Elected President May Not Be Sworn In On Grounds Of Ill Health

The Constitution Review Implementation Committee (CRIC) is considering a proposal that an elected President in Ghana may not be sworn in on grounds of poor health. Briefing journalists in Accra yesterday on the work of the committee so far, the Chairman, Professor E.V.O. Dankwa, said the experience in Venezuela, where its late President, Hugo Chavez, could not be sworn in due to poor health, had informed the deliberations of the committee. “The Hugo Chavez situation also alerted us to the need for a constitutional provision which addresses the situation where an elected President cannot be sworn in due, for instance, to poor health,” Prof Dankwa said. In the Hugo Chavez example, he was re-elected in 2012, for a third term in office, having defied a nagging sickness to contest the election. However, shortly after winning the election, he died in Venezuela without being sworn into office, after unsuccessful medical treatment in Cuba. Health has become a major consideration for the office of the President of Ghana due, perhaps, to the health status of the late President J.E.A. Mills and the circumstances leading to his death. Indeed, during the 2012 electioneering, the flag bearer of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, made health a major campaign issue after he had obtained a clean bill of health from the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital and challenged his competitors to do same. But responding to a suggestion from a journalist on the need to check the health status of presidential candidates before elections in order to avoid the Hugo Chavez scenario, Prof Dankwa said that might not be feasible because the fittest candidate before an election could be the weakest candidate by the time of that election. “We also received a memorandum from an individual who brought up the matter of the swearing in of the Vice-President as President, having regard to our experience after July 24, 2012,” he said at the first ever press briefing by the CRIC since it began work in October, last year. Broadly, the mandate of the CRIC is to assist the government to implement the recommendations of the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) for which the government issued a White Paper subsequently. Prof. Dankwa said so far the CRIC had taken administrative actions and made legislative proposals for the amendment of the 1992 Constitution. He said the attention of the Presidency had been drawn to the CRC recommendations in respect of a seamless flow of information between the Office of the President and that of the Vice-President to ensure, inter alia, that the Vice-President could step in the shoes of the President, whenever necessary or required by law; the election of the Chairperson of the Council of State by members, not the President, and the separation of the political capital from the economic capital. “A communiqué was addressed to the Chairperson of the Council of State towards ensuring that members of the council maintained their independence and neutrality at all times and do not take part in active party politics,” he said. Prof Dankwa said the CRIC had developed legislative proposals on the basis of the CRC recommendations for the amendment of some legislation. One of them is a bill titled; ‘Labour (Amendment) Act, 2013’ which aims at amending the Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651) with the view to extending maternity leave from 12 to 16 weeks and, for the first time in Ghana, providing for paternity leave, in accordance with the dictates of gender equity. On the non-entrenched provisions of the constitution, Prof Dankwa said regional tribunals were abolished and Article 128 (1) “is amended to provide for a maximum of 15 Justices of the Supreme Court”. He said the position of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executive would be elective after the President had nominated five persons for vetting by the Public Services Commission and screening of the number to three by the commission. On the entrenched clauses, he said the CRIC “expects to complete work on it fairly soon”. Prof Dankwa said work on the Right to Information Bill and the draft Broadcasting Bill had reached advanced stages for submission to Parliament for passage.