With barely 15 months to the 2012 presidential and legislative elections, evidence is emerging that the people’s representation in the legislature will be increased by 21 seats from the current 230 seats.
Though no official announcement has been made, The Chronicle can report authoritatively that the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana, the body that manages and conducts all public elections in the country, will begin the onerous task of demarcating the 21 additional constituencies any moment from now.
According to the EC, the distribution of the new constituencies will based on the 2010 Population Census on a regional basis, as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution.
Even before the new demarcation comes into force, some political parties have raised concern, challenging the EC to stick to the confines of the Constitution, and not import any conventions to aid it in the demarcation exercise.
Article 47 (1) of the Constitution states: “Ghana shall be divided into as many constituencies for the purpose of election of Members of Parliament as the Electoral Commission may prescribe, and each constituency shall be represented by one Member of Parliament.” It goes further to state in Article 47 (2): “No constituency shall fall within more than one region.”
Under 47(3) “the boundaries of each constituency shall be such that the number of inhabitants in the constituency is, as nearly as possible, equal to the population quota.”
Article 47 (4) states: “For the purposes of clause (3) of this article, the number of inhabitants of a constituency may be greater or less than the population quota, in order to take account of means of communication, geographical features, density of population and area, and boundaries of the regions and other administrative or traditional areas.”
According to 47 (5) “the Electoral Commission shall review the division of Ghana into constituencies at intervals of not less than seven years, or within twelve months after the publication of the enumeration figures, after the holding of a census of the population of Ghana, whichever is earlier, and may, as a result, alter the constituencies.
“Where the boundaries of a constituency established under this article are altered as a result of a review, the alteration shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of Parliament,” states Article 47 (6)
For the purposes of this article, “population quota” means the number obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of Ghana by the number of constituencies into which Ghana is divided under this article,” according to Article 47 (7)
Per the EC’s proposal, the new demarcations will see the Western Region, which has a land mass of 9,236 square miles and a total population of 2,325,595 (based on the 2010 population census), having two additional seats added to the current 22 Members of Parliament representing the region.
The Central Region, which has a land area of 3,815 square miles and a population of 2,107,209, will also benefit from two additional seats, bringing the total to 21. The region, currently, is represented by 19 MPs, while the Greater Accra Region will get three additional representations in the august House.
At the moment the Greater Accra Region commands 27 seats. According to the 2010 Population Census, the Greater Accra Region is populated by 3,909,764 people, occupying a total land area of 995 square miles.
The Volta Region, with a land mass of 7,943 square miles and a current population of 2,099,876, is billed to have two new seats to the current 22 seats, while the Eastern Region, with land of 7,698 square miles, and a population of 2,596,013, will also have two additional seats. The Eastern Region has 28 Members in the House. This will increase to 30 after the 2012 elections.
The Ashanti Region, with a land area of 9,417 square miles and a current population of 4,725,046, is billed to have four new seats in Parliament, in addition to the 39 seats currently in the legislature.
The Brong Ahafo Region, with a current population of 2,282,128 and covering a land area of 15,273 square miles, will have two new seats aside the 24 seats currently in Parliament. This will raise the number of MPs from the Brong Ahafo Region to 26.
The Northern Region, with a land area of 27, 175 square miles and current population of 2,468,557, is also billed to have 2 new seats in addition to its 26 old seats in Parliament, while the Upper East, with a total land area of 3,516 square miles and a current population of 1,031,478, will have a solitary seat added to the 13 seats.
The Upper West Region, with a land area of 7,032 square miles and current population of 677,763, will also have one additional seat to the current 10 seats.
The country owes this formula to the Siriboe Committee of 1967 that examined constituency demarcation and other electoral issues. According to the Chairman of the EC, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan, the EC had found no better one to replace the formula set out by the Siriboe Committee.
However, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Manhyia, Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who appears unhappy with the creation of new constituencies, is challenging the EC to stick to the confines of the law during the demarcation exercise.
“The EC does not have the power to import any laws outside that of the Constitution to aid it in the demarcation of the new constituencies,” he stated.
He told The Chronicle that the conventions adopted by the EC in demarcating new constituencies do not ensure a fair exercise, in that some constituencies end up having more population than others.
“The problem is that if one constituency has 200,000 people and another 30,000 people, then it means that all votes are not equal. And all votes are sacrosanct; all votes are equal. So, if all votes are equal, and every vote should carry the same weight, when you translate the vote into representation, it should be almost the same, or else you have this perverted.”
“When we go to Parliament, every one receives the same salary; when it comes to the Common Fund, we all get the same; National Health Insurance Fund, we all get the same; GETFUND, we all get the same; and everything for MPs are all the same. MPs are equal, and don’t have a senior MP and a junior MP, and we don’t have an MP who represents a bigger landmark and one who represents a smaller landmark. We don’t do that, because we are the people’s representatives.
“So, if there are two MPs, where one represents 100,000 people and another one represents 10,000, that is another form of electoral gerrymandering,” he added.
He told The Chronicle that the creation of new constituencies was not the best, since even wealthy economies around the world have put a stop to the creation of new constituencies, since it would have a heavy burden on the finances of the country.
“We have to decide on the upper limit of constituencies in the country,” he added.
He called for an early IPAC (Inter Party Advisory Committee) meeting to enable all the political parties partake in the process.