Constitutional convention is certainty and predictability. An unwritten constitution is as good as a written constitution. The posture and actions of the current chair of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana and her supporters are worrisome. To put things in proper perspective, the commission has no business spending resources in a rebranding exercise which is neither in the national interest nor public interest as Bright Simons would like to differentiate between the two concepts.
A few examples around the world show that constitutional conventions are at the heart of stable democracies. The monarch in Britain retains the ability to deny giving a bill Royal Assent. In modern times this is more unlikely as it would cause constitutional crisis. Queen Anne was the last monarch to veto parliament’s decision which she did on 11 March 1708 with regard to a bill “for the settling of Militia in Scotland”.
The same British monarch has the power to choose any British citizen to be the Prime Minister and could call and dissolve Parliament whenever he or she wished. However, in accordance with the current ‘unwritten constitution’, the Prime Minister is the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons and Parliament is dissolved at the time suggested by him or her. The monarch will show clear disregard for the wishes of the people at the polls if she chooses a Prime Minister from the minority party.
Madam Charlotte Osei, respectfully what symbol has the EC used since its establishment? To suggest that the independence of the EC can best be exercised when the coat of arms is jettisoned is questionable. In Apaloo v Electoral Commission [2001-2002] 2 GLR 372 the Supreme Court held that independence of the EC is guaranteed by the Constitution, 1992. Thus, the EC in the performance of its function is not subject to the control and direction of any person. Furthermore, the EC cannot delegate its authority and functions conferred on it by law to another agency or person.
The functions of the commission are spelt out in Article 45 of the 1992 Constitution and repeated verbatim in the Electoral Commission Act, 1993 Act 451. The functions are:
- to compile the register of voters and revise it at such periods as may be determined by law;
- to demarcate the electoral boundaries for both national and local government elections;
- to conduct and supervise all public elections and referenda;
- to educate the people on the electoral process and its purpose;
- to undertake programmes for the expansion of the registration of voters; and
- to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law.
How does a ballot box embossed in the Coat of Arms impede the functions of the commission? As a commission, its focus must be the delivery of credible elections to the people of this country. Anything short of that will be an abdication of its core functions. This will further affect the image of the commission which Madam Osei will have to rebrand through another logo in future.
Madam Chair, respectfully your mandate is not logos and rebranding. There are critical issues such as pruning the voters register and verification of voters that the commission and Inter Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) have to deal with. Can the commission tell us how many of the recommendations spelt out in the election petition case they have implemented.
We love our coat of arms and ballot box. We identify with a national symbol more than a cluster of triangles in blue.