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Opinions of Sunday, 22 December 2002

Columnist: Ellison, Kofi

Rejoinder: Executive has kept Parliament weak -CDD

The Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) has put the cart before horse by claiming the Executive has enervated the Legislature because the former has appointed too many MP's to ministerial positions and Directorial positions. That is a misleading assessment, if not outrightly wrong.

Because Ghanaians are used to Presidents who merely destroyed the Legislature, the Legislative branch hardly registers on our political-mental radar. The only time we speak about MPs, is only when we blast them in terms of their conditions of service which we consider extravagant. We remain oblivious to the fact the Executives enjoys much wider benefits!

The Constitution of Ghana mandates the President to appoint a larger part of his cabinet from his party's MP's. The president has done that; perfectly legal. Nor is it illegal to appoint MP's to director-positions on state companies.

The problem we have in our governance, and which the CDD must strive to explain, is that our 1992 Constitution was written with a dictator-president in mind. Hence, real powers to change things are not conferred on the Legislature. The Constitution cannot, for example, be amended without the agreement of the Council of State, a structure that was set up to merely as an appendage to presidential power and as a counter to an effective Legislature. (Under NDC, Council of State members donned NDC party colours and campaigned for the NDC, publicly.)

The CDD cites the IFC Loan fiasco as an example of an ineffectual legislature. I think thats unfair to the Legislature as an institution. From the very beginning of the discussion of the 'loan', the NDC MP's sounded warnings on the possibility of Ghana 'buying a pig in a bag"! The NDC knew better because it had dealt with the Consortium previously, and had concluded (after being rebuffed by the IFC) that the group was quite shady! Of course, the CDD did not join opinions with the NDC to explain to the people that the 'loan' could be fraudulent. And it was!!!

So, parliament did not vacate its role. What happened is that, the majority NPP merely steam-rolled over the objections of the opposition. Perhaps, had the CDD been forthright in its support of the NDC position on the IFC issue, the results would have been different.

A country is governed better under laws that safeguard national interest. When the law (Constitution) is so skewed as to provide the president with the excuse to advance his goals (no matter how controversial), it is the law that we must tackle, first and foremost. We cannot expect people in power to be deferential to our interests, especially when such interests clash with their political survival. In order to change this, we must launch a frontal assault on the Constitution, and demand amendments to the parts that stifle good governance, in so far as it extends the powers of the president excessively.

Lets recall that the world's renowned dictators all ruled according to Constitutions written for them. Ghana could not be indifferent to the possibility of a constitutional dictator. It is my hope that the CDD will use its immense resources to educate the people on the need to amend the Constitution in order to ensure good governance, and true Separation of Powers.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.