Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ghana’s democracy irrational — Boakye Djan

Story: Caroline Boateng
GHANA’s political party democracy is irrational and needs a revolution of ideas to address the potential for instability that it could create for the country, the Head of Government of the erstwhile Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Osahene Boakye Djan has said.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic after a long period of silence, during which the AFRC member, who also doubled as the spokesman took respite from public political activity and discourse, a dire prognosis of a country stumbling gradually into a state where majority participation in political party practice remained a myth, was made by him.
His views, he said, were based on a careful observation of developments of recent primaries of the country’s political parties and their implications for the political health of the country.
Explaining what he meant by an irrational political system, he said this was where political choices were limited to persuasion and enticement of voters with money, ethnic and religious sentiments, gender, age and personality attacks as well as other inducements that had been a characteristic of all the recent primaries of the major political parties in the country.
Buttressing that point, he said in settled democracies, political choices were restricted to issues, policies and principles that directly translated into future benefits to voters who were then expected to make informed decisions on them.
He said in the United Kingdom, the longest known multi-party democracy in the world, formal and rational systems of political negotiations based on rational decisions and choices from formal issues and policies offered by competing politicians within or outside political parties were in place which allowed for informed choices by voters.
The Labour Party on the broad left, the Liberal Democrats in the broad centre and the Conservative Party on the broad right are all occupying three distinctive boundaries and presenting three distinctive choices.
In Ghana, where do the four major political parties with representation in Parliament fit into this pattern? He asked.
Osahene identified the non-clarity in this area as the root cause of the problems of political party practice in Ghana today and most parts of Africa, evidenced by the electoral challenges currently in Kenya and South Africa.
Osahene said the “money persuasion” that had become a part of the Ghanaian political system was deeply offensive and dangerous for the future of democracy in the country.
“It is the basis of the corrosive corruption in the country today. Why would someone want to accept money from a politician in exchange for a vote? Practical competitive politics, as far as I am concerned, is the calculation, the estimate or the judgement of the future for the benefit of all of us and not for a monetary gain today. The man is supposed to go into a four-year term of office to create a condition to benefit you and me in the future and not today,” he pointed out.
He was of the view that politicians had been manipulating the situation to their own advantage.
To those aspiring for political leadership and the presidential slot, he stressed “politics is not about paying someone upfront to get you into power for you to make money for yourself and your family,” while warning the electorate, “accepting cash to vote for a politician is a short-term palliative and not a long-term solution; for if you go to the market and finish spending it, you may have to wait for another four years for another handout. That is not the practical politics that is meant to provide a long-term solution for you and your standard of life”.
On the ethnic factor, Osahene said the danger of the perception of the northern part of the country being marginalised and only having a chance for the vice-presidential slot of the country, as well as the perception that certain regions were permanent vote banks of the two dominant parties, the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Party (NDC), had the potential of causing division-related trouble in the country.
That was made worse by political leadership in the country who preferred using these factors to preserve the status quo and had, therefore, tended to use it to the optimum.
The result of all that was pervasive perception of sense of exclusion of some people from the political space and that was also a recipe for trouble in the country.
He said the same applied to gender and religious considerations that also influenced the way political systems were organised, with women not having the space to operate and religious sentiments being used for undue influence.
Osahene said the 1992 Constitution of the country, which should have been the framework to set the country on a course of an all-inclusive society with no divisions, had failed as it concentrated power in the Executive and had effectively established a one-party system of rule.
“The party that wins the elections in Ghana today will have concentrated on its hands the four levels of power in the country - the Executive, the Judiciary, the Legislature and local administration. This is because the Executive has the power and uses it to control and manipulate Parliament, in which it has a party-controlled majority. It has the constitutional mandate to appoint the head and members of the Judiciary, local governing officers, ambassadors and head of other para-statal organisations,” he said.
Only the right systems in place would ensure checks and balances against such temptations that came out of natural human nature, he added.
He said all the political parties of the country had missed the chance of setting the country on course for a better multi-party democratic system as most of the leaders of the parties preferred maintaining the status quo for the benefit of their personal and party followers, providing a good patronage system and benefit for their cronies.
Among the solutions proposed by Osahene was a four-year term moratorium on one-party rule in the country for the constitution to be amended to diffuse power away from the Executive.
Another solution was for journalists, politicians, industrialists and all other stakeholders to see it as a duty to work to give true meaning to the practice of multi-party democracy in the country in order to avert the looming danger ahead, he warned.
Osahene said another solution would be the “need for the emergence of a new movement, outside the traditional political parties’ status quo, with ideas and solutions that transcend all the ideas of all of the four major political parties, a conscious crop of people with an alternative platform and solutions to steer Ghana away from the brink and onto the right track”.
“I believe there is a room for such a group to emerge to participate in the 2008 elections,” he predicted.


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