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A closer look at the proposed Constitution- Part 111


Last week we looked at the Head of State and we noted that the way in which he is chosen is significantly different from the old way. Chapter Five (section 49 to 65) gives details about nominating and electing a President, the ways in which a president could be removed from office, immunities, among others.{{more}}

The President

The President is elected by the National Assembly for a term of five years and he or she could be eligible for a term of five more years on re-election. If the sitting president is unable to complete his or her term of office, a person meeting the qualifications could be chosen to serve for the unexpired part of the term.

The Speaker is responsible for arranging to hold the election and the date is announced in the Official Gazette. A time frame within which the election is held is given, but under Section 53(9) the actual date of the election is given by the Prime Minister in consultation with the Minority leader and communicated by the Speaker.

A contested position

The post of head of state is now a contested one. However, if the Prime Minister and the Minority Leader collaborate after consulting jointly or separately with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee, and upon the consent of the candidate, a president could be chosen without a contest. They must communicate their decision in writing to the Speaker who must call the National Assembly to declare the person duly elected as President without putting the issue to a vote. If, however, a representative supported by not less than five other members of the Assembly has a nominee then there must be an election. There must be an election when the Prime Minister and the Minority leader cannot agree jointly on a nominee.

Exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal

Where there are questions to be determined regarding qualifications or interpretation of the sections in relation to the presidency, they must be resolved by the Court of Appeal which has exclusive jurisdiction on these matters. The decisions of this court are final. An election petition could be made to bring the matter before the Court of Appeal but rules of Court could be used on matters pertaining to the presidency.

How the presidency could become vacant

Section 61 states the conditions under which the position of president could become vacant, that is, where the president dies, resigns or is removed on certain grounds as given in section 62.

Grounds for removing a president

A president could be removed from office for willfully violating any provision of the constitution, behaving in a way as to bring his office into hatred, contempt or ridicule, behaving in a way that endangers the security of the State, or because of physical or mental incapacity, where he or she is unable to perform the functions of his or her office.

A president could be removed from office under section 63 of the constitution. It is triggered by a notice of a motion signed by one-third of the members of the National Assembly. The motion must thereafter be adopted by one-half of the members of the National Assembly. This would lead to a suspension of the President and a replacement for the time being. Meanwhile a tribunal consisting of three members appointed by the Chief Justice will investigate the grounds and report on the facts and circumstances to the National Assembly. The report will be considered by the Assembly and a resolution supported by two-thirds of the members of the Assembly is required for the removal of the president from office.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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