President John Mahama said electioneering campaigns promises must not be made at delivering heavens and earth
President John Dramani Mahama has asked politicians aspiring to be Members of Parliament to be moderate in their promises to prevent pressures from the electorate for the provision of public goods and services, on entering Parliament.
“During electioneering campaigns promises must not be made at delivering heavens and earth. Promises must be realistic,” he said.
Speaking at the opening of the 15th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference (Africa Region) in Accra yesterday, the President said the Member of Parliament’s (MP’s) first and foremost duties were to represent their constituents in parliament, participate in parliamentary debates and work of Parliament.
“They must also serve as the voice of the people in righting any injustice they may suffer. They must also serve as agents of change of progress in their constituencies,“ he said.
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Unfortunately, he said, demand for school fees and other personal issues, as well as capital projects by their constituents continued to put them in very precarious situations.
“This leads to many MPs being voted out of office on acts of commission that are purely the work of the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, “he added.
But, the President said, the MPs could not escape blame for their predicament as most of the pressures mounted on them for the provision of projects were self-inflicted because they knew they would not be able to fulfil them.
The one-day conference was on the theme, “Raising the confidence of the citizenry in the legislature — the role of the Speakers.”
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Ghana received plaudits from the conference for hosting the event after Cameroon which was originally scheduled to host it, pulled out.
The President expressed concern that despite years of decentralisation which had placed significant resources in the hands of the metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, and their chief executives, many people still saw MPs as responsible for the execution of development projects in their areas.
President Mahama said the public concerns about the Parliament of Ghana were one of deeply polarised, “rabble rousers who cannot reach consensus on any issues of national interest except issues that affect their welfare.”
He stressed the need for MPs to see themselves as key partners in the national development agenda and not as hindrance to it.
Opening political space
President Mahama said the opening up of the political space in contemporary Africa and the corresponding resurrection and revival of Parliament had brought in its wake a more capable, accountable and responsive legislature .
“This is gradually changing the perception that African parliaments are nothing but rubber stamps for the executive institutions,” he stressed.
But, he quickly added that African democracies were still fragile as typified in recent interruptions in constitutional governance in some countries.
President Mahama urged all Africans to work at strengthening the democratic institutions.
The Speaker of Ghana’s Parliament, Mr Edward Doe-Adjaho, touched on the role of Speakers in Constitutional democracy and said as leaders of that arm of government, they could not afford to play to the gallery.
“We, therefore, have to strive to protect the image of the leaderships of our parliaments,” he said adding that, “Our citizens expect us to create the ambience for representative democracy to thrive.”
He stated that the code of conduct being developed by Ghana ‘s Parliament was in the final stages.
He noted that excessive partisanship could erode the confidence the people had in the legislature.
The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, urged his colleagues to work to entrench the independence of the legislature.
He commended Ghana for being a champion of democratic governance in Africa.
The Chairperson of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, Ms Lindiwe Maseko, gave an assurance that the association would continue to work with the Speakers Group to champion democracy in Africa.