THE Acting Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, Prof Kofi Quashigah, says retaining the independence of critical constitutional institutions with key functions in democracy, was the principal objective why the constitutional assembly decided on permanent tenure for such heads.
Putting term limits on the tenure of the heads of such institutions such as the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the Electoral Commission (EC) and the Judicial Service, in his opinion, could affect the independence of the head as well as the institution.
In an Interview, Prof Quashigah said for instance, “a six year two term arrangement, overlapping Parliament’s” for the Chairman of the EC as suggested by ex-President J. A. Kufuor in his farewell Speech to Parliament on January 5, 2009, could pose challenges
A Chairman of the Commission knowing his tenure was going to expire could bow to inducement of a lucrative retirement from the executive in the exercise of his or her functions.
On the extension of the tenure of the President to a five year term renewable once, Prof Quashigah said it was time for the country in its quest to entrench democracy, to focus on building strong institutions and systems rather than focusing on the heads of such institutions.
He said President Kufuors suggestion assumed that the implementation of good policies depended solely on one person.
The suggestion did not make room for the continuity in good policies in the country which was provided for in the 1992 constitution by the establishment of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC).
“We must all begin to strengthen institutions based on democratic principles so that when we are not there things will move on,” he said.
He said article 86 of the Constitution which established the NDPC made it a duty on all political parties; to make their specific political agenda, on which they campaigned on, conform to the national aspirations of Ghanaians.
On indications of Ghana becoming a two party state from the last general elections, in which the two dominant parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) had the most parliamentary seats and later had to contend in a presidential run-off, Prof Quashigah said although the Constitution clearly intended the country to have multi party system, in practice, Ghana could in the future become a two party state.
He said if in practice the country ended up with a strong party and other smaller ones that would not detract from the constitution.
The fundamental principle was the ability for people to choose, as a single party clearly indicated dictatorship, something the constitution clearly prohibited.
On political party financing, he proposed a system of financing that would support the intention of a multi party system of the constitution.
He suggested a funding plan that would incorporated the size of parties as well as their ability to mobilise resources and funds as some of the yardsticks for the distribution of resources.
Such a funding plan, he said, would also make the political parties accountable.
Prof Quashigah proposed changes to the balloting system in the country’s electoral process.
He asked for the country to critically speed up the National Identification System or devise a method of balloting like the E-zwich application that could deal decisively with the challenges of balloting fraud, as that issue had been the cause of tense moments in the country in the past election.
DAILY GRAPHIC, MONDAY JANUARY 19, 2009, PG 31