Bagbin, appeals to Commonwealth lawmakers to defend democratic principles

Speaker Of The Ghanaian Parliament Alban Bagbin
Speaker Of The Ghanaian Parliament Alban Bagbin

Speaker Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) has urged Commonwealth Parliamentarians to uphold democratic principles and the values of the Commonwealth.

He said as members of the CPA, there was a set of values and principles that brought them together, as enunciated in the Charter.

“Let’s encourage ourselves to endeavour to restore dignity to elected offices and to rebuild trust and confidence in democratic processes and institutions,” Speaker Bagbin stated in his address at the official opening of the 66th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Accra.

The CPA is an international network of 180 Commonwealth Parliaments and Legislatures working together to strengthen the Commonwealth’s commitment to the highest standards of democratic governance.

The week-long Conference, which is on the theme of ”The Commonwealth Charter 10 years on: Values and Principles for Parliaments to Uphold”, was opened by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

The year 2023 marks the 10th anniversary of the Commonwealth Charter, which outlines the principles and values of the Commonwealth.

Speaker Bagbin said effective separation of powers of government might have been achieved by the parliaments of developed countries, but for some parliaments, it remains a mirage.

“Yet, democracy will remain elusive if we are not deliberate in our efforts to ensure the independence of parliaments,” he said.

Quoting James Madison, the Fourth President of the United States, Speaker Bagbin said: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Speaker Bagbin said they could strengthen parliaments if they empowered their oversight committees to effectively review government actions, budgets, and policies.

He reiterated that they could strengthen parliament through civic education programmes that inform citizens about their rights and the need to protect parliamentary democracy.

Adding that indeed, Parliaments must leverage the strong relations they had with civil society and the media to facilitate public participation in parliament’s work and to expose infractions on democratic principles.

On Parliamentary democracy in sub-Saharan Africa, the Speaker said Ghanaians felt a sense of accomplishment as hosts of the 66th edition of the CPC.

He said their experimentation at parliamentary democracy was now a full-blown feature of their governance architecture.

“This year, we celebrate 30 years of stable parliamentary democracy,” Speaker Bagbin said.

“Ours is a stable democracy in a sub-region that has in recent times developed notoriety for reversing and back sliding on its democratic journey.”

He saaid Parliaments in the West African sub-region and in Africa in general must try to understand the reasons for the loss of trust and confidence in the leadership of democratic processes and institutions that had characterized the recent spate of military incursions into governance.

“We should be able to pick the signals should there be any and steer our democracies away from such incidents.”

He said high level corruption, nepotism, neglect of the hopes and aspirations of the electorates in pursuit of personal and parochial interests, and policies that only deepen poverty and deprivation levels, whilst supporting ostentation among the political elite would only generate mistrust among the electorates.

“That explains why in some of our countries, elections into public offices have become highly transactional between candidates and voters, with instant personal gratification as the currency,” he said.

Speaker Bagbin said this only serves to accentuate the cycle of mistrust that was fueling the dissatisfaction with political leadership and institutions in the sub-region.

Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business in Parliament, and Vice of the Executive Committee of the CPA in his welcome remarks said the CPA represented the unrelenting efforts by a group of parliamentarians bound by a common history and a common destiny to address critical issues facing today’s parliaments to promote democracy, good governance, and the dividends of democracy, which was development of and for their people.

Mr Stephen Twigg, Secretary-General, CPA, said the CPA sought to embolden and to implement the values set out in the Commonwealth Charter.

He said the Charter recommended benchmarks for democratic legislation within the Commonwealth and that it had proved to be a powerful tool in assisting the Parliaments of Commonwealth to improve practices and to share the best about democracy.

Mr Ian Liddel-Grainger, MP, House of Commons, UK and Chairperson, CPA, Executive Committee, said the CPA stood for Parliamentary democracy and to strengthen what they believed in.

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