The Majority in Parliament has maintained that the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Kingsford Sumanu Bagbin, was biased against them during the proceedings to approve the 2024 budget statement on Wednesday, November 29, 2023.
The Majority indicated that some members of the minority were not in Parliament at the time of the proceedings; therefore, the speaker, in their view, deliberately delayed proceedings to allow the opposition lawmakers who weren’t in to arrive to participate in the proceedings.
A statement issued by the Deputy Majority Leader and MP for Effutu, Mr. Alexander Afenyo-Markin, on Thursday, November 30, said, “Following the conclusion of the debate on the budget yesterday, the Speaker, as per the established protocol of the House, was to put the question regarding the approval of the policy and principles underpinning the budget.
After a period of deliberation, the Speaker posed the question and announced that the “ayes” had it. Subsequently, the Deputy Minority Leader, Mr. Armah Kofi-Buah, rose on account of Order 113(2) to contest what he (Mr. Armah Kofi-Buah) deemed a ruling by the Rt. Hon. Speaker. As a result of the challenge, he called for a headcount. This prompted an intervention from the Majority Leader and Deputy Majority Leader.
The two raised procedural issues with respect to the application brought before the Speaker. Despite the procedural objections raised, the Speaker declined to acknowledge these concerns and expressed his intention to proceed with a headcount as demanded. At this juncture, the leadership of the majority caucus insisted on their readiness to submit to the headcount that was being sought.
“The headcount, a process where members indicating “aye” or “no” rise to be counted, typically takes approximately 10 minutes. The results are then tallied by table officers and presented to the Speaker, who announces the outcome. Instead of sticking to the request of the headcount, the Speaker then said that he was drawing the attention of the House to the possibility of resorting to a division, and indeed, the Speaker then called for a division. This came as a surprise to Members of the Majority Caucus, since no such application for a division had been presented to the Speaker.
The decision to call for a division was certainly not the initial application. Leadership of the Majority, well aware that under our rules, being absent during a headcount disqualifies a member from being recorded present, whereas in a division, absent members who rush in can be counted as participants, even if they were not present when the question was initially put-; moved to halt this process that would have allowed some of the minority MPs who were outside Accra at the time to be able to proceed to Parliament to be counted, even though the Majority was fully aware that it was not going to give the minority any advantage,” the statement noted.
“This departure from the call for a headcount generated heat and was set to frustrate government business; at the same time undermining the sanctity of the parliamentary processes. Since 1993, Parliament has never resorted to a division in making decisions. The Majority concluded the choice for a division was unfair under the circumstances, leading to their decision to stage a walkout.
It is essential to note that despite the Speaker’s indication that the ‘ayes’ had prevailed, and despite a petition presented to him, a petition that hadn’t followed due process, the Speaker’s initial ruling on the ‘ayes’ retaining their advantage stands. Consequently, the budget has been duly passed until the appeal for a headcount is dealt with, not the division that the Speaker had called.”
Parliament could not approve the budget on Wednesday, November 29, after the Majority side of the house boycotted proceedings, making it the second time they are walking out on their budget after they first did so on the 2022 budget statement, which introduced the e-levy.
They disagreed with the way Mr. Bagbin was conducting the business. They accused the Speaker of delaying proceedings for the Minority to have their full numbers in the House.
“Sam George is not here, Zanetor is not here, Mahama Ayariga, is not here so five of their members are not here. All the speaker is doing is to delay time for their members to come,” Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu told journalists after they walked out.
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