President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will not stay one day beyond the constitutional mandate given him to administer affairs of the country if the Electoral Commission (EC) is unable to conduct the 2020 presidential and parliament elections due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, who stated this, said the President had himself, at various fora, expressed such commitment to end his term in office by midnight of January 6, 2021.
“The President does not intend to stay one day beyond the constitutional mandate given to him up to the midnight of January 6, 2020 and has strongly urged that whatever must be done in the current circumstances must be done,” he said.
Level of preparedness
Addressing Parliament after presenting the business statement, Mr Kyei–Mensah-Bonsu expressed the belief that the EC would come to brief the House or the Special Budget Committee on their state of preparedness for this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections. “We hope to God that the situation in the country will not deteriorate or degenerate and we hope to God that we shall witness some improvement in the system,” he said.
Minority Leader’s concerns
The Majority Leader stated this in response to concerns raised by the Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu who told Parliament that the EC must be summoned to appear and apprise the legislative body on their roadmap and level of preparedness to conduct the 2020 presidential and parliamentary elections. He said that the Constitution provided that presidential and parliamentary elections should be held this year even as the country struggled with COVID-19.
“The independent EC, created under Article 45 of the Constitution, owes members of this House and Ghanaians a duty, hence they must be summoned to appear before the House to give their roadmap as to their preparedness in view of COVID-19. “Our democracy has evolved and our democracy will survive COVID-19,” he said, saying that “if we cannot get them to come and brief the Committee of the Whole at least they must come to the Special Budget Committee,” he said.
Responding, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said whatever the challenge the EC might encounter, the President had already assured Ghanaians of his readiness not to stay beyond his constitutional mandate.
“So Mr Speaker, we all have to look up to the Electoral Commission to put in the required measures for the conduct of the elections,” he said. “Because the Constitution we all do recognise is a bit ambivalent beyond January 7, 2021 when elections cannot be conducted,” he said, claiming that the Constitution was also not clear who should be the President in times of unforeseen circumstances.
“There is a bit of ambivalence and some lacuna except to say that for Parliament in the event of any emergency, provision is made expressly under the Constitution to have the life of Parliament extended by one year and in any event not more than four years. “In the 12 months, who becomes the head of state? Is it Speaker in the absence of the President or the Vice President? That is a bit troubling to us as a nation,” he said.
He pointed out that in any event, the Constitution provided that when the Speaker acted as the President in the absence of a President or a Vice President, elections must be conducted within three months to elect a President. “So there is a bit of a conflicting situation in the Constitution. So Mr Speaker, until all of us agree on something else nothing to the contrary could be done and we hope to God that the appropriate thing will be done,” he prayed.