Obtaining the right to vote and becoming a member of parliament

The Central Region’s Assin North constituency will hold a by-election on June 27. This comes after the Supreme Court ruled that James Gyakye Quayson’s election as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Assin North was invalid. Three points stood out to me after reading the court’s full reading.


According to Article 94(2) (a), which was explained by the court, “A person shall not be qualified to be a Member of Parliament if he owes allegiance to a country other than Ghana.” When the Court wrote, “We have taken the pains to put out these words to indicate that as far back as 2012, this court was very clear that citizenship was bound up with devotion to the State and allegiance to it, we reasoned that the two conceptions are inexorably intertwined. Therefore, since article 94(2) (a) mentions owing loyalty to a nation other than Ghana, there is no ambiguity. Allegiance and citizenship are linked in the same way.

Citizenship is treated sacredly by the court, and for good reason. The State owes duties to its residents, including any noncitizens who may cross its borders. Citizens should therefore reciprocate by providing something of value. Sure, one could say that paying taxes is a way for people to give back.  But if citizenship is separated from allegiance, what exactly is the point? What happens to citizens if they “owe” no loyalty to the government? What will people do to a country they have no loyalty to? I’ll venture a bet that they won’t receive good care. After all, how do we behave toward those whom we believe we owe no loyalty in our daily lives?

The court’s statement that “persons who have complied with strict requirements and borne considerable costs to become citizens of Ghana or another country could simply throw affidavits or Declarations at the State and deem themselves divested of citizenship if they find a reason to quickly remove the burden of that citizenship from themselves because of changed needs” strengthened its position on the sacredness of citizenship. On this, I could not be more in agreement with the court.


James Quayson had taken very active measures to renounce the citizenship he formerly held in another country (Canada), as he showed in this instance. A certificate of renunciation was required to prove that all administrative procedures were finished and citizenship was fully renounced. After submitting his nomination, but before to the election and particularly by the time he was sworn in as a Member of Parliament, Mr. Quayson did eventually get this certificate. The court’s other inquiry at that time concerned the deadline by which a prospective MP must fulfill all requirements.

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Once more, the court’s stance was clear: “This court has to, therefore, reiterate its earlier conclusion — that the qualification of holding only Ghanaian citizenship must be present at the time of nomination, and not any date thereafter.”

I respectfully disagree with the court on this point. It was well-reasoned and took a fairly hard stance on the question of when. As a public administrator by training and occupation, I have a propensity to be lenient while enforcing the law without going against its spirit or text.

Personally, I would have seen Mr. Quayson’s actions as demonstrating his sincere desire to abandon his Canadian citizenship. I would have taken into account the fact that he had the certificate in his possession by the election and even during his swearing-in. Yes, citizenship and allegiance go hand in hand in my opinion, however I would disagree with the chronology and place it on the day the Electoral Commission pronounced him the winner or even the day he took office.

Electoral Commission

The statement in the document that “The Electoral Commission, as Second Defendant, failed or refused to defend itself” caught me off guard. Why the EC did not defend itself intrigues me. Although it may not have convinced the court, there is a reason the EC allowed Mr. Quayson to be on the ballot for the 2020 parliamentary elections as part of the administrative procedure. I would have loved to hear its administrative justification for the decision on the eligibility of parliamentary candidates.

We now know the response to the question posed in Article 94(2)(a) about citizenship, allegiance, and when a candidate is regarded to have fully satisfied the conditions to run for office. This will continue to bind us and direct our actions going forward so long as the law doesn’t change or the court’s decision is overturned.

The author is a fellow at CDD-Ghana, the Ghana Center for Democratic Development.

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Teacher, Blogger, Comic writer, riveting stories concerning the Ghanaian citizenry and the world at large.

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