PAP needs to clarify the concept of Deliberative Organ - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Tuesday, October 18, 2022

PAP needs to clarify the concept of Deliberative Organ

An Opinion Piece by Dr. Maurice Ezuruike

The ongoing review process of the Pan-African Parliament’s (PAP) Rules of Procedure presents a unique opportunity to clarify by definition the true interpretation of the concept of “any other deliberative organ” as reflected in Rule 6 of the PAP’s rules of procedure and invoked generally as a synonym to National Parliaments under Part III relating to members of parliament.

It would be recalled that in the lead up to the last aborted May 2021 election of the Bureau of the Pan African Parliament, the Secretariat had extended invitation and proceeded to recommend the accreditation and eventual candidacy of a former Member of Parliament whose nomination to the Pan African Parliament was orchestrated by a military government following an unconstitutional change in government and a corresponding dissolution of an existing democratically constituted parliamentary body of that Member State.

The argument advanced by the PAP Secretariat to justify the accreditation of this candidate was that the Military government had designated the body upon which the delegation was predicated as the legislative organ of the country and as such it qualifies as “any other deliberative organ” as contemplated in Rule 6 of the PAP’s Rules of Procedure.

The PAP Secretariat further adduced that the affected candidate had the right to contest the position of the Presidency of PAP under the rule which said that members can be designated by their respective National Parliaments or “any other deliberative organ of member state”.

Ignoring the fact that the country in question was at that time, no longer a “member state” as that term is defined in the contest of African Union rules, this position as adopted at the time was fundamentally flawed and reflected either a lack of understanding of the bedrock of the African Union foundational principle on constitutional democracy, rule of law, and due process or an intentional obfuscation motivated by twisted parochial political interest.

It also revealed a significant and potentially destabilizing manifestation of institutional deficiency in the PAP’s accreditation framework that makes a total reassessment of the process an absolute imperative for sustaining parliamentary stability and reputation.

Throughout the course of PAP’s parliamentary engagements, it has consistently articulated a shared philosophy of entrenching in the continent, a political culture that is premised on constitutional democracy and promotes a system of governance that is not only representative, but reflective of regular, transparent, free and fair elections. This foundational objective of PAP that is equally encapsulated in the institutional priorities of notable international organizations such as our parent organization, the African Union, other regional bodies such as ECOWAS, EALA, SADC etc, reflects an unyielding commitment to the consolidation of democratic institutions, culture, good governance, transparency and the rule of law in Africa that is anchored on a peaceful transfer of power through a democratic process.

At the heart of this principle, is a repudiation of the unconstitutional change of government and a corresponding denunciation of any institutional and legislative structures whose establishments are antithetical to our democratic ideals or are construed a product of an undemocratic process.

The notion that a body which was then an organ designated by the military dictator qualifies as “any other deliberative organ of member state” is preposterous and shows a lack of understanding of the underlying factors that informed the invocation of such alternative description “any other deliberative body” in PAP’s Rules of Procedure.

It is my contention that the phrase “any other deliberative organ of member state” was invoked in the PAP rules to accommodate the various names accorded to different deliberative organs of member states and cannot be interpreted as was erroneously construed, to imply the vitiation of the undemocratic manner in which they were constituted. It is my considered opinion that if the foundation of the so called deliberative organ does not derive its legitimacy by or through a democratically constituted body or through a constitutional process, then its existence and membership should not be accorded recognition by the African Union or its organs notwithstanding the nomenclature invoked to characterize or describe it.

The accreditation of that country's delegation/candidate at that time should have been withdrawn with the corresponding nomination rendered null and void. The language of Rule 6 could not be accurately interpreted to vitiate or negate the necessity of requiring that the “deliberative organ” in question be constituted by a democratic institution and authority or through a democratic process. The centrality of that principle assumes that the governing authority upon which the designated “deliberative body” evolved must also have evolved in its originality and foundation by and through a democratic process.

This policy position of denying accreditation to delegations that emanated from an undemocratic process and the corresponding denunciation of any institutional and legislative structures whose establishments are antithetical to Africa’s democratic ideals, reaffirms the African Union’s principles and policies that repudiates unconstitutional changes of government.

It was undeniably a fundamental breach of faith and trust, an unfathomable malfeasance and a complete abdication of our obligation under the African Union protocol/charter that PAP which is reputed as an instrument of democracy in the continent recognized and accorded parliamentary legitimacy to a legislative delegation that is considered a product of an undemocratic process, even when it was widely acknowledged that the so-called “deliberative organ” was a quasi-military “legislative” body without tangible legislative competence or legitimacy.

It is instructive to recall that throughout the transformation trajectory of this parliament from an advisory and consultative body to an institution endowed with legislative competence, PAP fiercely articulated a vision to African leaders across the continent that a transformed Pan African Parliament with legislative powers will provide an indispensable platform for the actualization of Africa’s collective and shared objectives of promoting continental integration and democratic principles. This principle was a major catalyst that propelled the successful arrogation of legislative powers to this our great parliamentary body.

Imagine for a moment that the Secretariat had succeeded and imagine further that the affected candidate had emerged as President of PAP, how would the international community have reacted to the news that Africa’s foremost democratic institution is led by someone nominated by a military junta who with relative impunity overthrew a democratically elected government. What an indefensible outcome!

If PAP as a democratic institution does not sustain a legacy of zero tolerance for defiance of democratic tenets in our continent and if PAP were to accept a military and unconstitutional transitional framework in any member state, then PAP will no longer be seen as a serious institution and watch dog in promoting democracy. This will profoundly erode PAP’s institutional integrity as a pillar of democracy and it will be far more devastating to its future viability if as contemplated then by a few MP’s and enabled by the Secretariat, a President of PAP was allowed to be produced from a body that came into being outside of a democratic process. We should not allow this scenario to play out again in the future.

PAP truly needs to seize this moment of the review process for the Rules of Procedure to correct this anomaly with a clear interpretation and unambiguous definition of the concept “any other deliberative organ” and ensure that it is narrowly constrained to such deliberative organs whose establishment and existence derives legitimacy and impetus from a democratically constituted authority.

It is instructive to note that the underlying democratic principle underpinning this recommendation has been sustained at other institutions such as ECOWAS where as in the case of the Members of Parliament from Mali, the regional body refused to acknowledge the members appointed by the military Transitional National Council (TNC) following the dissolution of the parliament that were democratically elected.

Upholding this principle in future accreditation framework at PAP will reaffirm confidence in our parliamentary body as a beacon of democracy.

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