Saturday, December 13, 2008

No absolute majority; PNC, CPP hold key

The 113 parliamentary seats won by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the 108 by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the just-ended parliamentary election have pushed the country into an unfamiliar territory where no party has an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

It has also come with the puzzle as to which party should form the Majority and which the Minority in Parliament.

Reflecting on the issue, a former Clerk of Parliament described it as an albatross around the neck of the country which would require consensus building to enhance the smooth operation of the House.

The difficulty will also reflect in the choice of a Speaker for the House, as well as the Majority and Minority leaders.

The Standing Orders of Parliament define the Majority Leader thus: "A Member of Parliament designated by the party or parties holding majority seats in the House as their recognised leader in the House."

The document, which governs the operations of the House, also defines the Minority Leader as, "A Member of Parliament designated by the party having the largest numerical strength in Parliament other than the party that has formed the government, as the recognised leader of all Minority groups in the House."

Other parliamentary sources told the Daily Graphic that the way out for the party that would form the Majority in Parliament now hung on the magnanimity of the occupants •of the People's National Convention's (PNC's) two seats and the Convention People's Party's (CPP's) one seat.

The sources said it was the PNC and the CPP that could decide on which party formed the Majority in Parliament and not the independent MPs, as was being suggested by a number of people.

Should the PNC and the CPP MPs decide to align themselves with the NDC, then the NPP would be in the Minority, even if the party's presidential candidate won the run-off, they exp1ained.

It is only when the question of which party becomes the Majority is answered that one can also think of who nominates the Speaker of the House.

According to the experts, although it had now become a norm that the party in power nominated the Speaker, it was the duty of the House to elect the Speaker.

They cited the scenario that occurred at the beginning of the present Parliament, during which both the Majority and the Minority sides put forward their candidates for the House to decide on who became the Speaker.

In the end, Mr Begyina Sekyi Hughes, who was nominated by the Majority, polled more votes, as against the votes polled by the late Peter Ala Adjetey, who was nominated by the Minority.

The question as to who becomes the Speaker cannot, therefore, be answered now. The question can, however, be answered beyond any reasonable doubt if the independent, the PNC and the CPP MPs decide to align themselves with the NDC.

Another snare that is expected in Parliament will involve appointing the chairmen of the various parliamentary committees. If the NDC wins the run-off and is able to convince the CPP MPs and the PNC MPs to be at its side, then there will be no problem about who will be selected as chairmen of the various committees.

Should the PNC and the CPP align themselves with the NPP and form the Majority in Parliament if Professor Mills wins the run-off, then the Majority will select the chairmen of the committees to preside over committees that will decide on the policies and programmes of the ruling government.

Another difficulty that the next Parliament may face will concern the position of the Leader of Government Business who has always been the Majority Leader. Should the situation arise that the Leader of Government Business is in the Minority, then it will require consensus building and a lot of tact for the business of the government to be carried out in the House.

One other difficulty that presents itself is the possibility of the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament coming from the party in power which forms the Minority in Parliament. '

Over the years, the chairman of the committee had been selected from the Minority, but the-provision in the Standing Orders of the House requires that the committee "Shall consist of not more than 25 members under the chairmanship of a member who does not belong to the party which controls, the executive branch of government".

With this provision, the next Parliament may have the chairman of the PAC coming from the Majority, given the explanations that have been given in this piece.

Since the release of the results, many people have given a lot of interpretations to the issues, with some saying that since the NDC is now in the lead with 113 seats, it is the party that should form the Majority in Parliament.

Others too have argued that the NPP can form alliances with the four independent MPs and the three PNC and CPP MPs to form the Majority and leave the NDC to form the Minority in the House.

The definition of the Majority and Minority leaders, however, leaves nobody in doubt that the four independent MPs cannot be in alliance with any party to form the majority, since they are not parties.

They can, however, work with any of the parties to gain advantage on issues that crop up in the House.

Source: Daily Graphic

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