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10.05.2007 NPP News

Who goes to NPP congress?

By Statesman
Who goes to NPP congress?

The New Patriotic Party looks set to adhere strictly to its present constitution through the forthcoming presidential elections, despite growing calls from some members of the party for reform.

A very contentious issue is how the ten constituency delegates will be selected.

In the past this had been done virtually by consensus or sway of constituency chairpersons or MPs, who only had to present a photo album of the ten delegates to the party headquarters in Accra.

But, for this December's NPP national congress, photo albums already presented to the NPP headquarters have been returned to sender, with the national office demanding that the right thing is done.

Some have argued against the logistics of holding 230 delegates" conferences nationwide, involving about 24,000 delegates.

But, the party constitution demands the involvement of not only all constituency officers and MPs but also that of the 21,500-odd polling station chairpersons in a transparent electoral process to choose ten delegates for the National Congress.

According to Article 6, Clause 18 of the NPP constitution, these delegates will be chosen when every Constituency Executive Committee convenes an Extraordinary Constituency Delegate Conference to elect the six members of the constituency who are not constituency officers, and together with the four constituency officers, to form the ten-member delegation.

There is no provision made for the automatic attendance of Members of Parliament, Ministers or District Chief Executives, all of whom must compete against other constituency members in their home constituencies to win one of the six non-constituency officer seats - and there are no plans to change that arrangement.

In the past, it could be almost taken for granted that the local MP would be chosen as one of the six ordinary delegates.

But, the decision to ensure an across board election would mean MPs competing with polling station executives and the party rank and file for a place in choosing the next flagbearer.

Though there is a strong feeling within the party leadership about the need for a constitutional review, the overwhelming feeling is that this will have to wait until after the next elections are over.

For some, this is not soon enough. Nana Obiri Boahen, the Brong Ahafo Regional Chairman of the NPP, is an ardent advocate for a constitutional amendment before the election of the party's flagbearer, provisionally set for December 15.

He maintains that the criteria for selecting delegates at the constituency level are not clearly spelt out in the constitution, and is particularly concerned with the selection of the six non-executive members.

"What is the yardstick to determine the six delegates from the constituency?" he asked, speaking yesterday in an interview.

He disagreed with the argument that the existing arrangement had been used successfully in the past, saying that no society is static and that it is now time for change.

In fact, the current arrangement is not entirely old. It was only after the Cape Coast congress of the party in 2003 that polling station executives were officially recognised.

Yet, even though the amended constitution demands that polling station executives are voted into office, this provision has not been widely followed, undermining the legitimacy of some of them.

Nana Obiri envisages the situation where the party could be sued over the integrity of the selection process.

Meanwhile Kofi Konadu Apraku, MP for Offinso North and also a presidential aspirant, sees nothing wrong with the existing provision in the party's constitution, by which an extraordinary constituency delegates conference is held to elect the constituency's delegates.

He said there is no problem because that same procedure in the constitution has worked in the past to produce good results.

The presidential aspirant told The Statesman yesterday that since the system is working, he prefers the constitution remains as it is in respect of the selection of delegates for the upcoming December congress.

And whilst Nana Obiri Boaten cited confusion in the constitution, John Boadu, NPP National Youth Organiser, told this newspaper that he sees no such ambiguity in the party's rules for who qualifies to become a delegate at the constituency level. He pointed to the extraordinary conferences, which are clearly described in the party's constitution.

In the past, he acknowledged, this constitutional provision had not been strictly adhered to in the selection of delegates, and this explains why some people are raising all sorts of concerns and arguments.

Mr Boadu mentioned finance, logistics and time constraints as some of the impediments which over the years have hampered the holding of the special congresses of the party nationwide.

He gave the assurance that this time around the party is putting in place programmes to ensure that every constituency holds the special congress as stipulated in the party's constitution, so as to allow equal playing field for the aspirants.

Nana Akomea, MP for Okaikoi South, said the issue of who should be a delegate is a straightforward matter, quoting from Article 6 of the NPP constitution.

The MP pointed out in an interview that polling station chairpersons together with the constituency executive, constitute the electoral college to elect delegates for the presidential congress.

Nana Akomea cautioned the party leadership that no excuse will be accepted for not holding the extraordinary congress in all the constituencies across the country to elect the delegates, including the excuse of a lack of funds.

He said the NPP can afford to organise such special congresses nationwide, adding, "we should not open ourselves for legal wranglings."

Proffering the way forward, the Okaikoi South MP urged the party leadership to issue early, clear and directive instructions to all the constituencies to adhere strictly to the selection procedure as provided in the NPP's constitution.

Again Nana Akomea suggested a time table ought to be issued without delay so that there will be uniformity in the selection process.

When the deadline is given there will be enough time to settle complaints which may arise out of the special congress at the constituency level, he said.

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