Party unity and presidential dominance: parliamentary development in the fourth republic of Ghana


Political power in contemporary sub-Saharan Africa is often portrayed as being highly informal and heavily personalised. The assumption that personalised politics is how ‘Africa works’ has led to the neglect of the study of Africa’s formal institutions, including parliaments. This article assesses the position of the Parliament of Ghana under the Fourth Republic. It displays evidence suggesting that over successive parliamentary terms parliamentary committees became increasingly adept at handling legislation, and inputting into the policy process. It also shows that the parliament was increasingly able to oversee the implementation of legislation. Although the findings of hitherto undocumented progress represent a valuable nuance, the argument that the parliament became increasingly able to input into the legislative process says exactly that; while the parliament became increasingly capable of amending legislation rarely was this witnessed. The article argues that parliamentary development in Ghana has been a function of three interacting structural factors: the constitution; unified government since 1992; and political party unity. The strong partisan identities of legislators from the two major political parties  the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC)  provide the executive with extra leverage to control the parliament. Throughout the Ghanaian parliament is juxtaposed with the Kenyan National Assembly. More substantially, the article seeks to force a revision of the dominant narrative that generalises African party systems as fluid and fragmented, and African political parties as lacking any recognisable internal cohesion or ideology.

Journal of Contemporary African Studies