The legislative house of Ghana is gradually losing its relevance in consolidating the gains made in building a reputable democracy, and a model parliament in Africa. The house is being reduced to a “boxing arena”, and a hostile institution of government.
The lean nature of the legislative house should have been a basis for consensus building. But the current Parliament will not be successful at achieving consensus on many issues. How can the house be successful at achieving consensus when its leadership has engaged in anti-democratic relations, that do not afford any opportunity for consensus building?
Consensus building is not available to any Parliament with clear majority in Ghana. The basis for the approval of government deals in Ghana is numbers. Consensus building should have begun on the day the Speaker of Parliament was elected. The nature of the current Parliament demands the nurturing of the spirit of consensus building, for it to be instilled in the members of the house. The Members of Parliament of the two political parties in the house embrace political chauvinism (political patriotism) than concessions. The only time the members will concede and have compromises is when there are mutual benefits of the same value. The house is not matured in building consensus on crucial national issues and others that clearly divide the house. The two sides have engaged in actions that weakened their desire to seek compromises.
What is worrying now is that the leadership of the house is being affected. The ruling of the Speaker and the counter-ruling by the Deputy Speaker on two occasions depict relations are not cohesive. The Deputy Speaker urged the Speaker of Parliament to accept divergent views. The occasion for expressing such a differing view was not appropriate. The Deputy Speaker could have written to the leader of the house expressing such a dissenting view on his ruling. This very act gives an outward appearance of lack of solidarity in the leadership of the house.
The sharp division of the house cannot be attributed to the introduction of the electronic transaction levy, the E-levy alone. The ruling of the Speaker, and the subsequent contrasting of the said ruling by the First Deputy Speaker portray there are fundamental challenges with the entire house including the leadership in building consensus. The Speaker, and the Deputies can always dialogue on matters of law in secret without necessarily making such contrary opinions public. Currently, it is unknown whether the Speaker or the First Deputy is having issues with the exercise of authority. Which of the two rulings is appropriate with regard to the law? The demand for consensus building in the house must begin with the leadership of the house before it trickles down effectively to the Members of Parliament. Then, it means sharing ideas on the grounds of the law for a ruling “in chambers” would be lofty and nobbling for the leaders.
For any possible deepened grounds to be firmly established for working together, the Speaker and his Deputies must show leadership by addressing any hidden issues, and dialogue on legal matters which they may have disagreeing thoughts. Clearly, the current happenings in the house are anti-democratic, that give a visibly bad appearance of the revered legislative house.
It appears the two Deputy Speakers derive powers from the seat of the Speaker whenever they perform the duties and exercise the authority of the Speaker in relation to all proceedings on any occasion each of them presides. The standing orders of Parliament indicate that the Deputy Speaker who chairs shall exercise the authority of the Speaker. The chair, in the absence of the Speaker, is a delegate based on the law. It may be improbable for him to overturn the ruling of the Speaker when he is to exercise the authority of the Speaker.
The leadership of the house need to take actions that could change the character of the Members of Parliament. The Members of Parliament are patriotic to their parties with a desire to please the grassroots making consensus building a not preferred alternative.
BY Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey
Economics Tutor, Advocate and Religion Enthusiast.