By Edmund Mingle, Atimpoku
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
THE four political parties with representation in Parliament have proposed that in future, Ghana’s general election should be held a month earlier, on November 7, instead of the present date of December 7.
That, the parties indicated will enable the transition period to be extended from four to eight weeks to facilitate a more efficient transition and transfer of political power from one administration to another.
The chairmen, general secretaries and policy analysts of the parties in a communiqué issued at the end of a three day retreat for political party leaders here on Sunday to develop proposed guidelines for political transitions, agreed that the extension would help to effectively accommodate election-run-offs and the resolution of any election disputes by the Supreme Court in time before the inauguration of a new president on January 7.
The proposal is one of many developed at the retreat to institutionalise structures for political transitions in order to avoid the rancour and ill-feeling that characterised the 2001 transition which marked Ghana’s change of administration from one democratically elected president to another.
However, the parties, including the New Patriotic Party, National Democratic Congress, Convention Peoples Party and People’s National Convention do not intend to have their proposals, which they want to form the basis of an Act of Parliament termed "The Political Transition Act", to be implemented in this year’s general elections.
The retreat was organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) under the Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP) which is aimed at contributing to the development of structures to consolidate Ghana’s multi-party democracy.
At present, the December 7 election date gives four weeks for all transitional arrangements to be made before the inauguration of a new president.
Where there is a run-off, the transition period is reduced to about seven days, within which the judiciary would have to resolve any petition, against the election results.
The December 7 election date is not an entrenched provision and Parliament can therefore amend it without a referendum.
Among other proposals for a smooth transition, the communiqué suggested that the outgoing administration made up of the executive and heads of ministries, departmetns and agencies, and metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies prepare comprehensive handing-over notes for submission to the Chief Justice seven days to the date of election for a smooth take-off of a new administration.
In addition, it proposed that the Chief Justice who is considered as an independent party in the transitional process, "shall within seven days of the declaration of results convene an ice-breaker meeting between the President and the President-elect to prepare the grounds for the formal transfer of power."
In the event of any election petition challenging the election results, the ice-breaker meeting should be held within three days after the settlement of the petition.
The communiqué also suggested that the President should be made to nominate all key ministers within 30 days of the declaration of election results for those nominated ministers to be part of a Joint Transition Team (JTT).
It said the outgoing ministers and government appointees should make themselves available for consultation by the new government after the inauguration.
To facilitate a smooth inauguration of the President-elect, the communiqué suggested that "Parliament shall convene 24 hours earlier to organise itself and elect a Speaker" before whom the new president would be sworn, before the January 7 inauguration.
That, the communiqué explained would avert the delays that characterised President Kufuor’s second inauguration on January 7, 2005, when Parliament delayed in electing a speaker the same day for the inauguration.
The parties called for clearly defined conditions of service for outgoing ministers for them to know their entitlements.
The parties called for the removal of ambiguities surrounding which gifts to the presidency belonged to the state and which are personal to the President.
"It is the belief of the GPPP that the issues raised if not addressed, could undermine national cohesion and the country’s democratic practice.
"Therefore, the GPPP urges all stakeholders to examine the recommendations and support their enactment into law," the communiqué said.
The proposals were made based on two papers presented by Dr Arthur Kennedy, the Communications Director of the NPP flag-bearer’s campaign team and Paul Victor Obeng, a Presidential Adviser on governmental affairs in the NDC administration.
Dr Kennedy’s paper was on "Transitional Arrangements in other countries — success and failure lessons for Ghana," while P.V. Obeng’s presentation was on "Guidelines for transitional arrangements."