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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Columnist: Alhaji Alhasan Abdulai

Manageable governance system; Panacea for ‘winner takes all’

We need to applaud the framers of the 4th republican constitution for doing a ‘yeoman’s job’ by steering the nation from autocratic to democratic rule, charting a good course for the nation.

However, the current constitutional arrangement seems to be treading on ‘bumpy roads’ that need sorting out quickly.

The constitution has been undergoing reviews especially under late President John Mills when a major review occurred. Recommendations made in the review have received a government white paper. Since the review is yet to be put before the people and parliament for approval, we need to do something about some portions of it.

The major problem we are grappling with is the ‘winner takes all’ character of the important parts of the constitution that is becoming a matter of concern to most people.

Some personalities that include Dr Papa Kwasi Nduom, leader of Progressive People’s Party have cried out against it.

The latest personality to do so is President John Dramani Mahama. Being a beneficiary, it was surprising to hear him mention it. But he said it as it is. Yes, ‘he who feels it knows it’. Said Bob Marley of blessed memory. He might have barred his mind to help chart a new course for us to guard against ‘abuse of office’ in the future.

The president has experienced leadership at all levels of government in Ghana as Member of Parliament, Deputy Minister, Minister, Vice President and now President.

He, including many other people, have come to realize the extent to which the presidency has been overloaded with state responsibilities. He made the clarion call when he met and feted a number of senior citizens as part of the 53rd anniversary of our republican status in Accra.

He was soliciting help from them to advice on how the nation can swim out of what is considered 'troubled waters'. He is right

SOLUTION

The solution is simple. We need to ‘seize the bull by the horn’ by dismantling the hybrid system of governance that combined the Westminster and Presidential American Governance that has concentrated power in the hands of the president’ making him a king and not a servant of state as expected.

We have had four presidents so far since 1992, and each of them wielded too much power. They were elected to the presidency that has power to choose majority of ministers from parliament, a move that has the tendency to weaken considerably the oversight power of the legislature over the executive arm of government.

The president has to choose all district and municipal chief executives and members of boards of all government establishments. His power to dismiss and reshuffle his appointees cannot be challenged or queried. Governance under this constitution is so centralized that all bills sent to parliament has to emanate from the presidency.

PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM

In contrast, the parliamentary governance provides that leadership of the nation emanates from parliament with a Prime Minister chosen from the majority political party in parliament or parties in coalition.

CEREMONIAL PRESIDENT

The powers of such a leader is shared with a ceremonial president chosen to receive visitors of state, letters of credence, sign bills into laws and review parades during celebrations as done in advanced democracies

The activities of a prime minister would be in constant review in parliament to determine whether he could end his term or be shuffled in a vote of no confidence. Under this arrangement, the prime minister is expected to fight for a seat in parliament like all leaders and members of the opposition.

Therefore, he is himself a member of parliament and only ‘primus inter pares’. All his ministers would be appointed in parliament.

This is the constitutional arrangement suitable for an emerging democracy like Ghana. This was experienced in the first three years of the first republic when Dr Kwame Nkrumah became prime minister with the queen of England as head of state, and the Second Republic with Dr Busia as Prime Minister and late Edward Akufo-Addo as President.

We need to consider going back to this arrangement which we began with on attaining independence in 1957 till 1960 when we changed over to a republican status with an executive presidency. When we do that, all leaders of opposition capable of winning votes can also enter parliament.

Some independent candidates might also win their way to parliament. There would be no credible leader who would remain outside of parliament. They would work together with the ruling class in parliament.

If this arrangement is accepted, all government appointees to districts and municipal assemblies should be elected to office and answer to their ministers and their district assemblies. Members of boards would be chosen by the prime minister in consultation with his or her colleagues in parliament and the council of state.

Therefore, there would be no winner takes all, unlike the current arrangement where power is concentrated in one individual and his close associates operating and exerting power far apart from the people’s representatives.

Executive Director

eanfoworld for sustainable development P.O BOX 17070 PHONE 233 244370345/ 233264370345 /233208844791 eanfoworld@Yahoo.Com/Abdulai.Alhasan@Gmail.Com