Although the dust appears to be settling, after the country’s eighth consecutive poll since its return to democracy about 30 years ago, a dilemma hangs over relations between the government and a hung parliament where the opposition National Democratic Congress are tied with the ruling New Patriotic Party at 137 MPs each and an independent member.
This parliamentary election stalemate comes against the backdrop of post-electoral violence which left at least five people killed and 17 others, raising questions about the West African country's reputation as a stable democracy.
Acrimonious scenes were evident in parliament recently where the new parliamentarians elected opposition NDC member Mr. Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, was elected, defeating the incumbent and NPP member, Prof. Aaron Mike Oquaye for the post of Speaker.
The voting was marred by violence and allegations of ballot-box snatching.
Clearly sensing the sharp division in the House, President Nana Akufo-Addo in his last State of the Nation Address last Tuesday, urged parliamentarians to unite in the interest of Ghana.
“The good people of Ghana have spoken and given Parliament an almost equal strength on both sides of the House; we have no choice but to work with the consequences of the desires of the people,” he said.
Although, the election Mr. Bagbin of the NDC as the Speaker has shown that the members are willing to share power since none of the two leading parties has a clear majority but some Ghanaians, see this development as new and worrisome in their political history since the party that wins the Presidency and majority in parliament produces the Speaker.
No doubt, there are widespread misgivings not unconnected with the difficulties which the president will have passing important bills and reforms through the House, in the case a hung parliament where every session will almost certainly be divisive.
However, the Member of Parliament for the Ningo Prampram constituency, Mr. Sam Nartey George, has dismissed the fears already expressed by some Ghanaians, saying NDC members of parliament have proven time and again to be consensus builders.
He noted that after yielding the first Deputy Speaker position to the NPP, the NDC also nominated the independent candidate as the Second Deputy Speaker.
Mr. George told the Accra-based radio station Citi FM on Thursday, January 7, that the aforementioned indicates the party’s interest in safeguarding the democracy of the country.
“We have proven to be consensus builders, after seceding the first Deputy Speaker position to the NPP, what did we do? We nominated the independent candidate as the Second Deputy. We have shown our interest in safeguarding the democracy of the country,” local media reports quoted George as saying.
He assured that the NDC would not take advantage of the election of its member, Mr. Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, as Speaker of Parliament to frustrate President Akufo-Addo in his second term in office.
“If we wanted to hold the President to ransom, the Speaker would not have been allowed to appear for the President’s swearing-in ceremony. We would have just asked the First Deputy Speaker, Joe Osei Owusu to replace him. We are not that kind of party,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Speaker, who was sworn in on Thursday, has assured Ghanaians that he would discharge his duties without fear or favour.
But the statement by the NDC on Friday, January 8, that notwithstanding the inauguration of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as President for a second term in office, the party would not recognise him as such, until all issues surrounding his election were satisfactorily resolved.
The General Secretary of the NDC, Mr. Johnson Asiedu Nketia, told a news conference in Accra on Friday that the circumvention of due process, which was openly displayed during the election of a Speaker of Parliament on Thursday was a replica of what happened during the December 7, 2020 general elections.
The NDC, according to him, has consequently called for a full Parliamentary probe to be instituted by the Speaker of Parliament into the "unfortunate incidents of January 7th, 2021" in the chamber of Parliament.
The General Secretory frowned at the "invasion of the Chamber of Parliament by gun-wielding military men, with 'azugu' masks, and the snatching of ballot papers by now 'dishonourable' Carlos Ahenkorah, and punish all those who are found culpable in accordance with the laws of the country, including the conduct of the Clerk of Parliament on that occasion and to forestall any such occurrence in the future."
He, however, urged the newly elected Speaker and NDC Parliamentarians “to always remember the hard fought victory of that night and ensure they put the national interest first at all times".
Despite the assurances from the new Speaker of Parliament and some members of the NDC, the current stance of the NDC not to recognize President Akufo-Addo as president until the issues before the Supreme Court are satisfactorily resolved and the issue of circumvention of due process in the election of the Speaker of Parliament by the NPP and the December 7 election characterized by the use armed soldiers at various polling stations and constituency collation centres, snatching of ballot boxes, intimidation, harassment and in some cases, killing of innocent unarmed civilians in cold blood may portray the NDC as a party unwilling to work with the NPP in harmony for the overall development of Ghana and the welfare of Ghanaians.
Perhaps, what the Ghanaians are experiencing in its 8th Parliament is not new as Nigerian opposition parties had produced the Senate President and deputy Senate President. Although the two countries have different political systems- presidential system for Nigeria and Parliamentary for Ghana, the current development promotes checks and balance in governance and requires robust lobbying by lawmakers to get bills and other pieces of legislation passed by Parliament.