There has been lots of debate on social media and the traditional media as to whether Hon. Joe Osei Owusu (AKA –Joe Wise ) could be counted as MP to meet the quorum for voting whiles presiding as a Speaker. The Constitution and the Rules of Parliament are clear, but the minority NDC keeps confusing and misinforming their foot soldiers for partisan reasons.
I want to say without any shreds of doubt that Hon. Joe wise did not commit any illegality in approving the 2022 budget Statement on Tuesday 30th November. To explain the position of the law, I will rely on the Constitution of Ghana, Article 104(1-3), which are repeated in part in Order 109 (1-3) of the Orders of Parliament
Article 104 (1-3)
(1) Except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, matters in Parliament shall be determined by the votes of the majority of members present and voting, with at least half of all the members of Parliament present.
(2) The Speaker shall have neither an original nor casting vote.
(3) Where the votes on any motion are equal it shall be taken to be lost
Order 109 (1-3)
- No Question for decision in the House shall be proposed for determination unless there are present in the House not less than one-half of all the Members of the House, and, except otherwise provided in the Constitution, the Question proposed shall be determined by the majority of the votes of the Members present and voting.
- Mr. Speaker shall have neither an original nor casting vote and if upon any Question before the House the votes are equally divided the motion shall be lost.
- A Deputy Speaker or any other Member presiding shall not retain his original vote while presiding.
From the above, the Speaker does not represent any constituency, and therefore, he does not have any vote, whether original or casting vote. The Speaker is made only a referee but not a referee and a player at the same time. This explains why if a Member of Parliament becomes the Speaker, he has to vacate his seat, and a by-election is organised to elect a new MP to represent his constituency, as happened with Doe Adjaho. This is to prevent a situation where a particular constituency will not have the right to ever vote in determining any matter on the floor of Parliament.
Again Article 96(1) of the Constitution reads as follows:
(1) There shall be two Deputy Speakers of Parliament -
(a) Who shall be elected by the members of Parliament from among the Members of Parliament
This constitutional provision means an MP can become a Deputy Speaker and preside over a matter in the absence of the Speaker. But unlike the Speaker, a Deputy Speaker who acts as Speaker does not lose all his rights as an MP. Unlike the Speaker, who loses both the original and casting votes anytime he presides, he only loses his original vote. Order 109 (3) is incontrovertible that a Deputy Speaker only loses his original vote but not the casting vote. Is it a wonder that both the Constitution and the Orders of Parliament are silent on the casting vote of a Deputy Speaker? This means that unlike where an equal vote will be taken as lost when the Speaker is presiding, when a Deputy Speaker presides, an equal vote on a motion is not lost because a Deputy Speaker presiding, unlike the Speaker, can exercise his casting vote to break the tie. A Deputy Speaker loses his original vote because, in most cases, the single vote of the Deputy Speaker may not make any difference if there is a clear majority after voting. By, the constituents of the Deputy Speaker will not feel cheated that they didn't vote because the vote of their MP wouldn't have made any difference. But in a situation where there is a tie, since the Deputy Speaker represents a constituency, it is only fair and reasonable that the Deputy Speaker is allowed to vote because, at this point, his vote can make a difference. If this interpretation of order 109(3) does not make sense to you, nothing will.
Joe Wise was only counted as an MP but did not vote because he knows he doesn’t have an original vote. And considering there were no minority MPs in the Chamber, Joe Wise's vote was not needed to pass the budget. Even if 60 MPs out of the 138 counted had voted against the budget, it would have still passed because Parliament needed a majority vote out of the 138 MPs present to approve the budget. No law says Joe wise loses his right to be counted as part of the number of MPs in Ghana simply because he is presiding as Speaker. Therefore, it was not illegality to count Joe Wise as a Member of Parliament in an attempt to form a quorum before voting. It must be clear that the quorum needed before voting, as stated in article 104, is different from the required quorum before sitting, as enshrined in article 102.
If we go by the wrong argument of the NDC that the Speaker seizes to be an MP once he presides as a speaker, it will mean that the number of all MPs will reduce from 275 to 274. This also means that one-half of 274 is 137, which meats the quorum for voting on a motion. By this, 137 MPs on the side of the majority can vote to approve the budget or otherwise.
Again, if the NDC is convinced 137 MPs are not enough to vote on the budget, why did they say they legally voted and rejected to reject the budget on 26th November, 2021? Were they not all over the place defending their action and the Speaker for having done the right thing or that entire charade was to deceive their support base as usual?
There has been an argument that if the minority had not boycotted the sitting, the vote would have been equal (137:137) and lost. The fact is, the minority couldn't reject the budget. After the tie, Joe Wise could have then exercised his casting vote in favour of the budget.
There is too much noise in the country because of the extreme partisanship in our national discourse. Politicians should be truthful to their followers instead of always giving them false hope. The NDC, in particular, must desist from preying on the ignorance of their supporters. This behaviour creates the fertile grounds for misunderstanding and possible violence.
It is too late to cry when your head is cut off. The minority must focus on working to make the government deliver better service to the good people of Ghana instead of always trying to undo the good works of the government because they want power. The brouhaha about the budget is untidy and does not bode well for our growing democracy. Our Parliament must grow through consensus, not partisan acrimony