21.06.2004 General News

Law professor calls on Parliament to initiate constitutional reviews

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Accra, June 21, GNA - Mr Kwesi Prempeh, Director of Legal Policy and Governance at the Centre for Democratic Development, (CDD) on Monday urged Parliament to set the agenda for a process of constitutional review.
He said such a process should not be left to the Executive since Parliament represented a multiplicity of views and was more accessible to the people.
Mr Prempeh was speaking at the17th Speaker's Breakfast Forum in Accra. His topic was: "The 1992 Constitution of Ghana: The Case for its Review."
Mr Prempeh, also a Professor of Law at Seton Hall University in the US, said as a first step, Chapter 25 of the Constitution, which dealt with the amendment of the Constitution, should be amended.
He said Article 290(4) of Chapter 25, states that a bill for the amendment of an entrenched constitutional provision should be submitted to a referendum by at least 40 per cent of registered Ghanaian voters, with 75 per cent of the persons, who voted casting their votes in favour of the passing of such a bill.
He said the demand of 40 per cent of Ghanaians voting to amend the Constitution, was on the high side and this should, therefore, be amended.
Mr Prempeh also said the constitutional provision, which said the President of the Republic of should appoint the majority of Ministers from Parliament was likely to create a problem of instability in the event that an opposition party got the parliamentary majority instead of the ruling Party.
He said such a situation was likely to arise especially in the event of presidential run-offs, where a parliamentary majority had already been decided and a President was elected from a minority party in Parliament.
He, therefore, called for the abolishment of the constitutional provision for a run-off and said a simple majority should decide the presidency.
Mr Prempeh was of the view that the Electoral Commission should not be given a blank cheque to create new constituencies or to determine the size of Parliament, adding that this should be done with the input of other bodies.
He touched on the conduct of general elections held every four years and said there was the need to see if this constitutional provision was alright since the country depended on donor support to hold elections and said the possibility of holding election every six years or more should be exploited.
Mr Prempeh also touched on the Council of State and questioned whether "our democracy needed it," saying the Council should be abolished since the President could always draw from a pool of informal advisors.
Other areas he touched on included the declaration of assets by high office holders, saying there was the need to make public the assets of such officers.
The Speaker of Parliament, Mr Peter Ala Adjetey noted that constitutional reviews allowed for national growth and transformation, which were so essential for the orderly development of society and the proper and efficient functioning of government.
He said the 1992 Constitution, like all others, was a living organism capable of growth and development to bring it into conformity with the needs of the times, adding, "this is the time to begin to consider whether or not aspects of our 1992 Constitution are defective, inappropriate or out of tune with the current and changing needs of a modern society such as ours".
Mr Ala Adjetey said there was bound to be grey areas in any constitutional document, which only practice and experience over time and sometimes judicial decision could help to clarify, adding that the framers of the 1992 Constitution could not have been that clairvoyant to foresee those grey areas.
He was delighted to note that the Fourth Republican Constitution had not suffered from frequent usurpations of power by military adventurers, who either abrogated or suspended previous constitutions, saying that such undesirable military adventures was responsible for the emaciated and stunted growth of the body politic and hold up in national development. 21 June 04

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