US-based Ghanaian legal practitioner, Professor Kwazu Asare (popularly referred to as Kwaaku Azar) says the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has no authority to declare the Fomena seat vacant.
According to him, only a high court has the power to do so.
The former Member of Parliament, Andrew Amoako Asiamah lost in the party’s primaries held in June 2020.
Being unhappy with the turnout of the election, he filed as an independent candidate in the December polls.
On October 13th, 2020, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) wrote to the Speaker of Parliament to trigger the provisions of Article 97(1)g for the seat in the house to be declared vacant.
In response, the Speaker, on Saturday, November 7, 2020, ruled that the Fomena seat had become vacant in line with article 97 (1) of the 1992 Constitution.
He delivered his ruling on the request in Parliament on Saturday just before the chairperson of the Electoral Commission addressed MPs on their state of preparedness for the 2020 polls.
“With all intents and purposes, he is no longer a member of the party. He has pronounced himself publicly as an independent candidate and has filed his papers to compete against the party on December 7, 2020. Having forfeited the membership of the party on whose ticket he was elected, to Parliament, the operative language of the constitution is that, he shall – which is mandatory – vacate his seat in Parliament”, he said on Saturday.
But speaking to Citi News, Prof. Kwaku Asare contended that Mr. Asiamah is still legally a Member of Parliament.
“I choose to ride on article 99(1) of the constitution. The article says the high court shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine any question whether a Member of Parliament or the seat of a member has become vacant, not the Speaker of Parliament, politician, nor political parties. The question itself is a legal question, not a political one.”
“If you leave it to politicians, it is going to become partisan because if you have a Speaker who is NPP inclined, he will use his power to vacate NDC members and vice versa,” he argued.
Prof. Asare also urged political parties to desist from using the law to punish their members who fall out with the party in Parliament.
“This is not for political parties to discipline their members and that is what the NPP is mistakenly doing. They believe article 97(1) is a tool to discipline their members. It is not. It is just a tool to restrict the ability of the governing parties to poach opposition MPs.”
“Under Nkrumah for instance, a lot of opposition MPs were poached by the Convention People’s Party, and this is how we ended up being a one-party state. The purpose of this law was just to reduce the powers of the government. It has nothing to do with political parties disciplining members,” he explained.