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What You Need To Know About Quorum In Parliament

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana provides two forms of quorum in Parliament, which include:

– quorum under Article 102 and;

– quorum under Article 104.

The Constitution says Article 102 quorum [which is the quorum for conducting normal parliamentary business] shall be formed by one-third of all members of Parliament, APART FROM THE PERSON PRESIDING. The Constitution does NOT say APART FROM THE SPEAKER.

It says apart from the person presiding. Meaning, it could be the Speaker himself, or the 1st deputy speaker, or the 2nd deputy speaker. In other words, for purposes of quorum under Article 102, the Constitution makes it clear that whoever is presiding, whether the person is the speaker or not, he/she shall NOT be counted in determining a quorum

However, when it comes to quorum under Article 104 [which is the quorum required to take a decision, like voting to approve a government’s budget], the framers of the Constitution deliberately made no reference to the person presiding. The Constitution does not exclude the person presiding from being counted for purposes of determining a quorum, unlike in Article 102.

The reference here, is rather to the Speaker, and NOT the person presiding. The framers of the Constitution chose their words carefully. If they had wanted to exclude the person presiding from the determination of quorum under Article 104, they certainly would have stated so, black and white, just as they did in Article 102.

You cannot ascribe an intention to the framers of the Constitution other than what they themselves have expressly stated in the written document. Else, you will be flouting a basic rule of interpretation of constitution/statute, which is expressed in Latin as “expressio unius est exclusio altrerius” (to wit, the express mention of a thing excludes all others not mentioned). This canon of construction is so fundamental that even a first year student of law appreciates its full extent.

Even with the Speaker, Article 104 does not specifically exclude him from being counted for purposes of quorum. The phrase, “except as otherwise provided in this constitution” appearing in Article 104, is certainly not catered for by the provision in Article 102, because the two Articles deal with two separate things.

Whereas Article 102 specifically deals with quorum in Parliament, Article 104 deals with voting in Parliament. Indeed, all the Articles in the Constitution dealing with voting in Parliament, such as voting to approve Ministers of State, voting to approve bills, voting to approve loan agreements and commercial transactions, voting to censure Ministers, etc, do not EXCLUDE the PERSON PRESIDING.

It is Clause 2 of Article 104 that makes reference to the Speaker when it comes to voting in Parliament. It states that the Speaker shall have neither an original nor a casting vote. It DID NOT SAY the PERSON PRESIDING shall have neither an original nor a casting vote, in which case, it would apply to whoever is presiding, whether it is the Speaker himself or the Deputy Speakers.

In reading the Constitution, you will notice that anytime the framers intended to refer to the Speaker, they say so in unequivocal terms. And anytime they intended to refer to the Deputy Speakers, they also say so in unequivocal terms.

If you want to know whether the Constitution actually distinguishes between a Speaker and a Deputy Speaker in many ways, the provisions in Article 95 on the Speaker and Article 96 on Deputy Speakers should educate you enough.

Perhaps, I should add more;

Whereas the Speaker is not an MP, the Deputy Speakers are. Whereas the Speaker retires on his salary, the Deputy Speakers do not. Whereas the Speaker has no voting rights, the Deputy Speakers have. Whereas the Speaker does not represent the interest of any political party in Parliament, the Deputy Speakers do. Whereas the Speaker, before assuming office, takes and subscribes to the Speaker’s oath, the Deputy Speakers do not.

Whereas the Speaker, in the absence of the President and Vice, acts as the acting President, the Deputy Speakers do not. I can go and on and on. Clearly, it is fair to conclude that the Constitution treats a Speaker differently from a Deputy Speaker, except where the Constitution makes reference to the person presiding. It is as simple as knowing that Rt Hon Alban Bagbin is the Speaker, and Hon Joe Osei Owusu is the 1st Deputy Speaker.

Assalamu alaikum

Alhaji Iddi Muhayu-Deen


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