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What Secret Ballot Means to Ghana’s Parliamentarians

The dissolution of the 7th parliament of the Republic of Ghana is set to take place tonight at 12 O’clock AM. In such a procedural democracy, this is drawn from article 113 (1) of the constitution which states that, “subject to clause (2) of this article, parliament shall continue for four years from the date of its first sitting and shall then stand dissolved”.

 Immediately after the dissolution, elected lawmakers will go to the chamber to elect the speaker of parliament and two other deputies via a secret ballot. The newly elected speaker of parliament would then swear in the lawmakers to constitute the 8th parliament of Ghana’s democracy.

It is expected that a secret ballot will be taken during the election of the Speaker of the 8th Parliament as rightly determined by Standing Order 9(1) and of the Constitution (Article 104). In the process the Member writes the name of the nominee on a paper and fold it "SO THAT THE NAME WRITTEN ON IT CANNOT BE SEEN" (order 9(3-5)).

The underlying word is 'cannot be seen' just as was done in the general elections (presidential and parliamentary elections). The usual culture in parliament, however, is that during secret ballot the Whips of both sides of the House stand right behind every member who goes to cast their ballot.

What is that supposed to do, if not to ensure that members do not vote for any other person other than the wholesome choice of a particular candidate? This makes the process lose its essence of independence and secrecy in selecting a candidate for the speakership position.

This will make it very difficult for any member who may want to vote for another nominee to do so in fear of betrayal and dishonesty that could put him/her in a bad position of the political party he belongs.

Due to this, there’s no doubt that every single member will vote for their caucus' choice even when they do not agree on principles. This obviously loses the integrity of a secret ballot to represent the true choices of the lawmakers.

 If the House will be able to achieve the purpose for which process of secret ballot has been set out in both the constitution and standing orders, members need to revisit that culture and allow each member to have their 'peace of mind’ when casting their secret ballots.

 In the end, it is the secretiveness and integrity of the ballot that matters and not numbers during counting. It is imperative note that, not every decision must have a partisan taste in parliament but should reflect the purpose of our structured parliament for national development.  

 

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2021-01-06 18:59:40
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Source: ILAPI