A constitutional law lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Kwaku Agyeman-Budu, says a careful look at the provisions of Ghana’s 1992 constitution and the consitution of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) shows that the law may be on the side of the NPP in the party’s quest to get Parliament to remove the MP for Fomena from the House, following his decision to contest in the 2020 elections as an independent candidate.
The constitutional law scholar, who doubles as the head of Law Centres at the GIMPA Faculty of Law, made this assertion on Asaase Radio’s political and elections show On the Ground. Quoting Article 97(1)(g) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana and Article 3(9)(1) of the NPP constitution – the pivotal legal provisions around which the whole controversy has revolved – Dr Agyeman-Budu argued that the NPP has a strong basis for its demand that the Honourable Member for Fomena, Amoako Andrew Asiamah, has forfeited his membership of the NPP and, by extension, may be deemed to have vacated his seat in Parliament. This is because Asiamah was elected to the House on the ticket of the NPP, Agyeman-Budu said.
Article 97(1)(g) of the 1992 constitution of Ghana says that “a member of Parliament shall vacate his seat in Parliament if he leaves the party of which he was a member at the time of his election to Parliament to join another party or seeks to remain in Parliament as an independent member”.
Furthermore, Article 3(9)(1) of the NPP constitution provides as follows: “A Member of the Party, who stands as an independent candidate against the officially elected member of the Party, or who joins or declares his or her support for another Political Party, or for an independent candidate, when the Party has sponsored a candidate in a general or by-election, automatically forfeits his or her membership of the Party.”
Does forfeiting party membership amount to vacating a seat?
According to Dr Agyeman-Budu, it is clear that “the Member of Parliament at the centre of this controversy has forfeited his membership of the New Patriotic Party in accordance with the party’s own constitution”.
He continued: “So there is no question that he has forfeited his membership by virtue of the NPP constitution: that is not in doubt. Now, the question is, on the basis of the forfeiture of his membership, is he deemed to have vacated his seat as a member of Parliament?
“Clearly, that is what the NPP believes, hence their notification to the Speaker and leadership of Parliament to instigate the processes for the removal of the MP. I must say that the NPP has a very reasonable basis to believe so, because their constitution clearly spells this out,” the lecturer said.
“Even though the MP has not necessarily joined another political party or formally indicated that he has left the party to be an independent MP like the constitution provides – under which circumstances he would have been deemed to have vacated his seat – the fact still remains that he has forfeited his membership of the NPP in accordance with the party’s constitution, which, mind you, is sanctioned by the laws of Ghana,” Agyeman-Budu said.
He added: “The onus now lies on [the MP] to take up the matter that he has not left the party, because the constitutional provision talks about either you leaving the political party or becoming an independent member of Parliament; and this is a situation whereby the party is saying he has forfeited his membership, which may be the same as having left the political party, but it is also clear that he has not joined another political party.
“So it is very possible that this case may end up in court, assuming it gets to that point, and it will be good for the development of our constitutional jurisprudence.”
Internal party mechanisms
Dr Agyeman-Budu further argued that even though there are internal mechanisms to address such issues, as set out in the NPP constitution, there may be other factors which may have resulted in the party’s inability to use these mechanisms to address developments in the Fomena constituency.
“I believe that these processes are available, and have been available. As to the specific reason why they may not have been used or may have been used, we are not privy to that information, and so we would not be able to tell. But I know that grievance processes exist under the NPP constitution.
“But then, we also know that political party primaries always lead to some disgruntled persons. We have seen it ever since we began this our fourth experiment of democracy in Ghana,” Dr Agyeman-Budu said.
Click on the link below to listen to Dr. Kwaku Agyeman-Budu
Wilberforce Asare / Asaase Radio