Four political parties have kicked against the complete overhaul of the 1992 Constitution which has served the country for over three decades.
While the Convention People’s Party (CPP) is of the view that the Constitution has outlived its purpose and needs to be reviewed extensively, the two main political parties — the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), as well as the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) and the People's National Convention (PNC) — are of the view that the Constitution had served the Fourth Republic well with successful transfers of power and must be maintained, with only a few amendments.
The parties shared their views at the latest Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) seminar on constitutional review in Accra last Wednesday.
The seminar was part of the IEA's project on reviewing Ghana's 1992 Constitution to promote good governance and sustainable development in the country.
It was chaired by a former Chief Justice, Justice Sophia Akuffo.
A former National Chairman of the NPP, Peter Mac Manu, explained that the amendment should be centred on specific provisions.
For instance, he said, after 30 years of governance under the democratic regime, the Constitution must be amended to allow for the full participation of political parties in the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs).
He said since the Constitution engendered democracy and political tolerance, it was apt for persons to use political parties’ platform to campaign for elections and be sponsored in local level elections.
He cited the district level elections held in the 774 districts in Nigeria, stressing:
“The Constitution must offer a platform to persons to campaign on a political platform.
If we proffer to be democratic, we must demonstrate that not only at the national level but the grass-roots level as well.”
On affirmative action, Mr Mac Manu said in order to ensure gender balance in appointments, the Constitution must make provision for a quota to be reserved for minority groups and women.
On Article 112 (5) of the 1992 Constitution, which states that a bye-election shall be held within 30 days after a vacancy occurs in Parliament, the former NPP Chairman said that provision should be amended to allow the parties to present someone to fill the vacant position in Parliament to save the state money that would be used to organise a bye-election.
Speaking on behalf of the NDC, its National Communications Officer, Sammy Gyamfi, said the party shared in the call for constitutional amendment, but the lack of consensus among the major stakeholders and political parties had hindered a review the Constitution.
He intimated that as a sign of the NDC being agreeable to a review, the late Professor John Evans Atta Mills set up a constitutional review committee to kickstart the process, which saw a white paper being issued on the review.
However, the white paper had not been implemented, he said.
“Any conversation will be meaningless unless it is linked to the consensus among political parties to endure the review of the Constitution,” he said.
He mentioned 10 areas contained in the white paper developed under the NDC regime.
He argued that ex gratia must be abolished, saying an independent emolument committee should be formed for all public officers, including the President.
The President, he said, must also be mandated by the Constitution to reserve a minimum of 30 per cent appointments for females.
He disagreed with the NPP’s position that people should be allowed to campaign on the ticket of political parties at the local governance level, adding that it would be expensive and many competent people would be left out.
Other proposals included a cap on the number of Supreme Court judges at 15, making it mandatory for the President to uphold a vote of censure against a public officer in Parliament and scrapping of secret balloting by Parliament on national issues.
For the PPP, its National Secretary, Remy Edmundson, called for consensus building to amend the Constitution to help propel the country’s development.
He also disagreed with the NPP’s position on the election of MMDCEs.
He called for the prohibition of MPs becoming ministers, separating the Attorney-General’s Office from the Ministry of Justice, an effective asset declaration regime and giving Ghanaians in the Diaspora the opportunity to contest and vote in general elections.
The General Secretary of the PNC, Janet Nabla, said the Constitution must be amended to ensure the formulation of pro-poor policies for the vulnerable in society.
The party, she said, also held the view that ex-gratia must be scrapped, while the election of MMDCEs must not be done based on party colours.
She added that the Constitution must state clearly that governments must be lean, meaning that the positions of regional ministers and their deputies must be scrapped.
That, she said, would ensure that substantive ministers were held accountable for their respective ministries.
For the CPP, which called for a complete overhaul of the 1992 Constitution, its General Secretary, Nana Yaa Jantuah, said the Constitution, in its current form, had lost its fulcrum and must be changed to reflect contemporary times.
She said the powers vested in the President under the current Constitution were too many, saying there was so much interference by the Executive in public and independent offices.
To her, the appointment of the Inspector General of Police, the Chief of the Defence Staff and others must be done though advertisements, with parliamentary vetting of such officers for approval.
She added that minsters of state must also be capped at 40.
She noted that tax exemption for Presidents must also be scrapped, while systems must be empowered to protect women abused at workplaces.
Nana Jantuah advocated the need for the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC) to work with political parties to ensure that the country’s development plan was implemented by successive governments.
A politician who contested as an independent presidential candidate in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Jacob Osei Yeboah, called for a strong asset declaration regime.
He underscored the need for law makers to be non-partisan to ensure they were not doing the bidding of their political parties but that of their constituents who elected them into office.