 that created the 230 constituencies and replace it with 275 constituencies, an addition of 45 new parliamentary constituencies.
According to Mr. Osei-Prempeh, what had accounted for the mistakes and omissions of the Electoral Areas was the hasty approach on the part of the EC in creating the forty-five new parliamentary constituencies for the December polls, a situation, he noted, was a bad precedent that Dr. Afari-Gyan was charting.
He said Dr. Afari-Gyan's actions and inactions towards the creation of forty-five new Parliamentary Constituencies for the 2012 general elections was a clear demonstration of the existence of a weak legal department at the Electoral Commission, since the EC boss was lacking proper legal advice.
"What this thing tells us is that the Electoral Commission needs a strong legal department. From what Dr. Afari-Gyan is doing, it means that he is lacking legal advice. He needs a strong legal department so that every step he takes will be based on the law.
"What he is doing clearly shows that he is under pressure from somewhere. In fact, he is wallowing in controversies. Dr. Afari-Gyan must humble himself, listen to advise, and know that as a human being, he is fallible in making mistakes," the Nsuta/Kwamang-Beposo legislator counseled.
Parliament has started an emergency sitting (September 3 to October 2, 2012) to meet the twenty-one sitting days mandated by law for the C.I. 78 to automatically mature into a legal document for use by the EC in the coming general elections.
This became necessary, following the withdrawal of the controversial C.I.73 that was full of mistakes, omissions and misplacement of some Electoral Areas by the Majority Leader, Cletus Apul Avoka, on behalf of the Electoral Commission.
The revised version, which was laid on August 15, 2012, also suffered the same ordeal when it was detected that it was full of mistakes, and had some Electoral Areas missing and misplaced, including some Electoral Areas in the Zebilla Constituency, which has the Majority Leader as its Member of Parliament (MP).
When the members reconvened to consider the revised instrument, they were hit in the face with disappointment, especially those on the minority side, after recognising that the revised C.I.73 had metamorphosed into C.I.77.
This was strongly contested by the minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) members of parliament who insisted that there was no legal basis for the sudden change of name, and, therefore, appealed to the leadership of the House to ensure that the right thing was done.
Their plea was heeded by the Majority Leader, leading to the withdrawal of the document, and eventual laying of C.I. 78, which also risks being thrown out of Parliament for having some errors, omissions and misplacement of some Electoral Areas.
According to Mr. Osei-Prempeh, the Electoral Commission had always discharged its duty diligently by always consulting the Subsidiary Legislation Committee whenever it wanted to lay any instrument for local and national elections in the country before being laid on the floor of the House for consideration.
However, with the new constitutional instrument, that prior consultation was missing.
"Since I became a Member of Parliament, I know that for every instrument that Dr. Afari-Gyan brought to Parliament, he brings it and discusses it with the Subsidiary Legislation Committee to clean it before he lays the instrument. That is what he normally does. Recently, with the C.I. 15, C.I. 75, we discussed it with him before it was laid, but this one (C.I. 78), because of time, he did not even allow the committee to look at it. That is why it came and it had to be withdrawn, because there were so many mistakes in it," Mr. Osei-Prempeh asserted.
He compared the present situation to that of 2004, when the EC created new constituencies one year ahead of the general elections. The Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, therefore, wondered why Dr. Afari-Gyan had allowed himself to be manipulated by the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) when he had a good name to protect.
He said the C.I.78 was based on the L.I.1983 which had its corrected version annulled by the Supreme Court, and so its usage for the 2012 general elections would be an affront to the Constitution.
"The LI 1983, as we speak today, there are 166 Assemblymen in this country who are not assemblymen by law, because the Supreme Court has annulled the law which allowed them to be there. It is on this fraud law that Dr. Afari-Gyan is basing to create new constituencies.
"Even this alone, should tell him that what he is doing has no legal and constitutional backing, and must withdraw and stop the tantrums that he is throwing about," argued Mr. Osei-Prempeh.
He further told The Chronicle that the committee would submit its report to Parliament for consideration, based on the mistakes it had detected, but noted that "the final decision lies on the House, but if we are being fair to ourselves, it means that the same way the CI 73 was withdrawn because of the mistakes, this one may have to go, otherwise it will create problems."
The report, Mr. Osei-Prempeh noted, would be ready sometime this week.
The Deputy Majority Leader in Parliament, Rashid Pelpuo, has noted that unless the entire members of parliament meet and decide otherwise, the claim being made by the Chairman of the Subsidiary Legislation Committee, Mr. Osei Prempeh, that the Constitutional Instrument (CI) 78, which is currently awaiting maturity to become law, is full of mistakes, should be ignored.
Speaking in a telephone interview with The Chronicle yesterday, Rashid Pelpuo, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Wa Central, accused Osei Prempeh of breaching the code of ethics of Parliament by speaking about the CI 78 when the committee had not even met to review it. He contended that whatever opinion Mr. Prempeh had about the new CI was his personal one, and not the collective decision of the entire committee, since they were yet to meet and discuss it.
The former Youth and Sports Minister also noted that after the committee had met and come out with its report, they would have to submit it to the entire House for debate before they would decide whether to reject or accept it.
"What Osei Prempeh is doing is unacceptable and cannot form the basis for any worries. We are waiting for [the] official report, so the thinking or opinion of [an] individual should not be taken serious," he said.
Rashid Pelpuo contended that for now, since no report had come out, it was the considered view of the majority members that proper paper work was done on the CI 78 which was laid on behalf of the Electoral Commission (EC) a couple of days ago.
The passage of the CI 78, which started as CI73 and later metamorphosed into C.I.77, has become a contentious issue between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NCD).
Whilst the former has kicked against the new Constitutional Instrument, which seeks to create an additional 45 seats in Parliament, the latter is supporting it. Again, whilst some churches and civil society groups have supported the argument of the NPP that the time was too short for the new constituencies to be created, and that it could lead to anarchy, some chiefs and other opinion leaders are also supporting it.
The sharp dichotomy between the two leading political parties in the country on the creation of the constituencies, without any platform for compromise, is threatening the peaceful conduct of the elections in December.
The Supreme Court is, however, expected to settle the matter once and for all on Wednesday, when it would rule on the legality or otherwise of the controversial CI.