1. The realm of politics often unveils a regrettable panorama of evil. This means that the world of politics frequently exposes a troubling and unfortunate display of morally wrong or harmful actions, behaviours, or situations. Additionally, there are often instances of unethical practices, corruption, deceit, and other negative aspects that can be disheartening or disappointing.
2. Unhappily, it was on the ill-starred date of 27th March 2023 that a sombre incident occurred within the corridors of power, casting a pall of uncertainty. Philip Basoah, a respected Member of Parliament, departed from this mortal coil, leaving behind a cloud of unanswered questions. Basoah’s passing came amidst a tempestuous week, ablaze with fervent endeavours to enact three pivotal taxes, regarded as indispensable ‘prior actions,’ in Ghana’s earnest quest to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of the nation’s unwavering commitment to adopt the seventeenth instalment of its burdensome prescriptions and the accompanying financial rescue –– some 3 billion United States dollars in all.
3. In our collective endeavour, akin to a fervent seeker yearning for a potent dose of opium, we found ourselves, led by the very NPP government that had ushered the Ghanaian economy into an abyss, willing to traverse extraordinary lengths to secure an agreement with the IMF.
4. Scarcely had the tears dried on the faces of those emotionally stricken than the unseemly side of politics reared its head once more. Swiftly, attention diverted from the plight of the bereaved family to discussions centred around the quest to find a formidable candidate capable of aiding the NPP in retaining the highly coveted Kumawu seat. Given the razor-thin margin of a solitary seat aiding the NPP to form the majority in the current Parliament, the party cannot afford to relinquish this precious stronghold.
NDC’s Stake in Kumawu By-Election
5. Of course, the NDC, too, holds a substantial stake in the forthcoming Kumawu by-election. Even a marginal victory would represent a resounding triumph for the Mahama-led party, which has languished in the political wilderness since suffering a staggering defeat in the 2016 polls. A victory in Kumawu, nestled in the heart of Asanteland—a political goldmine renowned for its unwavering loyalty to the NPP—would serve as an emphatic vote of no confidence in the leadership of the Nana Addo/Bawumia government, whose (mis)governance has pushed Ghana’s economy to the brink.
6. An NDC triumph could potentially bestow upon the party a considerable elevation in stature, possessing the capacity to alter the delicate balance of power within Parliament. The NDC, as it stands, is poised to relinquish one of their 137 seats won in 2020 following the Supreme Court’s directive to Speaker Bagbin to expunge from the House’s records the name of James Gyakye Quayson. Quayson, formerly representing Assin North, was found to have held dual nationality prior to submitting his forms to the EC to seek election as a lawmaker, a revelation that came to light only after his ascendancy to the role of MP.
7. Upon the imminent reconvening of Parliament, Speaker Bagbin is anticipated to obey the Supreme Court’s judgement, signalling to the EC that a void now exists within the House. Should the NDC attain victory in Kumawu and subsequently replicate their success in Assin North, a seismic shift in parliamentary power dynamics would ensue. The NPP, in this scenario, would find themselves relegated to the minority, presiding over 137 MPs, while the NDC, ascendant, would assume the mantle of majority with a total of 138 seats under their banner. The stakes riding on the outcome of Tuesday’s polls are high indeed, carrying with them a latent potential to incite a volatile reaction.
The Race in Kumawu: The Candidates
8. Earlier, after a primary election, the NPP settled on Ernest Yaw Anim, who garnered 195 votes to surpass his closest contender, Ama Serwaa, and three others. On the other hand, the NDC selected Kwasi Amankwaa, popularly known as ‘Tom Cee,’ as its parliamentary candidate for the Kumawu by-election. He was acclaimed by the party in April and went uncontested during the party’s recent presidential and parliamentary primaries on 6th May 2023.
9. Two other candidates have emerged in the race. These independent candidates were formerly members of the NPP, but they reportedly defected after alleging mistreatment by the party. One is Kwaku Duah, a former NPP loyalist, who ran as an independent candidate against the late MP in the 2020 election. Mr Duah secured the second position in the 2020 parliamentary race, amassing a total of 11,698 valid votes, accounting for 39.96% of the overall votes, compared to Basoah’s victory with 14,960 valid votes, representing 51.11% of the total votes.
10. The other Kwaku Duah, hailing from Bodomase, is a relatively unknown politician also running as an independent candidate. Some sceptics contend that he is sponsored by the governing NPP to sow confusion among voters and erode potential support for the first Kweku Duah. However, this perspective holds little validity, as the ballot papers will prominently feature the portraits and symbols of all candidates, ensuring clarity and minimising confusion, if any.
Escalating Kumawu Political Climate
11. In recent weeks, the political climate in the Kumawu constituency has reached a fever pitch. Instead of solemnly mourning their two-time MP, the constituency has been inundated with throngs of outsiders fervently campaigning for their respective candidates. Over the weekend, Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia gauged his popularity ahead of the NPP’s forthcoming Presidential Primary elections, while also championing the cause of the NPP in retaining the Kamawu seat. Figures like Kennedy Agyapong and Alan Kyeremanteng were also present. On Sunday, President Nana Addo addressed a huge rally called ahead of Tuesday’s by-election.
12. Ordinarily, Basoah should have enjoyed a state funeral at the forecourt of the State House, Accra where MPs from both sides of the House would have had the pleasure of paying their last respects in a truly solemn atmosphere devoid of partisan fanfare. Unfortunately, the funeral was scheduled two days before the crucial date of the Kumawu by-election, 23rd May 2023, perhaps to afford the governing NPP every opportunity to exploit any political fortune there may be in the remains of their former MP.
Vote Buying Tricks Masquerading as Legitimate Development
13. Under the judicious gaze of Ghanaian legislation, procuring votes through illicit means is a transgression that should be met with stern retribution by our courts. This is unequivocally enshrined within Section 34 of the Representation of the People’s Law 1992 (as variously amended), elegantly paraphrased as follows:
(a) An individual is deemed culpable when they, either directly or indirectly, fund in whole or in part the provision of food, drink, entertainment, or services to any person before, during, or after an election. The illicit objective of this act is to unduly sway that person or another to cast a vote, refrain from voting, or in response to their past or impending voting behaviour.
(b) An individual is equally culpable when they corruptly accept or partake in any food, drink, entertainment, or services offered under the aforementioned circumstances and for the purposes specified in paragraph (a).
14. Sadly, such legislative mandates have been repeatedly flouted, a fact evinced by transgressions observed across the political continuum, with recent illustrations surfacing during the NDC’s Presidential and Parliamentary Primary Elections. The public ledger unmistakably records that the Special Prosecutor is not merely prosecuting Alex Safo Kantanka, the shamed Municipal Chief Executive nominee for Juaben, on allegations of vote buying, but is also probing into at least one of the numerous purported incidents of vote procurement during the NDC’s primary elections.
15. Despite this, lamentably, the admonitions against vote buying seem to be cast adrift in Kumawu. Here, we witness acts that appear to be state-endorsed instances of vote buying, slyly donned in the guise of legitimate development projects. And so, all of a sudden, the government that claims to be so broke it cannot pay to feed hungry school children benefiting from the School Feeding Program around the country, finds the money to move contractors to various sites in Kumawu to construct new roads and hurriedly lay asphalt over many existing ones.
16. Various kinds of gifts – from pieces of cloth to cups of rice – are allegedly being distributed to constituents in a desperate attempt to secure their support ahead of Tuesday’s polls. Although the governing party denies sanctioning the alleged acts complained of, it does seem that Every trick of vote buying is being deployed from the textbooks in a desperate attempt to ensure the NPP does not lose the seat. All these are happening in a constituency that felt, a few months ago, abandoned and uncared for. It cannot be right. The evidence from Kumawu underscores the pressing necessity for an unwavering commitment to upholding the integrity of our democratic processes, undiluted by such unscrupulous practices.
17. In the government’s defence, however, Minister for Roads, Kwesi Amoako-Atta suggests that the various road projects in Kumawu were already underway and were not a direct attempt to influence voters in the impending by-election. In his words, “The entire road project had already been procured for the contractor. The people of this area, from Juaben to Kumawu will be living witnesses of what is going to happen after the bye-election of 23rd May. He added: “They will see whether the contractor is going to stop work or not, and it will put to shame all this false information.” There is no doubt that the Minister is being economical with the truth.
18. Naturally, the NDC yearns for a triumph that would enable them to craft a narrative wherein even in the core regions of Ashanti, voters are veering away from the NPP. The latter has demonstrated its incapacity to fulfil its electoral pledges or has been woefully inept in delivering on its commitments, resulting in a stagnated Ghanaian economy and leaving its citizens anxiously gasping for the distant prospect of economic resuscitation. Whilst the prospect of an NDC victory might ostensibly appear as a flight of fancy, the fascinating realm of politics frequently proves that even the seemingly improbable can transpire.
A Compelling Case for Change: Reforming the By-Election Process in Ghana
19. Within the realm of Ghanaian politics, the advent of by-elections has established itself as a recurrent phenomenon. From the momentous replacement of the resigned Prof Wayo Seini in Tamale Central with the venerated Inusah Fuseini in 2006, to the consequential election of Lydia Seyram Alhassan to gracefully assume the mantle in Ayawaso West Wuogon after the tragic passing of her esteemed husband, Emmanuel Boakye Agyarko, in 2018, these electoral affairs have regrettably been entangled in a myriad of challenges.
20. It is time, with utmost respect and conviction, to consider a change in the law. The costs and pitfalls associated with by-elections far outweigh the benefits, calling for a new approach that ensures uninterrupted representation without succumbing to the vices of vote buying, political violence, voter intimidation, and a disregard for the memory of the departed MP.
21. In our pursuit of a more progressive political landscape, it is imperative to explore alternative methods for replacing a deceased or resigned MP. Four options, used elsewhere in the world, present themselves as viable alternatives, each with its own merits:
a. Appointment: Granting the political party to which the departed or resigned MP belonged the authority to appoint a successor, based on party rules and internal processes, bypasses the need for a by-election.
b. Runner-up: If the election results reveal a clear runner-up candidate who narrowly missed securing the seat in the last election, providing them with the opportunity to fill the vacancy becomes a compelling choice.
c. Party List: In countries using a proportional representation system, political parties maintain predetermined lists of candidates. When a candidate on the list passes away or resigns, the next eligible candidate on the party’s list assumes the role as the rightful replacement.
d. Co-option: Certain parliamentary systems allow for the filling of a vacant seat through co-option. In this approach, an existing MP from the same party or coalition is chosen to assume the responsibilities of the vacant position.
22. It is important to acknowledge that the specific procedures for replacing a deceased or resigned MP may vary depending on the country’s legal framework, political system, and party regulations. In the context of Ghana, the most suitable option among those listed above is appointment. By empowering political parties to internally appoint a successor, the need for acrimonious by-elections can be eliminated, while ensuring a seamless and democratic transition. However, as we shall explore in the following section, there may be a potential opening for the runner-up option.
Proposed Amendment to the 1992 Constitution
23. In light of these considerations, a thoughtful amendment to Article 112(5) of Ghana’s constitution is hereby proposed. The refined wording would read as follows: “Upon the occurrence of a vacancy in Parliament, the Clerk to Parliament shall expeditiously notify the Electoral Commission in writing within seven days, and the political party under whose banner the deceased or resigned MP served shall diligently appoint a successor within thirty days.”
24. Additionally, a sub-clause, reflecting features of the runner-up option above, could be introduced to address the situation where the departed or resigned MP entered Parliament as an independent candidate. It shall stipulate that, “Without prejudice to Article 112(5), the Electoral Commission shall, where the departed or resigned MP entered Parliament as an independent candidate, appoint the candidate who secured the second-highest number of votes in the immediately preceding election to fulfil the vacant parliamentary position.”
25. This thoughtful amendment will ensure a more efficient and harmonious process for filling parliamentary vacancies, upholding democratic principles, and preserving the integrity of Ghana’s political landscape. It is a necessary step towards a more progressive and responsible democracy, one that puts the interests of the constituents at the forefront, free of the pitfalls of by-elections.
26. Anticipated objections may arise, asserting that my proposal advocates for the utilization of undemocratic means in the replacement of deceased or resigned MPs. However, I would contend that such arguments overlook the crucial fact that my proposal aligns with the principles of democracy. By duly amending the Constitution to accommodate this approach, we elevate it to the status of an authoritative and democratic instrument. It is an exercise in futility to label as undemocratic that which is explicitly endorsed by the Constitution itself. Let us recognize the inherent democratic essence of this proposal and embrace its potential for positive change. The Constitution, as the supreme legal framework, holds the power to shape and uphold the democratic processes we seek to promote.
27. Given that Article 290 does not enumerate Article 112 as part of the entrenched provisions within the 1992 Constitution, it logically follows that any proposed amendment to the pertinent clause, as advocated beforehand, must adhere to the pathway outlined under Article 291, smartly paraphrased as follows:
A proposed non-entrenched constitutional amendment can be introduced to Parliament if it fulfils these requirements:
1. It’s published twice in the Gazette with a three-month gap between publications.
2. Ten days have passed since the second publication.
After its first reading, the Speaker shall send the bill to the Council of State, who then provide advice within 30 days. The President can only assent to the bill if it is approved by at least two-thirds of Parliament in the second and third readings. The President must then sign the bill.
28. In closing, the tumult surrounding the Kumawu by-election illuminates a pressing issue that extends far beyond the confines of a singular political event; it unveils the compelling necessity for reformation in the manner in which parliamentary vacancies are addressed within the Ghanaian political landscape. The ostentatious political posturing, the abrupt flurry of developmental projects, and the calculated political exploitation of grief not only besmirch the sanctity of our democratic processes but also obfuscate the inherent spirit of representation and service to constituents.
29. Instead of persisting with contentious by-elections, a pragmatic approach that transitions to a party appointment or co-option system may serve to uphold the integrity of our democratic apparatus while simultaneously preserving the ethos of public service. This necessitates a judicious revision to Article 112(5) of Ghana’s constitution to facilitate a more seamless democratic progression.
30. As Ghana perseveres in its journey of democratic consolidation, it remains incumbent upon us to foster a political system that exemplifies efficiency, and fairness, and above all, venerates the trust of the public. It is high time we refine our democratic machinery and herald a new epoch of Ghanaian politics – a politics liberated from the clutches of opportunistic manoeuvres, and driven by an unwavering commitment to the welfare of our constituents and the advancement of our beloved nation.