Strengthen democracy by allowing Members of Parliament to retain their seats even when they cross carpet Another way in which the 1992 Constitution undermines constitutionalism according to Prof. Gyampo, is in the area of MPs cross-carpeting. Prof Gyampo He indicated that article 97 (1) (g) provides that “a member of parliament shall vacate his seat in parliament if he leaves the party of which he was a member at the time of his election to parliament to join another party or seeks to remain in parliament as an independent member.” This provision according to the presenter, was to deal with the mischievous situation under the First Republic (1960-1966) when President Nkrumah lured MPs to cross-carpet to his party and gave them appointments while those who resisted were detained (Awoonor, 1990). The problem with the above constitutional provision according to the presenter is that, it expressly forbids MPs to behave independently on the floor of parliament and to vote according to their conscience.
Speaking on the topic “Challenges Identified in Operating the 1992 Constitution,” Prof. Samuel O. Gyandoh of the Temple University in Philadelphia, USA, described a constitution as a living organism that must grow with the times and like human conditions there was more room for improvement.
“We can adapt the constitution to changing times by timely amendments and judicial interpretations,” he said.
Prof. Gyandoh said compared with the previous constitutions of Ghana, the 1992 Constitution was unique in terms of the structure of government machinery that it has created.
He mentioned the Independence Constitution of 1957, First Republican Constitution of 1960, the Second Republican Constitution of 1969, and the Third Republican Constitution of 1979 as constitutions that preceded the 1992 Constitution.
Prof. Gyandoh noted that the 1979 constitution separated the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, and provided a flexible system of checks and balances.
He said the 1979 Constitution, however, abandoned the “unstable cabinet system of government under which the idea of ministerial responsibility to parliament was subjected to national election.”
Comparing the 1992 Constitution with the 1979 Constitution in terms of Executive Presidency and Parliamentary Governance, Prof.
Gyandoh noted that while the 1979 Constitution required a Member of Parliament nominated for ministerial appointment by the President to resign from Parliament, the 1992 Constitution provided that the majority of ministers of state should be appointed from Parliament.
“This unnecessarily weakens Parliament while correspondingly creating what looks like an imperial Presidency,” he lamented.
Prof. Gyandoh said the provision had skewed the architecture of the Constitution but he expressed the hope that it could be easily corrected by restoring balance and proportions to the 1992 Constitution.
He suggested that “We can simply remove Article 78(1) from the Constitution and then take care of any consequential refinement of the text to conform to the excision”.
Prof Gyandoh said what “we do not need as a country is another Constitutional Commission, Constitutional Assembly or Committee of Experts to draw up new Constitution for a future Fifth Republic of Ghana”.
He said it was not proper for any group of people to claim to have reached the pinnacle of political wisdom to dictate to generations yet unborn.
Speaking on the theme, “Constitutional Review in Ghana”, he said there was always room for improvement of the human condition, and was optimistic that a review of relevant portions of the 1992 Constitution would deepen the country’s democratisation process.
He also touched on some discrepancies bordering on dual citizenship — article 8 and 9 (5) and indemnity — Act 527, 1996, which he said, had raised unresolved problems of legitimacy for the nation.
On dual citizenship, Prof Gyandoh said citizenship laws should be inclusive and not exclusive, as in a situation where a person with dual citizenship could be a Minister and Member of Parliament but not Secretary to the Cabinet, or Ambassador or Chief of Defence Staff, Inspector-General of Police, Commissioner of Customs, Excise and Preventive Service or the Director of the Immigration Service.
On indemnity, he said the 1992 Constitution should take into account the fact that the era of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) rule was a military rule in order to preserve the spirit and enduring values enshrined in the Constitution.
3.0 THE SCOPE AND IMPORT OF ARTICLE 97(1)(g) OF THE 1992 CONSTITUTION OF GHANA
Article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution, 1992 provides thus:
A member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament:
… (g) if he leaves the party of which he was a member at the time of his election to Parliament to join another party or seeks to remain in Parliament as an independent member.
Having reproduced in full length the provisions of article 97(1)(g) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, I shall attempt to delve into its scope, meaning and purpose, and the circumstances under which it may be invoked.
To begin with, the determination of the scope and import of the afore-stated provision would demand a true and proper interpretation of same.
It is important to note that there are no hard and fixed rules to the interpretation of a national constitution, like ours, the 1992 Constitution. The various cannons of interpretations that have evolved over the years are not binding on the courts. Any method of interpretation which would give effect to the intent of the framers of the constitution, without leaving room for manifest absurdity would suffice.
In tandem with the above, Lord Reid said in Maunsell v Olins 1 All ER 16 at 18, HL, in relation to the rules of interpretation thus: “They are not rules in the ordinary sense of having some binding force. They are our servants, not our masters. They are aids to construction: presumptions or pointers. Not infrequently one “rule” points in one direction, another in a different direction. In each case we must look at all relevant circumstances and decide as a matter of judgment what weight to be attached to any particular ‘rule’.”
Same view was held by Date-Bah JSC in Asare v. Attorney General, WRIT NO. 3/2002) 28 JAN 2004, where he opined that the rules of interpretation are not the ratio decidendi of a case, but they are mainly aids and or guides in deciphering the meaning of words they are required to interpret.
Accordingly, as a general rule, in interpreting constitutional language, one should ordinarily start with a consideration of what appears to be the plain and literal meaning of the provision. Where the provision is plain and unambiguous, and the application of its plain and ordinary meaning would give effect to the intent of the framers of the constitution, then, that meaning must be used. This was espoused in the case of Agyei Twum v. Attorney General [2005-2006] SCGLR 732 at 757, per Date-Bah JSC
In the case of Tuffour v. Attorney General  GLR 637 at 659-660, the court speaking through the famous Sowah JSC stated thus: “Our first duty is to take the words as they stand and give them their true construction having regard to the language of the provisions of the constitution, always preferring the natural meaning of the words involved, but nonetheless giving the words their appropriate construction according to the context.”
In a similar vein, Wood C.J in Republic v. Fast Track Court, Accra Ex parte CHRAJ (Richard Anane, Interested Party) CIVIL MOTION NO. J5/10/2007 opined thus: “In my respectful view, in any constitutional interpretative dispute, involving the use of ordinary words or expressions, where no technical words or expressions of art have been employed, and where the Constitution is completely silent on the meaning to be assigned to those words or expressions, the first rule that should be invoked is the ordinary or plain meaning rule. Legitimate questions that must necessarily follow its application include the following: does it-the ordinary meaning- advance or defeat the purpose of the legislation or does it lead to a result at variance with the main purpose of the provision, or to some unjust, scandalous, incongruous, absurd, strange or extraordinary results.”
REPORT THIS AD
In light of the above extrapolations, it is my considered view that on a careful perusal of article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution, 1992, two situations, which are far from coextensive were contemplated by the framers of the constitution 1992. These situations are:
- A member of parliament shall vacate his seat in parliament if he leaves the party on which he was elected to parliament to join another party whilst in parliament.
- A member of parliament shall vacate his seat in parliament, if he was elected to parliament on the ticket of a particular party, but on going to parliament, that member seeks to remain in parliament as an independent candidate.
The two situations as already indicated are not coextensive, and each would apply based on the peculiar facts of each case. I deem it fit to at this point to delve properly into the interpretation I have placed on article 97(1)(g) of the 1992 Constitution. Accordingly, each situation would be separately delved into to determine its scope purpose and the circumstances under which it may apply.
Let me state beforehand that, the first leg of the interpretation given to article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution, 1992, is not applicable to the situation of the incumbent member of parliament of the Fomena Constituency. However, for chronology of presentation, I shall attempt the true meaning and import of this first leg interpretation.
3.1 A member of Parliament Shall Vacate His Seat if He Leaves the Party on Which He Was Elected to Parliament to Join Another Political Party
This first leg of the meaning of article 97(1)(g) of the constitution, 1992 seeks to postulate that where a member of parliament was elected to parliament on the ticket of a particular political party, and that member, whilst in parliament, decides to leave that political party to join another political party, that member of parliament shall lose his seat in parliament and is thus required to vacate his seat.
The operative phrase here is “…to leave his political party on which he was elected to parliament to join another political party. It is therefore imperative to decipher the circumstances under which a person may be said to have left his party. Is there the need for express formal communication to the effect that he is leaving the party? Or a person may be said to have left his party by his own conduct?
The constitution, 1992 does not provide any guidance as to the meaning to be placed on the phrase “…leave his party.”
The word “leave” as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary of Lexico, means, to go away from, to withdraw from, to quit from, to abandon, etc.
In effect, in applying the meaning attributed to the word “leave” in the context of article 97(1)(g), is there the need for a formal and or express communication from the individual concerned to the party on which he or she was elected to parliament that he intends on leaving?
To my mind, I do not think so, and any attempt to interpret the word “leave” in a technical manner so as to require a formal or express communication before a person can be said to have left his party would in my view be erroneous. It is my considered opinion that a person can leave his party by his own conduct. Conduct in this sense connotes where the person in question does an act which a reasonable man with knowledge of the facts, would lead or draw the inevitable conclusion that the said person has left his party.
This position I have taken is in tandem with some provisions of the Constitution of the New Patriotic Party. For instance article 3(h)(1) of the said constitution provides that a member of the Party who stands as an independent candidate against the officially elected member of the Party or who joins or declares his or her support for another Political Party, or for an independent candidate when the Party has sponsored a candidate in a general or by-election automatically forfeits his or her membership of the Party.
In this instance, it is apparent that a member of the party may lose his membership by his conduct of supporting another political party, even though there might not have been and express or formal notice of resignation.
Therefore, save in situations where the constitution of the party expressly provides that a member shall give formal notice of his intention to quit his membership of the party (as is provided by article 8(9) of the Constitution of the National Democratic Congress), it is my respectful opinion that a person may leave the membership of his party by his own conduct.
What next, after a person leaves his party? The provision is that the person must leave his party to join another political party before the provision can be invoked. The Constitution is however silent as to what the fate of an MP would be if he leaves his party but does not join any other political party. Does that mean the said person should vacate his seat or does that mean he seeks to remain in parliament as an independent candidate? This may be an interesting constitutional issue to be determined by the supreme court of Ghana in the days to come.
However, in my own assertion, the provision is expressly clear and leaves no room for ambiguity and accordingly, it is suggested that the ordinary meaning of the provision should be adopted. Going by that therefore, for the provision to apply in the first situation, a member of parliament who leaves his party whilst in parliament must necessarily join another political party before the provision can be said to apply. In the words of Sophia, A.B Akuffo C.J in Martin Kpebu v. Attorney General  DLSC7731, when interpreting article 14(3) of the Constitution, 1992, opined thus: “The language of Article 14(3) is clear and unambiguous and, in our view, “within 48 hours” means exactly that. Although it would have been an easy matter for the drafters of the Constitution to have included in the provision words such as those the Defendant has invited us to read into Article 14(3), the fact remains that the provisions contain no words of exception and no matter how attractive the statute law of another jurisdiction might seem to the Defendant, we cannot adopt or use it as an interpretative tool when our superior law, the Constitution, is so clear in its language. We are, therefore, bound to give effect to the clear and unambiguous intentions of the framers of the Constitution by giving the words their plain and ordinary meaning.” I cannot but succumb to this view by the learned Chief Justice, and it is also my respectful opinion that article 97(1)(g) means what it is and for it to apply, the person leaving his party must necessarily join another party.
The next question that begs for answers is whether this interpretation I have given would lead to absurd results or a situation which defeats the object and purpose of the said provision. To be able to answer the posited question, an excursus would have to be made into the intent of the framers of the constitution, to decipher what they intended to achieve by the said provision.
This question would have best been answered with a recourse to the Report of the Committee of Experts for the Draft of the 1992 Constitution. It is however unfortunate that the said report does not lend any guidance and did not provide any purpose for which the provision was to serve.
In the circumstances therefore, I am impelled to apply the objective purpose of interpretation to decipher what probably could have been the intent of the framers of article 97(1) of the constitution, 1992.
The objective purpose approach to interpretation is not what the framers of the said article actually intended but what a reasonable hypothetical bystander would have anticipated or contemplated at the time of the drafting of the said article. In more apt terms, the learned Justice Date-Bah in the case of Asare v. Attorney General (supra),underscored the said approach thus: “the objective purpose is not what the author actually intended but rather what a hypothetical reasonable author would have intended, given the context of the underlying legal system, history and values, etc of the society for which he is making law. This objective purpose will thus usually be interpreted to include the realization, through the given legal text, of the fundamental or core values of the legal system.”
Against this background, what would a reasonable hypothetical author had thought to be the purpose of article 97(1)(g) of the 1992 Constitution? In my opinion, the probable purpose of article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution, 1992 was to ensure that members of parliament who are elected to parliament on the ticket of a particular political party, remain loyal to that political party throughout his tenure in office. The second probable reason may have been to prevent a situation where majority members in parliament may connive and convince the minority to side with them in order to prevent strong opposition against the government in power.
Accordingly, reading these probable purposes of article 97(1)(g) of the 1992 Constitution, in the context of the interpretation I have given to the said article, does it lead to absurdity? I think not. This answer to a large extent would however depend on the circumstances under which the person left the party.
Firstly, if the person leaves the party by his own will and volition, and expressly to the party on whose ticket he was elected, even if he does not join another political party, it might amount to a betrayal of the loyalty he owes to the party. And therefore, in that light, even though he may not have joined another political party, if he should remain in parliament would mean he is being there as an independent candidate, and in that case, article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution may be invoked to compel him to vacate his seat. However, where the circumstances were such that he was dismissed from the party or forfeited his membership due to some reasons, it is my considered view that such cannot be interpreted as seeking to remain in parliament as an independent candidate or otherwise a betrayal of his trust to the party on whose ticket he was elected to parliament. It is my thinking that the provision, (article 97(1)(g)) should only be invoked in voluntary cases, and not the reverse. To this extent, I do not consider that the position I have taken would lead to absurdity.
Therefore, it is my considered submission that, for the first part of article 97(1) to apply, the member of parliament in question should have left his party and that on leaving, the member of parliament should have joined a different political party. Anything short of that would not suffice to warrant an invocation of the said article 97(1)(g)
Let me now deal with the second situation under article 97(1)(g) under which a member of parliament may vacate his seat.
REPORT THIS AD
3.2 A Member of Parliament Shall Vacate His Seat in Parliament if on Being Elected to Parliament the Ticket of a Particular Political Party and He Seeks to Remain in Parliament as an Independent Candidate
The second situation contemplated by article 97(1)(g) by which a member of parliament may lose his seat in parliament is where the said member is elected into parliament on the ticket of a particular political party, and the member on going to parliament seeks to remain in parliament as an independent candidate.
To illustrate it practically, let’s say Mr. Kofi a member of Party X was sponsored by Party X to contest as a parliamentary candidate of constituency M., and Mr. Kofi on being elected to parliament on the Ticket of Party X, decides to remain in parliament as an independent candidate and dissociates himself from Party X in parliament, then the provision of article 97(1)(g) would apply and Mr. Kofi would be bound to vacate his seat. Is the same scenario true where Mr. Kofi decides to pick up forms for the next coming elections to contest as an independent candidate? This question shall be answered in due course.
Taking this into account, the phrase “seeks to remain in parliament as an independent candidate” must be given its ordinary meaning and must be interpretated in the context in which it is used.
Therefore, to my mind, the meaning that can be given to the phrase is the illustration given above. It is my considered view that the phrase “seeks to remain in parliament as an independent candidate” applies to the current parliament and not any future parliament. Any attempt to give a different interpretation so as to include the future parliament would amount to a re-writing of the 1992 Constitution. If the constitution had intended the future parliament, the constitution would have said so expressly. The present parliament is used in the sense that the member of parliament on being elected to parliament, must dissociate himself from the party on whose ticket he was elected and remain as an independent candidate. But where in the next-coming elections, he picks up forms to contest as an independent candidate, it does not amount to seeking to remain in the present parliament as an independent candidate.
It is necessary at this point to remember the interpretative injunction that was underscored by Kludze JSC in the case of Republic v Fast Track High Court Accra; Ex parte Daniel [2003-2004] SCGLR 364 at page 370. The learned justice in sounding a warning on the use of the purposive approach to import words into the constitution observed as follows: “We cannot, under the cloak of constitutional interpretation, rewrite the Constitution of Ghana. Even in the area of statutory interpretation, we cannot amend a piece of legislation because we dislike its terms or because we suppose that the lawgiver was mistaken or unwise. Our responsibility is greater when we interpret the Constitution. We cannot and must not substitute our wisdom for the collective wisdom of the framers of the Constitution.”
REPORT THIS AD
Also, in the Sussex Peerage Case (1844) 11 CI & Fin 85 Tidal C.J observed at 143 thus: “the only rule for the construction of Acts of Parliament is, that they should be construed according to the intent of the Parliament which passed the Act. If the words of the statute are in themselves precise and unambiguous, no more can be necessary than to espound those words in their natural and ordinary sense. The words themselves alone do, in such case, best declare the intention of the law giver.” This passage was quoted with approval in N.P.P. v Attorney-General [1993-94] 2 GLR 35 at page 102.
Similarly, in the Richard Anane Case(supra), Chief Justice Wood observed that: “We need to remind ourselves that there is a great danger in reading or importing unnecessary words into a document such as a written constitution. This does not only amount to judicial legislation, but is a clear usurpation of the functions of the body clothed with jurisdiction to do so.” She proceeded thus: “…The purposive rule is however not a carte blanche for rewriting legislation, let alone our Constitution, and should never be used as a ruse, a cloak or guise to do so. The function of a court is to interpret legislation and give effect to it, even if where the terms appear unpalatable. Care must therefore be taken to avoid legislating under the guise of interpretation.”
Much earlier, Acquah JSC had cautioned in the case of Attorney-General (No.2) v Tsatsu Tsikata (No 2) [2001-2002] SCGLR 620 that: “The majority’s insistence on putting words into article 139 (3) of the 1992 Constitution are not in the article, with a view to imposing restrictions on the exercise of the Chief Justices discretion is not a permissible function of the judicial function.”
These pieces of quotations, clearly lend support for the fact that where the words of a provision in the constitution are clear and unambiguous, words need not be read into them. However, would the literal reading of the phrase “…seeks to remain in parliament as an independent candidate”, which I have interpreted parliament to mean the current parliament, lead to absurd results? In other words, does the picking up of forms to contest for the next elections as an independent candidate amount to seeking to remain in parliament as an independent candidate?
To my mind, the above questions are vexed questions which requires careful analysis. And the matter would best be solved by the Apex court of the land. That notwithstanding, I shall attempt to provide answers as to what I consider to be the correct position in my opinion.
To begin with, I have already indicated in the course of this write-up that the word parliament, meant and was used in reference to only the current parliament and not the future parliament, and I shall proceed to justify same.
Article 55(2) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides thus: (2) Every citizen of Ghana of voting age has the right to join a political party.
It is also provided in clause 10 of article 55 of the constitution thus: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, every citizen of voting age has the right to participate in political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government.”
Also, article 35(9) of the Constitution, 1992 provides that: (9) The state shall promote among the people of Ghana the culture of political tolerance.
Lastly, article 21(1)(e) of the Constitution, 1992 provides that- All persons shall have the right to:
(e) freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest.
Accordingly, it is apparent from the above provisions that all citizens of Ghana of voting age, have the right to form or join a political party of his choice.
Article 55(2) is to the effect that every citizen of voting age has the right to join a political party of his choice at any time or moment without any restriction whatsoever. And I should think that a person who was a member of a political party but later decides to join another political party for one reason or the other, should be permitted in that regard. This is reinforced by article 55(10) of the constitution, which allows every citizen of voting age to participate in any way possible, but in accordance with law, to shaping the political system of Ghana.
Even more interesting, is that of article 21(1)(e), which allows for the freedom of association of every person, (in this context citizens of voting age) to participate or join or associate with any association of their choice. It is, thus, crystal clear that the 1992 Constitution envisages a situation where a person may leave one political party at any time to join another political party or contest elections even as an independent candidate.
In light of the foregoing, it is important to read the 1992 Constitution as a whole, especially the articles cited hereinabove together with article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution, 1992.
A combined and a contextual reading to the constitution is required where there appears to be two conflicting provisions of the constitution. In such a case, a global reading of the constitution is required in order to arrive at a decision that is desirable and would meet the homes and aspirations of the people.
Justice Kludze, in Asare v The Attorney- General (supra) in advancing on the need for a contextual and combined approach to interpretation underscored in the following words: “I agree that we must adopt a purposive construction of the constitutional provisions. This means that we do not construe words in the abstract but within the context in which they are used. Language is a tool for expressing the wishes of the speaker, author, or writer. Therefore, regardless of the theoretical classification of the methodology of construction, the fundamental rule is for the court to construe every enactment with the purpose of effectuating the true intent of the framers of the 1992 Constitution. All other canons of construction have the ultimate purpose of achieving this goal. I do not think the mere recourse to dictionaries of the English language will resolve the issues which confront us or render any easier the task we are called upon to perform.”
Also, in National Media Commission v. Attorney  SCGLR 1 at page 11, Acquah JSC articulated neatly the need for a combined reading of the constitution in the following words: “But to begin with, it is important to remind ourselves that we are dealing with our national constitution, not an ordinary Act of Parliament. It is a document that expresses our sovereign will and embodies our soul. It creates authorities and vests certain powers in them. It gives certain rights to persons as well as to bodies of persons and imposes obligations as much as it confers privileges and powers. All these duties, obligations, powers and privileges and rights must be exercised and enforced not only in accordance with the letter, but also with the spirit of the Constitution.
Accordingly, in interpreting the Constitution, care must be taken to ensure that all the provisions work together as parts of a functioning whole. The parts must fit together logically to form a rational, internally consistent framework. And because the framework has a purpose, the parts are also to work together dynamically, each contributing something towards accomplishing the intended goal. Each provision must therefore be capable of operating without coming into conflict with any other.”
Much earlier, Justice Sowah, in Tuffour v. Attorney General (supra) underscored the law from the biblical point of view in the following words: “And so we must take cognizance of the age-old fundamental principle of constitutional construction which gives effect to the intent of the framers of this organic law. Every word has an effect. Every part must be given effect. Perhaps it would not be out of place to remember the injunction of St. Paul contained in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 12, and verses 14-20 (King James Version). “For the body is not one member but many. If the foot shall, say because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearings? If the whole body were hearing, where were the smelling…? But now are they many members, yet but one body.” And so, a construction should be avoided that leads to absurdity. And when a particular interpretation leads to two, shall we say inconsistent results; the spirit of the constitution would demand that the more reasonable of the two should be adhered to. We must have recourse to the Constitution as a whole.”
In the circumstances, it is my considered view that on a combined reading of article 97(1)(g), and on a true and proper interpretation of article 55(2), 55(10), 35(9), and 21(1)(e) of the Constitution, 1992, if a member of parliament who was voted into parliament in a particular general elections, decides to contest in the next general elections as an independent candidate or on the ticket of another political party, that does not amount to the said member of parliament seeking to remain in the current parliament as an independent candidate. What he is only seeking to do, is an exercise of his democratic rights to freedom of association and participation in the democratic process in a manner that advances the hopes and aspirations of Ghanaian people.
Therefore, to my mind, to say that Mr. Kofi, who was elected to parliament on the ticket of party X, is seeking to presently remain in parliament as an independent candidate, because he has decided to pick up nomination forms for the next general elections as an independent candidate is most erroneous and such an interpretation in my view is in conflict with article 55(2), (10), 35(9), and article 21(1)(e), and same in my view would not advance the course of our democratic process. And so, to do would be to set a bad precedent for our future democracy.
As a logical sequence from the above extrapolations, the only possible and reasonable answer that can be given to the questions earlier posed, which in my considered view would give effect to the intent of the framers of the constitution and advance the course of our democracy, is that where a member of parliament who was elected on the ticket of party X, but he later decides to contest for the future parliament as an independent candidate, such an act does not and cannot in my opinion be considered as seeking to remain in the present parliament as an independent candidate. I only see such an act as the exercise of that person’s right to participating in shaping the political system of Ghana.
In my honest opinion, for the provision of article 97(1)(g), relating to the second situation to be properly invoked, there must be an indication that the member of parliament on being elected into parliament on the ticket of party X seeks to alienate from that party and remain in parliament as an independent candidate as if he was elected into parliament on his own ticket. Any other interpretation beyond this, would lead to absurd results.
Considering the above discussions in light of the background facts as enunciated above, does conduct of the incumbent member of Parliament for Fomena Constituency in filing his nominations to contest for the 2020 parliamentary elections amount to declaring himself an independent member in the present parliament so as to warrant an invocation of article 97(1)(g)?
In my candid opinion the answer is no. My reasons for such a conclusion have been advanced above. The fact that he has filed nominations to contest the future elections (2020 Elections to be specific) means that he intends to be elected to parliament in the next election as an independent candidate, and same is not true of the fact that by filing his nominations as an independent candidate, he is seeking to remain in the present parliament, (which was in session since January 2017), as an independent candidate. As already indicated, such an interpretation would lead to absurd results, and would not advance our aspirations to encourage people to participate by lawful means in our democratic process.
Again, the timing for the invocation of the said article (although I have already indicated the invocation of the article itself is erroneous), is improper in my opinion. This is because, by virtue of our democratic system, every constituency deserves a representation. Accordingly, to remove the Member of Parliament for a particular constitutency at such a time where it would be highly impossible to conduct a bye-elections in order to find a replacement would be to deprive the people of Fomena Constituency from a representative in parliament. It is trite law in terms of elections that, less than thirty days to a general election, no form of elections can be held. This is provided in Regulation 4(1) of the Public Elections Regulations, 2016 (C.I 91).
In light of the above observations, it is my candid opinion that the Member of parliament for Fomena Constituency, in the person of Andrew Amoako Asiamah, cannot be compelled to vacate his seat, since he is not seeking to remain in the current parliament as an independent candidate but that of the future parliament which would take place in January, 2021.
Accordingly, I am not enthused by the calls to the Speaker of Parliament calling for the incumbent member of parliament to vacate his seat.
It would be very interesting to see the outcome of the said letter and the conclusions that the speaker of parliament shall draw from same.
Whilst we wait however, I am of the opinion that the above interpretation I have attributed to the provision of article 97(1)(g) of the Constitution should have effect or be adopted by the speaker in his conclusions. Until then, this remains but an opinion.
To Lord Tennyson is reserved my last words. His counsel in one of his poems is to “. . . take occasion by the hand and make the bounds of freedom wider yet. Broad based upon her people’s will.”