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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Columnist: Baafi, Alex Bossman

Has The President Committed a Constitutional Coup D'tat?

By Alex Bossman Baafi

President Mills was reported to have said that he would hand over power peacefully in 2017. He said this when addressing the 3rd General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Ho, the Volta Regional Capital on Thursday, August 18 this year. It is notoriously difficult if not impossible to read the president’s mind. This as a result has led to many interpretations of the president’s pronouncement at the capital of his party’s “World Bank”.

Politicians and many well-meaning people are struggling to find the true meaning of the president’s statement in their quest to understand better the political dynamics of this country.

The supreme law of the land, the 1992 Constitution has prescribed a 4-year term of office for a sitting president. After these 4 years, the president has the opportunity to seek the mandate of the electorates for another 4 years. The president therefore has but a maximum of 8 years after which he cannot seek that office again for life in this country. My nonprofessional understanding of the constitution is that once elected by the electorate, the president is entitled to a mandated 4-year term in office. If issues go credibly well, he/she could be given the second 4-year term chance making a maximum of 8 years. It makes sense that though an 8-year term is possible, it is not automatic. The president has to merit it or he/she should contend with one-term presidency.

In view of the constitution, for any president to assume or say that once elected he/she is in for 8 years is an unacceptably grave misstate. Any attempt to actualize such a thought without recourse to the approval of the electorate though the ballot box after the first 4 years will tantamount to committing constitutional coup d’état in this country in my point of view.

President Mills is getting to the end of his first 4 years term and is boasting of his confidence of winning the trust of the people to renew his mandate to go for the maximum of 8 years that would end in 2016. He is entitled to his opinion and should not be chastised for that.

Probably the observation made by the president was informed by the political trend of the country. Since 1992 the country has produced two former presidents, Rawlings (1992 – 2000) and Kuffour (2001 – 2008) who had the “Grace and Mercy” of the people to continue after their 4 years each to enjoy full maximum terms undisturbed so why not president Mills this time. Many would be hugely amazed if the president believes in such logic.

Whilst many observers are struggling to come to terms of the pronouncement, critics of the president think it was too early for the president to make such a profound statement that could mean so many things in politics. They of the view that such emphatic conclusion means the president has arrogate to himself the electoral prerogatives of the good people of this country and could be abuse of incumbency. It could be an attempt to commit a constitutional coup d’état. He portrayed that the outcome of the impending 2012 general elections is a foregone conclusion and therefore he is on his way through to 2017. I do not think the president has anything fishy under his sleeves. Perhaps he was convinced that his Better Ghana dispensation is on course. If the vast majority in the country is feeling better then of course it will propel the president towards his 2017 dreamland. That is possible. Other people from the other side of the political divide believe that the president was merely diverting attention from core issues of concern confronting the good people of this country.

Whatever be the case, I personally believe that the president has to redouble his efforts for his dream to come true because he has a huge deficit of unfulfilled promises to retire. These include bringing armed robbery under control, getting our cities rid of filth; reducing taxes, reducing utility tariffs, make available constant supply of LPG and kerosene. The President should work hard to reduce unemployment and curb corruption in his government. He should not forget issues that motivated the former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, to mount her leadership challenge in the party. In the midst of the economic hardship facing many in this country, the president is not providing an inspiring leadership. Weak leadership from the president has enabled the party foot soldiers to take the law into their own hands with impunity. The president has failed to be a unifier in both his party and the nation so far and time indeed is running out for him.

These and many issues will undoubtedly influence the decisions of the voters. If the president is able to deliver most within the next 16 months of his remaining 4-year term in office, he may be giving the green light to meet his self-imposed deadline by the people. Otherwise any attempt to temper with the electoral system or the constitution or both, just to realize the 2017 peaceful handover dream will constitute a constitutional coup d’état and will be fiercely resisted by the good people of the country. Best wishes Mr. President.

Email: abkbossman@yahoo.co.uk