History Of Bye-Elections In Ghana , The Conundrum Of Violence And The Way Forward

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    Ghana’s 1992 constitution makes elaborate provisions on Bye -Elections in article 97 and 112 relating to how a legislative seat may become vacant and the time frame and modalities for filling the vacancy. Parliament in Ghana has since the start of the fourth Republic in 1993 witnessed over twenty vacant seats arising out of death, resignation or disqualification,  several of which have been filled through Bye – Elections. I will like to indulge readers in two schools of thought on the significance of Bye-Elections in relation to regular elections:
    Candidate-Specific and Referendum schools.

    According to the Candidate-Specific school, Bye- Elections have to be explained by a distinctive combination of factors of the particular candidate. The Referendum school on the other hand refers to public approval of the government record in office, is the strongest direct influence on its Bye – Election support.

    It must be pointed out that, the referendum school has always made stakes high for both ruling party and opposition parties therefore resulting in brazen acts of violence and impunity.

    Historically, we have had five parliamentary vacancies in the first Parliament of the fourth Republic,  two parliamentary vacancies in the second Parliament, eight parliament vacancies in the third Parliament and seven parliamentary vacancies in the fourth Parliament of the fourth Republic, all filled through Bye – Elections but less chaotic and less confrontational.

    However, Bye – Elections in the fifth and sixth Parliaments of the fourth Republic, have been characterized by chaos, violence and brazen acts of impunity, with the latest being the Bye – Elections at the Ayawaso West Wagoun constituency, of the sixth Parliament of the fourth Republic. Where party bandits of the ruling party institutionalized into our regular security sector, were unleashed to cause mayhem and terror on the opposition leading to several casualties recorded on the day. This was evidenced at the committee set up to probe the circumstances that led to the violence.     What happened at Ayawaso Bye – Elections has once again brought into the fore, the debate on the need to have a second look at the constitutional provisions on Bye – Elections.

    To make Bye – Elections less confrontational and less violent, it’s about time as a country we looked at these two alternatives:

    First, on the evidence that in most of the Bye – Elections so far, seats had been retained by the incumbent party, it may be useful and cost-effective to allow such a party through an internal mechanism to select a successor to a vacant seat to complete the unfinished term, as is done in America.

    The second alternative is the polling of Bye-Elections, fixing a common date for the conduct of Bye-Elections within a year. In a non- election year, all Bye-Elections could be held on the 7th December elections day. In an election year, the Bye-Election date could be June 7th, to give new members six months before contesting the main elections in December. Vacancies after June could await the next elections.            It is worthy of note that, these alternatives may not foolproof but has the advantage of, if not overcoming, but lessening the brazen acts of violence and impunity associated with Bye-Elections in the fourth Republic, which undermine Ghana’s hard-earned democracy and Peace.

    Joshua Dedee

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