I read an article posted by Graphic Online that Chairman Wontumi intends to seek an interpretation of constitutional provisions regarding the eligibility or ineligibility of former President Mahama to contest for President in our next elections.
This is very important for our democracy because legal documents are difficult to understand.
I had asked myself the question why both the former president and our beloved NDC party were oblivious to Article 66 of the Constitution. I read the article and its subsections and was more confused about Article 66(2). Article 66(1) is unambiguous because it defines the term of office as it says a person elected as president shall serve a term of 4 years. However, Clause 66(2) states that a person elected as president cannot serve for more than two terms. That is where my confusion starts.
The issue is, if the term of office is 4 years but one cannot serve for more than 2 terms, does this mean every elected President has an automatic 2 terms? As a layman, my answer is no. It’s because if it were mandatory, there will not be the need for an election every 4 years.
Secondly, my understanding is, Clause 66(2) applies to an incumbent who has been re-elected to serve as President for another 4-year term. In the situation where the incumbent loses an election, the clause becomes inoperative. One cannot, therefore, say, because I did 4 years, I still have another 4 years left.
Given that the first two Clauses of Article 66 are linked and the fact that Clause 2 of this article is very flat, the call for an interpretation is very important. The two clauses need clarification as we deepen our democracy. Assuming the interpretation is that a person who served as President for 4 years, lost the bid for a second term qualifies to contest for another 4-year term, then we need to define what other clauses say in terms of remuneration and other entitlements for former Presidents. Particularly for those who are re-elected after they have become a former President. We also need to define the cut-off point because there is the tendency to argue that the second 4-year term is new round and therefore one has to contest for another term. The confusion in our democratic process will be so great. Thus the need for a closure on presidential term of office, particularly when one loses elections after the first 4 years.
I expected this to happen but my speculative mind told me it will be after former President Mahama wins the presidential ticket to lead the NDC in 2020. I also anticipated the NDC has done its homework and gathered information that was used to convince itself about the eligibility of Mr. Mahama for 2020. In spite of this, it’s important to review the information and take pre-emptive action now. As stated earlier, my layman’s view is that the former President is ineligible to contest for the Presidency in 2020.
This is because the constitution is clear that a person elected as president shall serve a term of 4 years. This provision is clear and unambiguous as a term of office simply means a period of time that one holds a position. There is no provision for a return match once a person loses the presidency. Similarly, Clause 3 (a) of Article 66 is also very straightforward. So, the earlier the NDC party reacted the better. Otherwise, the NDC will be shooting itself in the foot.
The current debate is getting interesting. In looking at eligibility, other Articles have to be invoked. Article 68 and it’s clauses may have some hidden information. It details emoluments, privileges and obligations of both sitting and past Presidents. Emoluments and benefits a past President can enjoy during his lifetime may mean a lot.
It’s therefore important for an interpretation before we put ourselves in a mess.