Is Ghana’s parliament powerless?

The Claims and Controversies

Many have questioned if the Ghanaian legislature or parliament is truly independent. Some have also argued that there is a separation of powers in Ghana where the legislature is expected to be distinct from other organs of government, particularly the executive, in terms of functions and personnel. This argument has been on and on till today.

On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, member of parliament for Ningo-Prampram in the Greater Accra Region, Sam Nartey George, on AM Show on Joynews TV, claimed that there is no separation of powers; hence parliament is just an extension of the executive. His full article can be found here as published by the media house. This and many others have questioned the supremacy of Ghana’s Parliament due to its vulnerability to the executive organ.


Given the recent controversies in the eighth Parliament of the Fourth Republic, DUBAWA decided to critically examine the House of Parliament in Ghana, its structure, and how it has functioned so far.

Academically, there are two main systems of democratic government, namely, the Presidential system and the Parliamentary system. Each system is strongly linked to Charles- Louis de Secondat Montesquieu’s principle of “separation of powers” and Walter Bagehot’s; “Fusion of Powers” regarding features and functions of government,  respectively.

Each of these systems is practised by democratic states across the globe, i.e. USA, Belarus, Brazil, Cameroon and Gabon, among others practising the Presidential system of government, while Britain, Albania and Australia are practising Parliamentary systems.

But some countries combine elements or features from both systems; hence their system is called a Hybrid or Mixed System.

Front view of Ghana parliament.

Presidential System of Government

In the Presidential system, there is strict compliance with the principle of Separation of Powers, where the three organs of government are distinct regarding personnel and functions. Even as published by Cegast Academy, the separation of powers in the presidential system is much clearer than in the parliamentary system. State ministers or cabinet members are chosen from outside parliament, not from within parliament, separating the executive from the legislature.

Also, there is a weak party discipline in parliament; here, each member of parliament is at liberty to vote on issues irrespective of the party or caucus to which they belong.

Using America as a case study, they practice the complete presidential system with a strong separation of powers where cabinet/ministers are appointed outside Congress. It is also characterised by a weak party discipline where neither the Democrats nor the Republicans do not have that strong control over their parliamentarians. All these allow for the (American) legislature to be starkly separated from other arms of government.

Parliamentary or Cabinet System 

The parliamentary system, also known as the Cabinet system or dual executive system according to Britannica, is that form of government that is characterised by a bicephalous executive system in which there are two separate leaders of the state, namely; Head of State and Head of Government (Prime Minister).

This system adopts the complete “Fusion of powers” where there is really no clear separation between parliament/legislature and the executive. In the Parliamentary system, members of parliament from the cabinet because the Prime Minister appoints his state ministers from within parliament; they play dual roles as ministers of state and parliamentarians.

Because Cabinet is borne out of parliament, there is a strong fusion of powers between the two organs regarding personnel where MPs are also Ministers, reducing parliamentary supremacy.

Another interesting feature of this system is strict or strong party discipline, where political parties that select their members on the floor of parliament have strong control over their actions. In other words, the MPs are expected to comply or toe party lines; they don’t usually operate on their own accord, as seen in the Presidential system where MPs vote or are supposed to take decisions based on conscience or policy. These political parties try to whip their MPs to do their bidding instead.

Britain practically introduced and adopted this system, which they constitutionally called The Westminster system. Cabinet ministers are chosen from the Senate or parliament, defeating the idea of separation of powers while fusing the legislature and executive.

Hybrid or Mixed System

According to Isaac Brako and Kwame Asah Asante, who are senior Political Science lecturers at UEW and UG, respectively, the Hybrid system is a combination of some salient features of the two democratic models of governance. The Hybrid mode consists of a partial “separation of powers” and partial “fusion of powers.” Countries that adopt  this mixed system use both Presidential and Parliamentary practices they find useful to their political ecosystem

Ghana is a typical example of a Hybrid System. Ghana has blended some aspects of the American Presidential style and some aspects of British Westminster style.

Excerpt from literature “UNDERSTANDING POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS, 2nd Edition” by Isaac Brako & Kwame A. Asante

Firstly, Ghana practices a monocephalous executive where only one President operates as head of State and Head of Government. 

The 1992 Constitution is the supreme organ of government.

Adopting both models above has made the legislative system (Parliament) so flexible to the executive and vulnerable to all political parties that find their members in parliament, thereby making it a complete fusion of powers between the Executive and the Legislature in terms of personnel.

The floor of Parliament. Source:- Parliament of Ghana

Practical Evidence of Fusion of Powers

On Monday, January 23, 2023, the National Democratic Congress, through their general secretary, issued a letter notifying the Speaker of Parliament about changing the leadership of the NDC minority caucus. The situation created turmoil among NDC MPs and the general public, asking why the party leadership from outside parliament could take such a decision on their members. They noted that the latter is a caucus and expected to be their own bosses. 

In this live broadcast by Joynews, On Tuesday, March 7, 2023, the NDC again issued a letter to all her parliamentarians instructing them not to absent themselves from Parliament, especially in March. The party believed key bills would be brought to the house within the period, charging their members to be present and observe all responsibilities, a situation they termed as; “Operation serve our democracy.”

Earlier, some 98 New Patriotic Party MPs held a press briefing asking the Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori Attah, to resign from his position with allegations of mismanagement of the economy, among others, but after the top hierarchy of the NPP party met with them, they made a U-turn on their request. In this news, the NDC instructed their MPs not to vote to approve newly appointed ministers by President Nana Akuffo Addo.

Analysing all these activities above, it can be concluded that; Political Parties tend to control or whip their members in parliament (to do their bidding) in the hybrid system of government. Even more so is the power of the executive over the legislature.

The legality of the “Fusion of Powers”

Even Article 78 Clause 1 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana has allowed the executive president to appoint a majority of state ministers from parliament.

“Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of parliament from among members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament”

The above legal framework has practically fused the legislature’s powers with the executive regarding personnel, compromising the “separation of Powers” principle.

With the above constitutional framework, which gives legal backing to state ministers who form the executive to be drawn from the legislature, one can confidently state that; even the constitution, which is supreme, has given legal backing to the “fusion of powers,” which does not in any practical way make the Parliament very independent (supreme or practically separated from the executive) as many would want it.


Since personnel from parliament always finds themselves in executives/cabinet, they will definitely be involved in parliamentary acts that will be in the interest of their executive president and party in power.

Minority caucuses are usually whipped to toe the line of their opposition party to the detriment of the state, as evidenced on many occasions.

With the above comparative analysis of the two main systems and how Ghana has blended both of its features, it can be said that; Ghana’s Parliament is not as independent as Political Scientists, Politicians, the media, and the general public may deem it. 

The researcher produced this fact-check per the DUBAWA 2023 Kwame Karkari Fellowship in partnership with Avenor TV,  Shine 96.9mhz and Chanell 7 7 Networks to facilitate the ethos of ‘’truth’’ in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

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