June 25, 2024

Chaos erupted in parliament on Wednesday, November 29, 2023, when the vote for the approval of the 2024 Budget Statement on November 29, 2023, was to be taken, turning things unexpectedly.

The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Bagbin, after a heated debate, initiated a vote with a traditional voice vote.

However, when the Speaker declared, “I think the ayes have it,” the Deputy Minority Leader, Emmanual Armah Kofi Buah, challenged it, calling for a headcount instead, leading to a dramatic shift in proceedings.

The Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, argued that the Minority’s call for a headcount was an abuse of parliamentary processes.

Despite the Majority’s objections, the Speaker upheld the challenge, stating, “I have not made a ruling yet; I expressed an opinion. So please, can we have a headcount now?”

This then spiralled into a series of arguments and counter arguments on the floor of parliament, amidst an unfolding drama, after which concerns were raised about 4 missing Members of Parliament (MPs) during the initial vote.

When Speaker Alban Bagbin called for the headcount to commence, tensions further escalated.

Alexander Kwamena Afenyo-Markin, the Deputy Majority Leader, contested the Speaker’s decision, leading into another tense moment in the House and before long, together with Kobina Tahir Hammond and some Majority MPs, they staged a walkout, leaving the budget approval process in disarray.

When this happened, the MPs on the Minority were of the hope that the Speaker of Parliament would still go ahead with the headcount but that was quickly inflated when Bagbin rather suspended the sitting, leaving the fate of the budget approval hanging in the balance, altogether.

It was in the period of the suspension of sitting that the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, and the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, separately addressed the media, claiming that the Speaker had indeed ruled on the approval of the 2024 Budget Statement and Economic Policy.

What Ken Ofori-Atta and Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said about the approval of the budget:

Ken:

“We’ve just witnessed a situation where Minority Leader gave a closing statement, Majority also did, and then I had some concluding remarks. At the end of the day, the Speaker put it to vote, twice actually and he declared that he thinks the ‘Ayes’ have it, so, it means the budget, in my view, has been passed.

“Later, there was a challenge that has not been resolved. So, as far as I know and I believe, we have the 2024 budget passed, until such time that they resolve whatever that they want to resolve.”

Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu:

“You were all there. You all heard what the Speaker said loud and clear. Why should the Speaker beat such a hasty retreat? He said to us that, and I’m quoting him, ‘I think the Ayes have it.’ That is how Speakers make pronouncements and determinations – ‘I think the Ayes have it’…

“In this case, he said ‘I think the Ayes have it; the Ayes have it.’ Then we have the Speaker making a sudden U-turn to say he didn’t add that the Ayes have it; he just expressed an opinion…”

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