The National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) has condemned what it describes as “absurd and unnecessary drama” in the Chamber of Parliament by Members of the House during the election of the Speaker for the Eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic on the night of January 6, this year.
It has, therefore, urged Parliament to purge itself of the blemish by rendering an unqualified apology to Ghanaians and also take steps to bring Members of Parliament (MPs) at the centre of the brouhaha to book.
The Chairperson of the NCCE, Ms Josephine Nkrumah, who made that call in a statement, said the standoff in Parliament, apart from bringing the image of the legislature into disrepute, was also an affront to the country’s democracy.
Brawl in Parliament
The call by the NCCE is in response to series of verbal and physical exchanges between elected MPs from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) sides who had gathered in the Chamber of Parliament to be sworn into office after the dissolution of the Seventh Parliament on the mid-night of January 6, 2021.
The 275 MPs were first of all required to cast their ballots to elect a Speaker for the Eighth Parliament and two deputy speakers.
The elected Speaker would then swear the elected MPs into office.
The constitutional exercise was characterised by series of misunderstanding, including disagreements over the use of secret balloting to elect the Speaker of the House.
In the midst of the brouhaha, some MPs-elect resorted to kicking and hijacking of ballot boxes to stop the voting process on the grounds that some of the voters were publicly displaying their votes when it was supposed to be secret.
The worst happened when the MP for Tema West, Mr Carlos Ahenkorah, snatched ballot papers that were being counted.
He was physically attacked by other MPs from the NDC side to retrieve the papers.
After long hours of back and forth, the former MP for Nadowli Kaleo, Mr Alban S.K Bagbin, was declared the Speaker of the House and sworn into office.
The action of the MPs had received wide condemnation by many groups.
The NCCE joined in that condemnation, with its chairperson describing the drama in Parliament as “unconstitutional, disgraceful, detestable and smacks off indiscipline,”. She called for specific sanctions on MPs involved in the ballot papers snatching brawl.
Additionally, she called for an exhaustive investigation into the circumstances under which the military was deployed to invade the chamber.
“This is reprehensible, an affront to our democracy and contravenes Article 122 of the 1992 Constitution which states “An act or omission which obstructs or impedes Parliament in the performance of its functions or which obstructs or impedes a member or officer of Parliament in the discharge of his duties, or affronts the dignity of Parliament or which tends either directly or indirectly to produce that result, is contempt of Parliament,” she said.
While calling on well-meaning Ghanaians to join in condemning the “immature and undignified act” by the MPs, she underscored the need for the leadership of Parliament to take immediate steps to deal with the issues to restore dignity to the House.
The NCCE boss indicated that the action of the MPs gave credence to the perception that what miscreant constituents do at polling stations was backed by some political actors.
“The Commission urges Parliament to apply sanctions appropriately to serve as deterrent to others and the electorate generally,” she said.
Ms Nkrumah urged MPs in the Eighth Parliament to resort to dialogue on issues to engender consensus building, given the even split in seats to the two dominant parties.
That, she said, would be the best way to uphold the principles of serving the needs of the Ghanaian at all times.
Use of military
Ms Nkrumah also said the increasing military presence in the country’s democratic processes was a cause for concern “and we call for a full scale investigation and explanation to Ghanaians over the intrusion of the military in our Parliament.
She reiterated the need for every Ghanaian to uphold the supremacy of the 1992 Constitution and respect state institutions to strengthen and enhance the country’s democracy.
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