Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

Towards Constitutional Rule: A Second Chamber

By K. Amoo-Asante

As a contribution to the search for a future stable civilian administration, this writer argues for the introduction of a second chamber in the legislature which, he believes, holds the answers for ensuring that the needs of both the majority and minority in the society are catered for..
To some, it is absurd to even contemplate on a future civilian administration in Ghana based on the doctrine of universal adult suffrage. It will be even more absurd to tinker with the current political administrative process let alone write a seemingly "useless" thesis on a novel idea of a second chamber for a Ghanaian parliament. The writer is however hopeful that Ghana will certainly see a civilian administration soon; in fact sooner than expected. It is in the light of this hope and expectation, that the writer proposes the idea of a second chamber in Ghana and concludes that it will work very well if checks and balances are properly operated.

The mere mention of a "second parlia- ment" raises obvious questions. What will be its duties or why is it necessary? How will members be elected and how different will it be from the first? Will it have any effective role to play at all? How will it be financially administered? Will it be a burden on the already stretched public funds?

It is the writer's intention to deal with these questions and problems and any further problems not dealt with will be answered when comments are received from readers.


Unlike the first chamber (refer to the current system in normal civilian administration) based on geographical demarcation, the second chamber will be based on established associations, unions, groupings with very good laid down rules on membership. The groups that come into mind are the following and the list is merely illustrative and not exhaustive and the order is not indicative of the importance of the grouping. It is hoped that such groupings cutting through tribal, ethnic and social barriers, members of this second chamber will look after the interest of their groups and nation, and thereby considerably reduce a teething problem of ethnocentricity prevalent in the election of the first chamber. It is also hoped that such a grouping will show a sense of objectivity, impartiality and integrity.

Members of the second chamber will be elected by the groups under an election of "one man, one vote" and supervised by the electoral commission. Ballot rigging, which tends to defeat the purpose of an election, will be rigorously checked to ensure fairness and a genuine result.


Each grouping will be represented according to its importance to the second chamber. In other words, there will be a weighting system to ensure that the expectations of the second chamber are realised. It is proposed that such a chamber should not be more than, say, a hundred members. It should also not be so small as to restrict representation and views of all reasonable and respectable groupings.

Members will be elected by their groups under an election of "one man, one vote" and supervised by the electoral commission. Ballot rigging which tends to defeat the purpose of an election will be rigorously checked to ensure fairness and genuine results.

The term of office will be about four or five years with the proviso that members of the second chamber can and will be re- moved if their constituents vote either by a simple or special majority to remove them from office if their interest is not being served. This simply means that there can be a considerable number of changes but the workings will ensure that a smooth running chamber is achieved by instituting proper rules and guidelines. However, the speed in which members can be removed will ensure that their views always reflect the correct political barometer in the country.

Each member on being elected will no longer be represented on the formal hierarchy of his organisation, profession, union or association. This will ensure that a junior officer elected will not find it difficult to perform his duties. Also, it will ensure smooth running of organi- sations and professions without introducing any problems of power; respect, etc. etc.


The writer believes that the second cham- ber should and ought not to be a burden on public funds notwithstanding its public role and image. It is argued that the current public expenditure is already high. Secondly, it is to enable it to func- tion effectively from the influence of the first chamber which can be dominated by one party in a case of landslide victory. Further, any association, group or union worth its salt, worth its representation on this chamber should be able to fund its representation without recourse to the public chest. Simply put, each organisa- tion, group or union will pay for its members to be represented. There will be adequate provisions to cater for cases where valuable and respectable organisations cannot afford their members' representation.

Members and conflict of interest

It is realised that certain people will qualify to stand for membership in more than one grouping and the nation will have to consider whether any restrictions should be placed on one putting himself to be elected in more than one organisation. In such cases consideration as to restrictions will be needed. To ensure that cer- tain members of the community who, according to their professional image or the world of politics do not find them- selves representing all these organisations, albeit under a different umbrella, restrictions will have to be put in the way of such members. For example one cannot represent farmers if one does not derive at least 90% of one's income from farming as well as spend 90% of one's time on farming and its related activities. This will help stop or limit involvement of absentee farmers. Indeed the regulation can be extended to cover all members.

Notwithstanding the fact that all members of the community will be represented and considering the fact that out of a painful historical experience business in the second chamber will be conducted in English, it is hoped that the ability to ex- press oneself in English as well as comprehend English will have to be seriously considered. To enable the members to deliberate properly there should be an effective mechanism of communication and members will have to understand what is going on. It is not the writer's intention to exclude any member of the Community but the national interest supersedes any consideration of blanket membership.


It is believed that the second chamber should be located in another city, in order to reduce the easy lobbying of the members of the ruling. Some may argue that for it to be efficient it must be in Accra so that easy access is maintained. It is hoped that a future constituent assembly will look into that. In Accra, Kwame Nkrumah Conference Centre may be ideal. In other words, there will be no need for a new building. However, the importance of this chamber overrides one capital expenditure of this nature.


In view of the fact that each member represents a particular organisation, there will be no government and opposition bench. Each member will vote according to his conscience and the brief supplied by his organisation. To ensure that voting is based on integrity, and impartiality there should be effort to stop the politicisation of the grouping by the political parties. It is hoped that in view of the ability to remove members by their organisation, politicisation will be checked.


The writer hopes that the second chamber will act as a check on the political ad- ministration. By their representation, they will be devoid of partisan politics (hope- fully). The second chamber will cut across social, political, ethnic and tribal barriers. By this every decision will be based on objectivity, integrity and the interest of the nation as a whole.

It is hoped that such a chamber will have veto powers on the decision of the first chamber where it is felt that the matter is of fundamental interest to the nation. What is fundamental will be decided by the constituent assembly which establishes it. Because of the high calibre of its representation, this chamber will look at all government contracts and review them if necessary.

They will have committees represented by members with specialist skills to review problems in the country and to make recommendations for first chamber to make the law. They will have power to call a government member or president to answer questions of interest to the state. In effect they will have wide ranging powers but they will not be capable of making law. Each law will be approved only if they accept it by a simple majority.


There is no doubt that democracy (dem all crazy) some say produces unfortunate results in developing countries due to certain assumptions not easily attainable. It is the desire of some that a qualified franchise should be introduced. This is however unacceptable. The only solution is to tailor democracy to our needs. It is in this light that the second chamber is to be considered.

At a time when the PNDC government is thinking about a new political system, one should not lose sight of the fact that a second chamber will be very suitable and may help to deal with certain weak- nesses of our elected civilian administra- tion and produce a government that looks to the hopes and aspirations of the majority of people while ensuring that the needs of the minority are also fully catered for.

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