"What happens if the president-elect should die before inauguration day?" That is a question highly unlikely to have crossed the minds of many Ghanaians, but as with an unpredictable world, anything and everything is a possibility.
Generally, in Ghana, if a sitting president passes away, the chain of command calls on the next person, the vice president to take charge of the country.
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This vice president thus gets sworn in as president of Ghana and is allowed to rule for the remainder of the deceased president's term of office until the next election.
This was the case of John Dramani Mahama when the seat of government fell onto his laps after the late John Fiifi Attah Mills' death.
In cases where the vice president of the country is also unavailable, the seat passes to the Speaker of Parliament who acts as Head of State until another president is elected as per processes by the Electoral Commission of Ghana.
But the issue takes a different turn when looking at the transition period - the time between the December 7th General Elections and the January 7th swearing-in of the president-elect of the country.
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So what happens when the president-elect and vice president-elect pass away before the January 7th inauguration.
The chances of this happening are almost zero, but a freak accident could take the lives of any persons anytime.
Here's what we think would generally happen.
The phenomenon of democratic succession in Africa has been dismissed by some writers as not worthy of study because leadership change in Africa is nothing more than “a continuing parade of self-serving politicos”. But Ghana witnessed the emergence of a default president when President John Evans Attah Mills died and John Dramani Mahama emerged as president who subsequently metamorphosed into an elected president.
Article 57 (2) of the country's constitution states that, "the President shall take precedence over all other persons in Ghana; and in descending order, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament and the Chief Justice, shall take precedence over all other persons in Ghana”. Article 57 (8), (9) and (10) also makes provision for the Vice President to perform the functions of the President in his absence, whereas (11) stipulates that: “Where the President and the Vice President are both unable to perform the functions of the President, the Speaker of Parliament shall perform those functions until the President or the Vice President is able to perform those functions or a new President assumes office, as the case may be."
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Even as detailed as this is, it doesn't cover what happens if a constitutionally elected president passes away before being sworn in.
As per the constitution, the term of office for any elected president ends at midnight on the eve of inauguration day. Going by this arrangement, the president ceases to be president after mid-night of January 6. At the same time his vice also ceased to hold that office.
The incoming parliament is always sworn in the day before the inauguration. Thus, the Speaker of Parliament of the new parliament would take charge as president for the remainder of the term of office that the incoming president and his vice were supposed to take. In this scenario, the Speaker of the Parliament, as elected by the new session of parliament starting Jan 6th, assumes the Office of the President, and appoints a new Vice President.
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But also note that the Speaker wouldn't necessarily become president.
There's actually no protocol in the Constitution for how to select a president if the president-elect dies before inauguration — let alone both the president-elect and vice president-elect, so it would be a significant problem if this actually happened.
Note that, this is just a research that has not been constitutionally approved. The Ghanaian Constitution actually has no steps for such a event as it may probably never happen