Don’t make Parliament preserve of elite, wealthy
The leadership of Parliament has called for major reforms in the processes and procedures political parties use to determine and select their leaders, particularly those who become Members of Parliament (MPs).
It said a critical review of the structures and the constitutional provisions of parties that required parliamentary primaries to be conducted every four years was not the best, hence parties must find other ways of choosing or affirming their MPs.
Such reforms will not only help to protect important legislators but also help end what they described as “the opulent and shameful monetisation that was making competitive democracy, and by extension Parliament, the preserve of the elite and wealthy.”
The leaders were speaking at a dialogue for the core leadership of Parliament which was held on the theme: “The Committee System in Ghana’s Parliament: An assessment”, organised by the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
The speakers included the First Deputy Speaker, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu; the Majority Leader, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, and the Minority Leader, Mr Haruna Iddrisu.
The meeting allowed the leaders to deliberate on the prospects and challenges of nurturing career legislators and identify institutional and systemic factors fuelling the high attrition rate that is depriving Parliament of the requisite skills and competencies to execute its mandate.
First Deputy Speaker
Mr Osei-Owusu lamented the lack of interest of legislators in the crafting, implementation and monitoring of the impact of law-making on Ghanaians and, therefore, said it was disturbing for Parliament to lose some of its “excellent lawmaker” in primaries.
“The evidence is that those who choose to be good at doing the legislative work do not last in Parliament because your constituents are not interested in your legislative work,” he said.
“My suggestion is, let us review the existing structures of political parties. If we want career MPs then the two major political parties must agree on a new structure and they must see themselves as agents of change and rethink the system of selecting, nurturing candidates”.
“It is extremely important that we have people who are career legislators because the system where anytime we are making laws, people are fresh learners and their experiences are new affects the speed and quality of law-making,” Mr Osei-Owusu said.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said established democracies the world over were guided and guarded as party executives were not elected but chosen by party leaders at the national level.
He, therefore, questioned why at the end of the life of Parliament, the slews gate would be opened for all newcomers to compete with incumbent MPs for seats, a practice that was subject to corruption.
In his view, the “wholesale” primaries that were conducted in all the constituencies, whether there were incumbent legislators or not, were causing parties to lose control over their MPs as candidates singularly dictated their way to Parliament, with the highest bidder winning the slot.
He, therefore, urged political parties to amend their constitutions and resort to other methods of choosing their MPs.
Mr Iddrisu noted that Ghana’s democracy was one of the success stories in Africa, thus the renewal of MPs remained imperative.
However, he said there were imminent and major threats to the country’s democratic processes, particularly vigilantism and the inability to punish perpetrators.
The Minority Leader said he was worried that the recent monetisation of the country’s democracy would not only create an unstable Parliament but would undermine the country’s entire democratic process and deny Ghanaians their democratic dividends.
He denounced the manner in which bribery and corruption in primaries was “appearing permissible” under law to the utter disrespect of the provisions of the Political Parties Act and “our commitment to fight corruption.”
“Such practices, including the doling out of money by chief executives of metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, portray that Ghana’s democracy will be the preserve of the elite and the wealthy,” Mr Iddrisu said.
He, therefore, suggested major reforms of political parties in the way they were organised and administered, as well as the way “our political party leadership is determined and the manner and process and procedure for the determination of MPs will have to change.”
The Minority Leader called for a definition of upper and a more considering rule for the parties in Parliament, probably to do an assessment of the MPs to guide the political parties themselves in their way forward.