The Dean of Graduate Studies of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Dr Eric Oduro-Osae, says the Electoral Commission (EC) must be held responsible for violating a constitutional provision, resulting in the Supreme Court ruling that the commission halt the district level elections.
He also advised the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to, as a matter of urgency, liaise with the Office of the President to get Parliament to extend the mandate of the current assembly members until the next assembly elections are conducted.
“This is a clear instance of an emergency that has occasioned the country. There is a provision in the Constitution, under Article 113, which allows the President to extend the mandate of Parliament, even when its mandate had expired, in periods when general elections cannot be conducted because the nation is at war or in a state of emergency.
“Ghana finds itself in that particular period in my view as far as the local government elections are concerned,” he said.
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The Supreme Court, on Friday, February 27, 2015, unanimously stopped the EC from proceeding with the conduct of the district level elections which were supposed to be held tomorrow, March 3, 2015.
Sharing his perspective on the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, Dr Oduro-Osae said: “I see a clear case of negligence on the part of the entire EC, not just the Chairman, because they saw it coming as far back as September 2014 when they lay the Constitutional Instrument (CI) before Parliament.”
Quoting Article 11 (7) of the Constitution, he said the CI was sent late to Parliament and parliamentarians had to be recalled to sit on a weekend to pass it.
“So what prevented the commission from waiting for the CI to mature?” he asked.
Article 11 (7) of the Constitution says: “Any order, rule or regulation made by a person or authority under a power conferred by this Constitution or any other law shall – (a) be laid before Parliament; (b) be published in the Gazette on the day it is laid before Parliament and (c) come into force at the expiration of 21 sitting days after being so laid unless Parliament, before the expiration of the 21 days, annuls the order, rule or regulation by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament.”
Dr Oduro-Osae stated that the district level elections were being conducted under the CI and questioned the rationale behind the EC opening nominations when the law based on which the elections were to be conducted was not mature.
He said it was a basic fundamental law which everybody must know, “but for some reason the entire commission, its Chairman and solicitor, sat down and allowed this to happen”.
He contended that the EC should have allowed the CI to mature before opening nominations.
“In fact, the EC opened nominations and closed nominations before the maturing of the CI. So it was a risk it took. My advice to the EC is that it should never take such a risk again in the future,” he said.
He said the commissioners must know that they were there to ensure quality electoral process and help the chairman take the right decisions.
Dr Oduro-Osae said the action by the EC was a clear case of causing financial loss to the state, especially when the state had so much difficulty in financing this year’s district level elections and had to go to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan to conduct the elections.
“If we borrow money and this is how we are going to use it, then we need to sit up,” he said, and asked: “What do we do to the people who caused this?”
He suggested that the state thoroughly go into the circumstances leading to the action of the EC and anyone found culpable dealt with according to the laws of the land.
He said the fisherman who took the case to court should be commended, not vilified, because if he had not done that, “one day it would have become a major legal issue. It was very clear that the EC had violated the CI”.
“So we should not blame him. We should rather thank him for testing the law and also thank the Supreme Court judges for allowing the rule of law to take its course. Also, we should thank the parties who have allowed the law to work,” he said, stressing that it was a sign that Ghana still believed in the rule of law.
Dr Oduro-Osae commended the media for the role they played to whip up interest in the local level elections and appealed to them to continue to create the needed enthusiasm and excitement among the electorate and remind them that the elections were not over yet.