COVID-19: Uncertainty over 2020 polls may cause constitutional crisis – Majority Leader

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu has expressed fears of a possible constitutional crisis if the country fails to combat the COVID-19 pandemic before the December elections.

According to him, the 1992 constitution does not provide clarity on who should steer the affairs of the nation if the sitting President’s tenure expires in unforeseen circumstances.

He made this observation in Parliament today, Thursday, April  30, 2020.

“The President has assured that he does not want to go even one day beyond the constitutional mandate that he has to administer the affairs of this country. So, Mr. Speaker, we all have to look at the Electoral Commission to put in the required measures towards the conduct of the election because, the constitution as we all recognize is a bit ambivalent beyond January 7, 2020, when elections cannot be conducted or even in the case of any force Majeure who should be the President.”

The conduct of the December 7, 2020 polls remains uncertain given that many of the electoral activities in the build-up to the polls have been put on hold until further notice as a result of the pandemic.

While many continue to cast doubts on the ability of the Electoral Commission (EC) to compile a new voters’ register ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections, several others have already begun looking into the practicalities of some constitutional provisions to be considered for the present situation.

However, Mr. Mensah Bonsu who doubles as Minister of Parliamentary Affairs has said the current situation in terms of lapses in the constitution calls for more drastic measures.

“There is a bit of some lacuna except to say that for Parliament that in case of any emergence, provision is made and expressed under the constitution on how the life of Parliament is extended by one year in any event not more than four years everything by 12 months. In that period, who becomes the Head of State?

“Is it the Speaker in the absence of the President and Vice President, that is a bit troubling to us as a nation. In any event, the same constitution provides that when the speaker acts as President within three months, there should be the conduct of an election to elect a President. So there is a bit of conflicting situation in the constitution. So Mr. Speaker until all of us agree on something else, noting responsible could be done so I hope that the appropriate thing is done.”

CJ can’t take over as President if COVID-19 hampers 2020 elections

Aside from the legal and constitutional arguments that have been advanced to minimize the risk and political implication of holding or cancelling the election in the face of the outbreak, there is a school of thought that believes that the Chief Justice as head of the Judiciary could rise to the helm of affairs as President.

But, renowned media practitioner and Host of Metro TV’s Good Evening Ghana, Paul Adom-Otchere, has ruled out any possibility of the Chief Justice ascending to the highest office of the presidency in case there is no general election due to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus in Ghana.

He has explained how impossible that option would be since it has no grounds in the country’s legal framework.

He clarified that: “We will not get there with the issue about the Chief Justice. It is fundamental to explain that in terms of hierarchy, that is the most important people of the state, there is a President, Vice President, Speaker of Parliament and Chief Justice. The law does not actually contemplate the Chief Justice running the show as President because the law provides for what the Vice President does under circumstances for him to perform the functions of the President. It also provides under what circumstances it brings the Speaker”.

Election 2020 in limbo?

The Electoral Commission suspended its planned compilation of new voters’ register because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It was initially scheduled for April 18, 2020, but no new date has since been announced.

The EC has said it wants to ensure that the register that is used on the election day is more credible and efficient than the existing one hence the need for a new Biometric Voter Management System (BVMS).

The move for the new register has however been met with opposition from key political stakeholders, including the main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

The President’s ban on all public gatherings, conferences, workshops, funerals, festivals, religious activities included political rallies and all other related events as part of measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in the country.

The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) also suspended its April 25, 2020, parliamentary primaries indefinitely amidst the COVID-19 scare.Source:Duke Mensah Opoku | citinewsroom.com | Ghana

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