There is an old adage that says: “When a frog comes from under the water to tell you the crocodile’s mother is dead, you don’t challenge it”.  What that means is that you do not go verifying issues when you have hard evidence. That is a case one can liken to the description given to the Ghana’s Parliament by the Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, that the third arm of government is weak.

Many people hold the notion that Ghana’s Parliament is the weakest of the three arms of government which include the Executive and the Judiciary. Fortunately, or unfortunately, this long held notion was collaborated by no other mean person than the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and the Majority Leader of the House, Mr. Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, on the 12th July, 2017 on the floor of Parliament.

And if this is the case, what does it mean for our democratic governance and what needs to be done going forward?

According to Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu the practice where bills and promulgation of laws are initiated by the Executive has not helped matters. According to him, the introduction of Private Amendment Bill was long overdue.

The Private Amendment Bill when it becomes operational like it exists in other jurisdictions will enable Members of Parliament (MPs) to initiate their own bills and promulgate new laws. This is one of the many ways which will make parliament effective and stronger.

Currently, bills are initiated by the Executive but Parliament goes through its procedures which look more of a ‘Proofreading’ kind of thing. For instance, Parliament on Tuesday, 11, July, 2017 sat for less 30 minutes because the ministers who were scheduled to  present papers on the floor failed to appear before the House.

Another thing that keeps weakening t Parliament is the selection of ministers from the August House. Article 78 (1) of the 1992 Republican Constitution mandates the President to nominate majority of his ministers from parliament.

Again, the issue of high attrition rate in Ghana’s Parliament is also a major contributor, since most MPs do not go past four years (one term). For example, the 7th Parliament has 182 new entrants (first timers) in the 275-member chamber. Of the 93 continuing members, not many can be described as “old hands”. This, coupled with other challenges, weaken the strength of the Legislature further.

Ghana’s parliament is gaining ‘notoriety’ for being the only place where members, no matter how revered one may be in the area of parliamentary work, is regularly choked out callously. The membership of the House seems to get renewed comprehensively at every four years.

When this current democratic dispensation (Fourth Republic) started some 24 years ago, from January, 7, 1993, the major opposition party then the New Patriotic Party (NPP) which won the 2000 and 2004 elections and currently the ruling party boycotted the first parliamentary elections that ushered in the Fourth Republic.

For instance, the first batch of 61 elected members of NPP who entered parliament in 1997, there is only one left in the 7th parliament and he is the person of Mr Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu.

On the part of the current opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), the situation is worse. For example, out of the 189 members who entered the Legislative House in January 1993, only one has survived till today, and he is the person of Mr. Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, MP for Nadowli West constituency, in the Upper West Region.

The NDC in the 2016 general elections lost 80 seats. Mr Bagbin due to his experience and in-depth knowledge in parliamentary issues was elected to the position of Second Deputy Speaker.

The high attrition rate has affected Parliament in so many ways that currently there are second term MPs who are occupying some high positions which obviously should have been occupied by at least a third term or a fourth term members.

The Minority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak, attributed his assertion to the extreme partisanship exhibited by both sides in Ghana’s Parliament.

It’s partisan because members gain entry into the House on party lines through elections and always carry their party’s interests ahead of that of the nation.

“We have a very huge responsibility as a country to be able to grow our democracy beyond elections”, the MP for Asawase Constituency in the Ashanti Region opined.

He noted during an interview that he was not surprised when the Ghanaian parliament was ranked second to none in Africa by a research published in 2015 because “there is too much partisanship in parliament.”

According to him, the protectionism being exhibited in parliament was dangerous to the nation’s democracy.

For our democracy to thrive, steps must urgently be taken to amend some portions of the 1992 Constitution to meet modern trends.  Also the powers that be should devise a way to maintain some experience hands in the House.

It is incumbent on legislators from both sides of the House to be nationalistic in their attitude and dealings for the country’s law-making chamber to be strong as well as meeting international standard.

Source: Franklin Asare-Donkoh