Ostracised by the ruling party, a single lawmaker holds the balance of power in Ghana’s feuding parliament.

Shunned by Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the rundown to the December election, independent MP Andrew Asiamah Amoako has become the cornerstone of the NPP’s hold on power, after his decision to ‘to do business with the NPP in parliament’ gave the party an effective single seat majority. 

With NPP and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) each having 137 seats in parliament, the independent MP for Fomena has found himself de-facto kingmaker in the West African legislature. 

Amoako, who represented the NPP in the 2016-2020 parliament, was kicked out of the ruling party by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo after he refused to step aside for another NPP candidate at the December election.

He went on to win the seat as an independent, but, controversially, has since signalled his intention to vote with the government in parliament. Ghana’s constitution frowns on so-called ‘carpet-crossing’ or switching parties once elected. 

The Speaker, former NDC MP Alban Bagbin, told parliament that Amoako has formally written to say that he will do business with the NPP.

This brought to an end to weeks of debate between the members of the two caucuses as to which one can claim majority status. 

The NDC flipped 32 seats from the ruling NPP in the December polls, giving the parties equal strengthen in the unicameral legislature.

This 50-50 split has already led to tensions on the floor, with the army forced to break up feuding lawmakers during the first vote of the new parliamentary session in January this year. 

The absolute monopoly previously enjoyed by the ruling party had reduced parliament to little more than a rubber stamp for the executive. 

Yet despite still technically being in a minority by one, the election of the opposition’s Bagbin as the Speaker on January 7, has risen hopes that the NDC will be able to hold the government to account, despite Amoaka’s stated NPP allegiance.

Ransford Gyamp, professor of political science at the University of Ghana, said the vetting of ministerial nominees by parliament last month showed that ‘the minority will exploit its numerical strength to ensure checks and balance in the house’.

At the time of press, the opposition had successfully held up the appointment of three ministerial nominees.

Speaking at the State of the Nation Address shortly before the new MPs took their seats, President Akufo-Addo acknowledged that his ruling party would have ‘no choice’ but to work with the opposition.

He added: ‘The next Parliament is not going to be anything like this one that ends today. I do not suggest that the House might not be as busy, but the sitting arrangements, the source and decibel levels of sound from the House would certainly be different.’ 

According to a senior research fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance, Kwesi Jonah, the near-hung situation will slow down some government business, especially any bills embroiled in controversy. However, he anticipates a bi-partisan co-operation on most of the president’s agenda. 

The Speaker has pledged to be a neutral referee and steer the affairs of the House to ensure there are no undue disruptions to government business. 

Whether the new situation in parliament will lead to proper accountability to improve the lot of citizens or unduly disrupt government business is still to be seen.

But with Ghana’s eighth parliament already overshadowed by brawling in the chamber, and the balance of power resting on one formerly outcast MP, it’s unlikely to be dull. 

Doubts are cast over the country’s upcoming December presidential polls, reports Francis Kokutse.

When Ghana’s polls close on December 7, all eyes will be on the country’s Electoral Commission (EC), as doubts are raised over the legitimacy of the presidential vote.

The leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Mahama, suspended regional campaigning in September over ‘widespread anomalies’ during the voter register exhibition process.

The former president, who ruled Ghana between 2012 and 2017, said thousands of registered voters were missing from local electoral rolls, adding that he had ‘grave concerns’ about the EC’s impartiality.

‘We will not accept the result of a flawed election,’ said Mahama, who is hoping to topple his successor, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), in December.

'Neither will we shirk our civic responsibility and allow the EC – whether by ill intent or sheer incompetence – to usurp the people's mandate in the December 7 polls.’

Mahama said the voter registration exercise had been characterized by ‘bigotry and exclusion’, with many citizens prevented from registering on the pretext that they were not ‘Ghanaians’.

‘These acts of intimidation were perpetrated by the state security apparatus, which is now filled with vigilante elements loyal to the ruling NPP,’ said the opposition candidate, comparing the current campaign to a by-election won by NPP last year, which was marred by election day violence.

‘These alarming warning signs do not bode well for a free and fair election.’

Mahama’s NDC have catalogued a number of incidents of potential voter fraud across the country.

‘In the Binduri constituency of the Upper East Region, many cases of omission have been detected,’ said the NDC leader.

‘At the Narang-Saago Primary School, not a single person out of 444 registered could find their names on the register.’

He alleged that the problem was widespread, with no names listed at two other registration centres in the area despite 428 and 392 people being registered to vote at each polling station.

There were also more than 6,300 names omitted from 18 other centres in the same constituency, according to Mahama, and 2,000 registered voters were missing from the electoral roll in both Jirapa, in the Upper West Region, and Klottey Korle, in Greater Accra.

Meanwhile, the sitting NDC MP for Ashaiman, Ernest Norgbey, claimed to have detected the omission of over 21,000 names from his local register, including his own – a claim refuted by the Electoral Commission.

As well as alleged missing voters, the NDC alleges to have identified cases of voters being registered multiple times. In Krowor, Greater Accra, it claimed duplicated card numbers were recorded at as many as eight centres, with almost 2,500 people allegedly eligible to vote more than once in the constituency.

The chairperson of the EC, Jean Mensa, has denied accusations that the election is tilted in favour of the incumbent, and said the commission was working to deliver free, fair, and peaceful elections in December.

She urged all the politicians to engage in ‘a decent campaign – a campaign based on policies and programs that will lead to the betterment of our society,’ and promised that, as ‘referees, our role is to arrange and organise an orderly, fair, transparent, peaceful, and credible elections.’

Meanwhile, President Akufo-Addo dismissed concerns about the registration process, which saw nearly 17 million Ghanaians – or around half the total population – registered to vote by the end of registration process in September. (More than 750,000 18-year-olds alone were added to the electoral roll this year.)

President Akufo-Addo said: ‘Each of the elections has seen an improvement on the previous one. And we are looking forward to this year’s passing off peacefully, with characteristic Ghanaian dignity.’

‘All Ghanaians are agreed that we have to work together to ensure that the elections will be transparent, free, fair, safe and credible.’

The December poll will be the eighth election in the West African state 1992, when the country’s Fourth Republic was declared.

 

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