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16.04.2007 NPP News

NPP Constitution – To amend or not?

By myjoyonline

The ongoing debate as to whether or not the ruling New Patriotic Party should amend its constitution before it goes to congress to elect the flagbearer in December this year has attracted various views and concerns.

But in spite of the concerns, the consensus appears to be one of adopting a conservative posture for the next flagbearership contest: “If it ain't broke don't fix it.”

In the December Congress, about 2,500 delegates will vote for potentially the next President of the Republic. Yet, critics of the NPP electoral process say the party constitution effectively disenfranchise or deny automatic voting rights to very significant classes of party members.

The President, Vice President, Cabinet Ministers, NPP National Chairman, General Secretary and the seven other national officers, all regional chairpersons and other regional officers of the party, DCEs, and all 128 Members of Parliament on the Majority side are refused automatic voting rights to take part in determining the person best fit to represent the party as its flagbearer in general elections.

The party's constitution grants 10 voting rights to each one of the nation's 230 constituencies, with four of the delegates chosen from the Constituency Officers (which does not include the area's MP) and the majority of six delegates opened to party card-bearing members of the constituency.

Incongruously, it seems the NPP constitution expressly grants automatic voting rights to all MPs when it comes to electing national executive officers, extending same to all MPs of a region in elections of regional executive officers.

At least one major aspirant, Alan Kyerematen is known to be pushing on high octane for polling station chairpersons to have a greater influence in the selection of the six delegates, a move some believe could further dilute the influence of MPs.

Also, the Office of the Chief of Staff, at the Presidency, is advocating getting DCEs to be delegates, with Kwasi Ankamah, being the main instrument of this push.

But, there is some conservative pos¬ture at the top to maintain the status quo, with Asylum Down (the NPP Headquarters) very sensitive about making any moves that could be falsely interpreted as favouring particular candidate(s).

In an interview with The Statesman, NPP Chairman Peter Mac Manu explained that the party resides in the constituencies where general elections are held.

“So each one of us can still go to various constituencies and be subjected to the laid down process if we desire to be delegates.”

He is not for change in this matter. He does not see a problem with the current arrangement, a view shared by O.B. Amoah of the Legal & Constitutional Committee.

“The argument is coming up because some are saying that it is more difficult to influence a minister or an MP monetarily than an ordinary constituency person. But at the same time, so long as the Minister or MP or national executive officer is a member of a constituency and he gets elected, it means you can't also influence them at that level,” Amoah argues.

General Secretary Nana Ohene Ntow and 3rdVice Chairperson Abdul Rahman Musa have nevertheless, both expressed their reservations with the party's electoral process, which Ohene Ntow believes effectively disenfranchises both National and Regional Officers. But, he also appears very uneasy about calls for any constitutional amendment at this stage.

“We are reduced to being supervisors of party election,” Alhaji Musa lamented.

Essentially, critics point to the fact that the Presidency, MPs, National and Regional Officers have arguably closer proximity to the centre of power and institutionally better placed to know the characters vying to lead the party and which of the candidates best represent the attributes required of the highest position of the land. Yet, even those critics think the timing may not be appropriate for any amendment, with nominations expected to officially open in five months time.

Peter Ala Adjetey, the veteran lawyer who chairs the Legal & Constitutional Committee of the NPP, in a recent interview with The Statesman shared this conundrum, believing a constitutional amendment in that regard would be desirable but the timing certainly undesirable.

In any event, MPs usually have enough influence to ensure their selection as delegates. But, according to the man who was also once the party's National Chairman, the NPP constitution must be obeyed to the letter until the amendment is done, describing the provision as “funny.”

Mr Ala Adjetey, who is also a former Speaker of Parliament, believes such an amendment ought to have been carried out a long time ago adding, “I don't know whether we can do it now because you need an annual delegates conference to do the amendment.”

“And I don't see how we can call an annual delegates conference before calling the National Congress to elect the presidential candidate,” he opined.

The two party gatherings are expected to be merged and held together. The constitution, however, allows an Emergency National Delegates Conference to be convened “Whenever the National Executive Committee or the National Chairperson thinks it necessary.”

Nana Objri Boahen, Brong Ahafo Regional NPP Chairman in a separate interview with The Statesman insists the reality of the situation in the NPP as far as the flagbearership race is concerned is crucial that demands constitutional amendment.

He said the current arrangement of 10 delegates from each constituency comprising four executives and six non-executives is a serious defect maintaining that, “we should not behave that the NPP constitution is untouchable.”

The renowned lawyer describes the criterion for the selection of the ten delegates as “unfair” and at the same time not clearly spelt out in the party's constitution.

He cited the case of Ameyaw Akumfi, a Cabinet Minister, who is not an MP, but has contributed immensely to the party and probably knows most of the aspirants more intimately than many, may still not be selected as a delegate.

Also expressing his view to The Statesman, Alhaji Yusif Ahmed, the Greater Accra Regional Youth Organiser of the NPP has added his voice to the cal1 for an amendment. According to him, it is the Regional Executives who run the constituencies together with the Constituency Executives, while the National Executives see to the administration of the party, so to leave both groups out is discriminatory and illogical.

"I think it is about time we take a look at it to allow the Regional and the National Executives to have a voting right to elect the flagbearer because they know who is fit for the position," he added.

He, however, shares the untimeliness view that the amendment should not be before the election of the flagbearer in December this year.

“From the look of things, I don't think it is now feasible looking at the situation. This is because if we make any last minute changes, it will look as though we have some candidates in mind. This should have been done long time ago,” he further stressed.

Culled from The Statesman