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Opinions of Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Columnist: Papran, Ben

Controversy Over the Creation OF 45 New Constituencies

Dr. Afari Gyan, The Electoral Commissioner of Ghana, for now appears to be wining the battle over the creation of 45 new constituencies. However, the controversy is far from over as he still has to battle it over at the supreme court and the possibility of new court cases against him are still real.
In this write up, a close look is taken at the developments leading to the mature of the CI 78 establishes these additional 45 constituencies and matter arising thereafter.

To start with, the EC, with the completion of the 2010 census of Ghana, gave an indication that it was going to carry out its constitutional mandate of reviewing the division of the country into 230 constituencies. There is the need to clarify here that a review does not necessary mean addition or creation of new constituencies. It could lead to new demarcation of the boundaries that might either increase or decrease the number of constituencies. It is also possible that the number of existing constituencies might not change, that is, remain the same as it was before the review. All this will depend on various factors, paramount of which are the population quota and of course the affordability or its economical viability to the country. All this not withstanding, Afari Gyan from the onset made it clear that he was going to increase the number of constituencies.
The exact number of new constituencies to be added was not told by the EC as they had to wait for the release of the final census results as constitutionally required. It was not until somewhere in May this year that Ghana Statiscal Service eventually released an interim final result of the 2010 census, that allowed Afari Gyan and co. to start their work. Only God knows why it took the country's statistical service close to two year to come out with the final result of a population census beats the weirdest imagination. (One wonders how the office of the statistical service manages to come out with periodical inflation figures. When they find it so difficult to count even human beings how much more the amount of money in circulation). Somehow, by mere coincidence or providence, the Ministry of Local Government managed to establish some new additional districts before the release of the final census figures.
Somewhere in the first half of September, the electoral commissioner, Dr. Afari Gyan, in GTV TV talk show revealed that with the establishment of the 42 or so new districts, he had no choice but to create as many new constituencies as to allow each new district to have an MP as a member of its district assembly.
It is the understanding of this writer that the constitutional provisions for the review of existing constituencies does not require the EC to create a new constituencies for each new district established by the ministry of local government. It was even more ridiculous to hear Afari Gyan ask during the said TV programme:
'What will be the loot of the new district asemblies if elections are not held in the 45 new constituencies this December? Will they be doing business without MPs?”
The counter question to Afari Gyan is: “What is happening to them now? Aren't they doing business without the Mps?”

Article 47.(1)-(7) of the 1992 constitution provides for the the establishment of constituencies and it is on the strength of is provision that our learned Dr. Afari Gyan is threading. It states:

47(1) Ghana shall be divided into as many constituencies for the purpose of election of members of parliament as the Electoral Commission may prescribe, and each constituency shall be represented by one member of Parliament.

(2) No constituency shall fall within more than one region.

(3) The boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota.

(4) For the purposes of clause (3) of this article, the number of inhabitants of a constituency may be greater or less than the population quota in order to take account of means of communication, geographical features, density of population and area and boundaries of the regions and other administrative or traditional areas.

(5) The Electoral Commission shall review the division of Ghana into constituencies at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of the enumeration figures after the holding of a census of the population of Ghana, whichever is earlier, and may, as a result, alter the constituencies.

(6) Where the boundaries of a constituency established under this article are altered as a result of a review, the alteration shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of Parliament.

(7) For the purposes of this article, "population quota" means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Ghana by the number of constituencies into which Ghana is divided under this article.
From the above, it is clear that:

1.The EC has the mandate to review the existing constituencies and not necessarily to create new constituencies as Afari Gyan would want us to believe.

2.In case new constituencies are created as a result of the review, the new constituencies cannot come into effect before the dissolution of the current parliament

3.Creation of new districts is not a condition for the creation of new constituencies.

The EC in all these appears to be forcing it down the throat of Ghanaians what it alone believes is the proper thing to be done. Why is Gyan insisting on holding elections in his newly created constituencies now where the constitution says that these newly created constituencies shall come into effect upon the dissolution of parliament. It is possible legally to use something officially when the thing has not yet come into effect by law? Maybe the EC intends to dissolve parliament before December 7 or Afari Gyan might be having a completely different interpretation of article 47(6) of the 1992 constitution. In that case he must be prepared to fight more battles at the supreme court.
Morover, Afari Gyan's refusal to bow down for common sense to prevail with regard to the time factor is getting many a Ghanaian nervous. Any sensible person will agree that there is too little time at hand, given the fact that it was only on the 2 or 3 of October that the CI78 matured. By Afrri's own statement in parliament on the 30th of August, the EC was not going to hold elections in these newly created constituencies if the CI78 did not mature latest by the 30th of September. Is he not man enough to keep his words?

All well meaning Ghanaians, from the clergy to farmers through civil organisations, seem to be in resonance with the fact that the time is too short for smooth elections to be held in these new constituencies. Does the EC think that it is the only stakeholder in the process? Afari Gyan got to listen to the rest of Ghanaians. He must get is that the cherished democratic dispensation in Ghana is no fluke. Ghana is practising real democracy that is the envy of the whole of Africa and even beyond. Can't Th EC see that he will be infringing on the democratic right of fairness and freedom of choice of of the people by forcing parties to within a period of two weeks (from October 3 to October 17), to get party structures in place and go thru the process of selecting a candidate to contest the election on their tickets? How can such a process be done in a democratic manner within such time period? Not too long ago, the EC on its own realised the need and gave parties at least 3 months to prepare for a bye election, when a seat becomes vacant. Today, Afari Gyan is telling as that less than a month is ok for parties to establish party structures in constituencies and go ahead to elect parliamentary candidates within that same time period. HE MUST BE JOKING. Ghana demands real democratic practices and efficiency, not this kind of Gyan type of democracy and gross inefficiency that the EC has been displaying of late. It was not even able to organise ordinary local elections in the country and we are all witnesses to how his electoral instrument establishing the 45 new constituencies had to be thrown out on several occasions because of shoddy work. He should thank the rubber stamp majority for coming into his aid on the third time.

Finally, one would like to know where Afari Gyan intends to get the money from to fund this very expensive venture that he is so bent on undertaking. Is the money coming from his own private pocket or that of his father's? Can't he get it that the poor Ghana taxpayers are already over burdened? Ghanaians have started thinking big, like providing free SHS education for young boys and girls. There is no money to be wasted on such unnecessary projects like this any longer.

It is abundantly clear from the above expose that Afari Gyan and his electoral commission are on a very diabolical adventure, for whatever reasons left to them alone. It was in the same vein and spirit that he fought to carry out biometric voters registration without verification. He eventually had to give in only when he felt the heat from the general Ghanaian populace.

This writer would like to call for more pressure to be put on the EC from the opposition political parties, the clergy, workers and trade unions and other civil societies to stop Afari Gyan from carrying out this unhealthy plan. Afari can no longer be trusted. The parties and other stakeholders must be very vigilant, otherwise a stolen verdict will be given after December 7. In this wise, all must take the call from Ex- President Rawlings, at the just ended NDP delegates congress, for VIGILANCE very serious. Jerry John knows well what he is saying.