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07.01.2005 General News

A brief historical background of the Legislature of Ghana

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Accra, Jan. 7, GNA - Ghana achieved independence on March 6, 1957. The political struggles that preceded this historic event date back over a hundred years ago.

The early period of nationalist struggle for political independence created political awareness and desire to assert the right of self-determination both for the individual and the State.

As far back as 1850, Ghana, then the Gold Coast, was given its own Legislative Council to advise the colonial Governor in enacting legislation mainly in the form of Ordinances "for peace, order and good government of the subject."

The Legislative Council was purely advisory as the Governor exercised all legislative and executive powers.

In 1916 the Legislative Council was reconstituted to include nine nominated unofficial members, six of whom were Africans.

The first Legislative Council elections ever to be held took place in 1925 under the Guggisberg Constitution. Under this arrangement the Governor still retained complete control of legislation. Under the 1946 Burns Constitution that replaced the Guggisberg Constitution, the representatives of the people formed the majority in the Legislative Council.

The Governor ceased to be ex-officio President of the Legislative Council, paving the way for an unofficial member to be appointed President.

This system continued until 1951 when the legislature elected its first Speaker under the 1950 Constitution.

In 1951 the first large-scale elections to the Legislative Assembly took place when 75 members were elected.

There were three nominated ex-officio members and six special members representing commercial mining interests. The 1955 transitional Constitution provided for an Assembly of a Speaker and 104 Members elected on party lines on the basis of universal adult suffrage.

In 1957 when Ghana achieved full political independence, the Constitution was fashioned after the Westminster model. In June 1960, 10 women were elected by the National Assembly to fill specially created seats. This was done to expose women to parliamentary life.

This system of election was not intended to be permanent. The Act made no provision in filling a vacancy caused by death, resignation or expulsion of a woman member. On July 1, 1960, Ghana became a sovereign unitary Republic.

In February 1964 Ghana adopted a one-party system of Government. The first National Assembly of the Republic was dissolved in 1965 and a General Election which comprised 198 members, all of the Convention People's Party (CPP), were elected unopposed.

The 1964 Constitutional Amendments among other things increased the powers and prerogatives of the President.

In February 1966, the First Republican Government was overthrown by a military coup, which installed a military government that remained in power up to September 1969. On its own volition, the military administration handed over power to another constitutionally elected government, and thereby restored parliamentary rule once again. After 22 months in office, the Second parliamentary democracy also succumbed to another military rule between 1972.

In September 1979 the military government was compelled to usher in the Third Republican Parliamentary system.

Parliamentary democracy was once thrown into cold storage as a result of yet another military intervention in December 1981. However, the country returned to constitutional rule again on January 7, 1993, with 200 members.

Constitutional rule has survived a third term. The Fourth Parliament of the Fourth Republic has 230 members.

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