Row Over Ghana’s Anti-LGBTQ Bill Stalls Appointment of Ministers

(Bloomberg) -- Ghana’s parliament is stalling the approval of new cabinet ministers to put pressure on President Nana Akufo-Addo to take a decision on an anti-LGBTQ bill that requires his assent to become law.

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Akufo-Addo refused to consider the bill, which punishes homosexuality with up to three years in jail, until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of the proposed legislation. In response, lawmakers have said they will also delay the vetting of ministers that Akufo-Addo appointed five weeks ago, House Speaker Alban Bagbin said in the chamber Wednesday.

“Where a bill passed by parliament is presented to the president for assent, he shall signify within seven days after the presentation, to the Speaker that he assents to the bill or that he refuses to assent to the bill, said Bagbin.

Akufo-Addo can also refer the bill to the Council of State for advice, but refusing to even consider the proposed legislation is “unconstitutional,” he said.

The standoff means that newly appointed ministers of tourism and health won’t be able to take office. Nominees to become deputy ministers of finance and energy are also affected.

It comes at a politically sensitive time, as the country readies for December 7 presidential elections. Akufo-Addo’s preferred successor, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia is competing for the top job against a former president, John Mahama. The ruling party’s winning odds have been weakened by rising living costs, with the inflation rate hovering above 20%, and a debt crisis that’s forced the country to accept a $3 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

Read More: Ghana Anti-LGBTQ Bill Risks $3.8 Billion of World Bank Support

Ghana’s lawmakers passed the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill, which would also legalize discrimination and force people to report anyone who’s gay to authorities, last month. The bill’s passage drew criticism from key development partners, spurring the Finance Ministry to raise concerns on the economic implications of a potential approval.

If the bill is signed into law, Ghana could lose out on as much as $3.8 billion of World Bank funding over the next five to six years, according to the ministry. An anti-LGBTQ law could also derail the IMF program secured in May and talks to restructure Ghana’s public debt, including $13 billion of eurbonds, it said.

IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva declined to comment on the impact an anti-LGTBQ law might have on funding during a visit to Ghana earlier this week. The Washington-based lender is waiting to see what the court decides, she said.

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