• September 22nd, 2020

Letter - The dissolution of Namibian parliament at the end of its term

Namibia should dissolve parliament at the end of its term because it is a good governance practice. Dissolution is a formal word used for the end of a period of parliament. It usually ensues ahead of a general election for a new parliament. Although the term of the Namibian parliament is five years, parliament has never been dissolved since independence in 1990. The dissolution of parliament allows for the election of new members of parliament. It is a common practice in most countries to dissolve parliament in preparations for new elections. However, the dissolution could be overridden during a national emergency such as the coronavirus.

The Namibian constitution is silent on the dissolution of parliament, which the writer regards as one of the tenets of democracy. It is for this reason that it is suggested that the Namibian constitution could be amended to insert an article clearly specifying the dissolution of parliament ahead of the national and presidential elections. In bicameral parliaments, members of upper chambers are frequently elected or appointed for longer periods. In such cases, provision is sometimes made for a partial renewal during the term of the house, for example in Argentina senators are elected for a six-year term and half of the house is renewed every three years. In the United States of America, senators go for a six-year term with a one-third renewal every two years. It should also be noted that the notion of a term of office does not exist in some assemblies, such as the German Bundesrat, where the term depends on membership of the Government of the Land represented.

In addition, some assemblies have an unlimited term, for instance, in the United Kingdom members of the House of Lords are appointed for life whereas in Canada members of the senate are appointed until retirement. Namibia has a bicameral parliament consisting of the National Assembly (Lower chamber) and the National Council (Upper chamber), together forming the Legislature arm of Government. The National Assembly comprises 96 voting members who are elected during the National and Presidential by registered voters for a term of five years on the basis of proportional representation, plus an additional eight (8) non-voting members appointed by the president. Conversely, the National Council consists of 42 representatives of the regional councils. Every regional council in the 14 regions of Namibia elects three representatives to the National Council. The National Council members are also elected for a term of five years. Therefore, the notion of the term of office in the Namibian Parliament is clearly specified. What is not delineated is what happens at the end of the term of our parliament. It should be noted that the tenure of office of members is linked to the duration of parliament. Therefore, as soon as parliament is dissolved, Members of Parliament (MP) should cease to be called members, and should not continue to be paid as they are no longer in the service of parliament. This could save the state from unnecessary expenditure. At the dissolution of parliament, every seat in parliament becomes available. This means there are no longer any Members of Parliament. Those who were Members of Parliament before dissolution stop to represent their constituents and should lose access to parliamentary facilities and resources. They should no longer refer to themselves as Members of Parliament because their term of office has elapsed. Ordinarily, parliament maybe prorogued or adjourned before it is dissolved. This is to allow parliament to continue to sit to finish some last items of parliamentary business for a few days after the President has announced the date when Parliament will be dissolved. During the dissolution of parliament until elections take place, the Executive arm of government, which comprises the ministers, should stay in their jobs until the end of the elections. During this time, the ministers who are members of the executive should not be referred to as Members of Parliament because nobody is an MP until new members of parliament are sworn in. This write-up proposes that the Namibian parliament, with applicable legislation in place, should be dissolved at the end of its term pending the election of new members because it is a good governance practice to do. 

Staff Reporter
2020-05-15 09:51:26 | 4 months ago

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