EC to submit new legislation to Parliament for district level elections, (Tuesday, March 3, 2015) FRONT



Aspiring assembly members hoping to contest the district level elections may have to put their ambitions on hold for a little while, as the Electoral Commission (EC) announces plans to prepare new legislation to be passed by Parliament before fresh nominations are received for the elections.

A terse statement signed by Mr Amadu Sulley, the EC Deputy Chairman in charge of Operations, and issued by the EC said the commission’s decision was in total compliance with the ruling of the Supreme Court. 

It fell short of stating any timelines for the process. 

The EC yesterday held a crunch meeting to discuss the way forward after the Supreme Court last week cancelled the elections scheduled for today. 

The court’s decision followed a suit filed by a Winneba-based fisherman, Benjamin Eyi Mensah, who went to court to challenge his disqualification based on a new law which came into force after the commission had closed nominations.

According to the plaintiff, he was denied an opportunity to file his nomination, despite meeting all conditions to become a candidate because the EC closed nominations before the maturity of the Constitutional Instrument (CI) 85 which gave the ground for the elections.

Article 11 (7) of the Constitution says: 

“Any order, rule or regulation made by a person or authority under a power conferred by this Constitution or any other law shall – (a) be laid before Parliament; (b) be published in the Gazette on the day it is laid before Parliament and (c) come into force at the expiration of 21 sitting days after being so laid unless Parliament, before the expiration of the 21 days, annuls the order, rule or regulation by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament.

The plaintiff argued that the EC had breached the Constitution because there was no law which allowed for nominations to be opened and closed for district assembly elections.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling last Friday, four days to the planned elections, unanimously declared that the elections were "unconstitutional" and that they should be cancelled and the EC should reopen nominations. 

Before its decision, the court had asked the EC to stop running advertisements on the March 3, 2015 district level elections. 

Currently, apart from the Lower Manya Municipal Assembly which went to the polls on December 3, 2013 to elect assembly members who would, therefore, have their mandate expiring in 2019, the tenure of assembly members of the remaining metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) expires on March 14, this year. 

Implications for local government 
Although there is no constitutional provision speaking to the current situation facing the MMDAs, some local government analysts are making a case for Parliament to extend the mandate of the various MMDAs. 

The Dean of Graduate Studies of the Institute of Local Government Studies, Dr Eric Oduro-Osae, advised the Minister of Local Government and Rural Development to, as a matter of urgency, liaise with the Office of the President to get Parliament to extend the mandate of the current assembly members until the next assembly elections were conducted.

“This is a clear instance of an emergency that has occasioned the country,” he told the Daily Graphic. 

For the Executive Director of the Centre for Local Governance Advocacy (CLGA), Dr Vladimir Antwi-Danso, the power was in the hands of Parliament. 

"If Parliament says let's give them [current assembly members] a mandate to continue while the EC does its work, I think it is more constitutional, but if we don't do that, there will be some chaos and we will be setting a bad precedent for the future," he was quoted as saying. 

The Lower Manya experience
Should the EC fail to organise the elections and Parliament also fails to extend the mandate of the assemblies, the local government system may grind to a halt, as the various metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) may be without the support of their assembly members to carry out development projects.

A similar scenario happened in the then Lower Manya District in 2010 where a protracted legal battle between the EC and the chiefs and people of Lower Manya delayed the assembly elections for more than four years.

In the absence of an elected assembly, the municipality was administered by an Interim Management Team appointed by the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. 

Numerous development projects came to a standstill. 

Financial cost

The EC has already investedhttp://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png millions of cedis in adverts, posters, ballot papers and notice of polls. Prospective candidates have also invested money in posters, campaign hours and, to some extent, T-shirts.

While the campaign posters for the candidates may not expire because they have no specific dates, those of the EC may become useless unless the commission finds a way to put them to use in the near future. 

EC officials have remained tight-lipped on how much the commission had spent on preparations towards the elections.

Writer’s email:seth.bokpe@graphic.com.gh

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