Sammy Obeng, Dr John Osae-Kwapong
Sammy Obeng, Dr John Osae-Kwapong
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Executive, Parliament impasse: Test of Ghana’s democracy - Experts call for consensus

The ongoing impasse between the Executive and Parliament has been described as a power flexing attitude and a test of the country’s democracy.      

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Four governance experts, who made the observation when they shared their views on the impasse with the Daily Graphic, argued that the haggle over the President’s refusal to assent to the anti-LGBTQ+ Bill as the basis for the legislature to hold up the approval of ministerial appointees needed concensus to resolve.

Dr John Osae-Kwapong, the Executive Director of Democracy Project, a political think tank, said “this impasse is a test of our democracy, one that I hope is resolved in such a way that executive overreach is not encouraged, and ‘cooperative governance and mutual respect for the arms of government’, to borrow the Speaker’s words, is the norm and not the exception”.

“In our constitutional design, in principle, all arms of government are co-equal. Based on this principle, the Constitution proceeds to specify roles for both Parliament and the President in the law-making process. As part of that process, it is Parliament’s duty to transmit any passed legislation to the President for consideration.

“The Constitution gives the President specific powers in deciding how to respond to Parliament when such transmission is completed. It is against this backdrop that, first, I consider the presidency’s instruction to Parliament, in a letter signed and dated on March 18, 2024 by the Secretary to the President not to transmit the legislation for executive consideration highly unusual and an overreach of executive power,” he told the Daily Graphic.

He said flowing from that, there was the potential harmful precedent being set for the relationship between the Executive and legislative arms in the constitutional set-up. 
“Adversarial politics that pits groups or institutions against each other is something I do not approve of, find concerning, and believe strongly undermines the spirit of good governance,” he stressed.

He, however, added that “as the Speaker asserted in his statement, ‘the behaviour exhibited by the presidency in refusing to accept the transmission of this bill not only deviates from established democratic practices, but also undermines the spirit of cooperative governance and mutual respect for the arms of government’”. 

Avoidable dispute

The Executive Director of the Parliamentary Network Africa, Sammy Obeng, said the impasse between Parliament and the Executive was “completely avoidable and a needless show of bravado by these two arms of government”.

“It is important to condemn the approach and tone of the letter signed by the Secretary to the President instructing the Clerk to Parliament, and by extension, the Speaker and the people’s representatives, to ‘cease and desist’ from performing their constitutionally mandated responsibilities. 

“In any true democracy where the roles of the various branches of government are respected, and the executive consider the legislature as a co-equal branch and not one subservient to it, a letter of such a tone will never be authored,” he said.

He said the Speaker of Parliament, A.S.K. Bagbin, in a move to assert the place of Parliament in the scheme of Ghana’s governance architecture, reciprocated in a manner that had the potential to affect government business, and “pave the way for a precedent that will affect future parliamentary work”.

“Throwing a spanner in the works of a number of public businesses before the Parliament, including approval of ministerial nominees, adjourning the House sine die without the opportunity for the leaders of various Caucuses to make closing comments, which is the known practice; and now leaving a void for the next six weeks if no emergency sitting is convened, deals a deep blow not only to the Executive branch that this counter action is targeted at, but to all Ghanaians who may directly or indirectly be affected by the parliamentary businesses that have been left undone,” he said.

He added that it was time the Executive recognised that the era of a majority-captured Parliament was phased out after election 2020, “and the current dispensation calls for consensus building, respect for the role and place of the different Arms of Government, and the need to act without partisan-infested emotions when it comes to the things of national interest”.

Emeritus Professor of Politics of the London Metropolitan University, Professor Jeffrey Haynes, says the impasse between Parliament and the Executive over the approval of ministerial nominees and the state of the anti-LGBTQ+ Bill “is a serious spat”.

“While the President’s reluctance and the Speaker’s riposte make great knock about politics, they do absolutely nothing to deal with the country’s burning problems, issues that disturb most Ghanaians: poverty, unemployment, corruption, climate change and environmental degradation,” he said.

Consensus building

Associate Founder of the Institute of Applied Politics, Ghana, Ransford Brobbey, said it was within Parliament’s constitutional mandate to duly submit the anti-LGBTQ+ Bill to the President to assent to it.

He said it was rather “unfortunate and a trod on the spirit of good working relations” between the Executive and Parliament for the legislature to have received the caution letter from the presidency.

“In any case, there are laid down procedures for the President to follow if he thinks otherwise of the Bill. The Constitution is cleverly clear on this in Article 106 (7) to (10).

“For the sake of governance, the leadership of both arms should find a common ground to work together. Instead of a win-win for both sides, it has been flagrant display of force, neither of which is potent enough to be an advantage.

“The impasse has only been hurtful to the economy and the ordinary Ghanaian. The nature of the Eighth Parliament should rather be provident for more consensus building and allowing bipartisan approach to decision-making,” he added.

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