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By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah
Tema Jan 9, gitficonline—The principle of representation of the people is perhaps one of the most important aspects of democracy with the ability to ensure that governance goes in the right direction and that the interest of the ordinary man is protected at all times.
The Athenian democracy,which historians cite as the earliest form of democratic practice, had all male adults in the city-state of Athens being members of the Senate that decided on all issues of state.
Indeed, these men went to the Senate on their own merits, not guided by Cheif Whips whose duty it was to see that members of a particular caucus in parliament voted in a certain way.
This meant that these persons, who were believed to be of sound minds and were right thinking members of society, were taxed with the responsibility of ensuring good governance and accountability.
One therefore wonders whether parliamentary business in most African states has reflected the principle of the independence of the Member of Parliament (MP) such that parliamentarians arefree to protect the interest of the people they represent.
Most African states are confronted with MPs who only vote along political party lines, making some African parliaments merely rubber-stamps with no meaningful supervisory rolesover the executives.
This is perhaps where one could situate the circumstances that surround the election of a Speaker for Ghana’s eight parliament.
It was a bizzaire to watch how MPs fought over seats, snatched ballot boxesandpapers, fought themselves, etc. in the full glare of everybody. It was a wonder when most Ghanaians had to sit through the night till the next morning just because yet-to-be-sworn-in MPs could not elect a Speaker in peace. Why is it so, why should such a simple process be subjected to this kind of drama?
The reason is simple: Ghana has come to the stage where parliament could no longer be a rubber-stamp or an appendix of the ruling government;destiny has brought the country to a stage where the fundamental principles of legislation could be realized, and the show in parliament is a demonstration of how difficult it is to change the status quo.
This was why, at all cost, the rank and file of the National Democratic Congress(NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) fought to annex the Speakership as if the survival of the two parties depended on it.
This simply suggests that the two parties are missing the point, that having the Speaker from one’s side did not really matter so long as members of the House understood the need to vote following their own convictions.
This is because, like the Athenian lawmakers, MPs are in parliament on their own merits, not necessarily representing any political party. If this fact is appreciated, it would therefore mean that MPs could vote even against the parties they represent in upholding the principle of accountability and probity.
And so, for an MPfrom the NPP voting for an NDC Speaker means Ghanaians are gradually getting there.
At least, it has been proven that, in the US Congress, like other advanced democracies, Republican Congressmen for instance have voted on the side of Democrats, vice versa, and that a party would have to lobby her own representatives in parliament should they want their MPs voting on their side.
This is the kind of maturity that must characterize parliamentary work, and Ghana seems to be getting there.
Based on this, one would have said there was no need for all the trouble the election of the Speaker of Ghana’s Eighth Parliament brought. This is because, majority or not, the MP is not to be cajoled in making decisions and therefore who controlled parliament is not important.
What has happened with the Eighth Parliament of Ghana, therefore, is a wakeup call to all to understand that parliament is not meant to be a rubber-stamp and so those who get the privilege to serve as MPs should know that their first duty is to the state and the people they represent, and not political parties.
Ghanaians and their political players should understand that parliament is a sovereign institution in the body-politic of a democratic state and should be allowed to play her role to the state without interference. It is obvious that the will of individuals and political parties almost always interfere in this wonderful role of parliamentand that should be resisted at all cost.
Ghanaians owe it a duty to preserve the democracy they arepracticing, and in doing so, they ought to ensure that parliament is what it is meant to be—a means of protecting the interest of the people—not to protect the interest of the ruling class.