Tuesday, February 9, 2016


The Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) has commemorated its 15th anniversary with a call on Ghanaians to build their capacities in order to capture and dominate the character of political parties in the country. The proposition was made by a former Research Coordinator, United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva, Switzerland, in his lecture to commemorate the anniversary in Accra. Speaking on the topic, “Overcoming inequalities and gaps in democratic governance: What role for political parties in Ghana,” the speaker, sought to impassion Ghanaians on attaining a democratic state that is development and growth oriented. Dr Bangura, who currently lectures in Sierra Leone, extensively drew parallels from other jurisdictions in the Nordic, African and European countries to prove that inequality in a democratic system was inimical to any initiatives for economic growth, cohesion and development. Unfulfilled aspirations Setting the tone for his lecture, he said, the euphoria of the upsurge in democracy in many countries in Africa of the 1990s had now waned, because the perception that democracy would enable citizens, open up for them opportunities in the political space and place power in the hands of people, had not been realised. Thus, the heart of democracy, which is equality, had eluded many of the countries that had come into democracy at the time. The results were the apparent growth of economic indicators, without the corresponding growth in the lives of the people. Gaps Dr Bangura identified three gaps in the democratic processes of these countries that had resulted in their current state of inequality and poor governance within democratic processes. He said the failure of citizens and leaders to consolidate the democratic rules of the game, the failure of the key branches of government to hold the executive accountable, and a bifurcated or split electorate that was not flexible and hence lost significance in sanctioning or rewarding wrong or right initiatives, respectively, in a democratic processes, were the three gaps. Embedded in the gaps were a failure by countries and citizens to reform political parties, key actors in the political space, Dr Bangura added. He said the focus had rather been on democratising inter-party competition rather than intra party competition, thus, the inequalities had grown, threatening social stability. He pointed out that countries with low levels of inequalities had a better chance at good outcomes within a democracy. “How do political parties become developmental and vehicles of growth?” Dr Bangura queried as he proposed alternatives to the status quo. For him, achieving growth and equality in democratic context was the challenge that had to be resolved. With examples from the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark, Dr Bangura showed how interest groups, like trade unions, were an integral pressure group in a democratic process that supported policies that were beneficial to all. He said such interest groups influenced political parties and changed the structure of incentives that pushed political parties to act appropriately for beneficial results. As a first step in ensuring equality in African countries, Dr Bangura proposed that the internal workings of political parties needed to be democratised to enable citizens influence their character. To achieve that, political parties needed to open up to public contestations that would prevent the rich from hijacking parties because they were key funders. The basic hallmark of democracy, that is, citizens having an ownership of the vote and a say in politics had to be resorted to, while revenue bargains had to be utilised to correct the disconnection between the state, the party and citizens. He explained revenue bargains as a responsible taxing system which locked the state and its citizens in a pact for development. Dr Bangura explained that because political parties in Africa were not dependent on citizens for funding, they were not accountable to them. The same applied to leaders who were more accountable to donor agencies than their citizens because of donor funds; and that had resulted in most public policy being donor driven. He said leaders took a safe recourse in rent from resources and aid, to absolve themselves from responsibility in accountable governance. He advocated strongly, therefore, for the state sponsorship of political parties, and for parties to be compelled to rely on the citizens for funding. He said that would transform political parties on the continent into reformation instruments at the grass roots. Grateful The chairperson of the IDEG Council of Trustees (COT), Prof Florence Dolphyne thanked all the sponsors of IDEG, particularly the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) for its $1.5 million in 2003 that set the institution on a course of excellence. A member of IDEG’s COT, Prof Akilagkpa Sawyer, said the lecture was timely to refocus the country on some of the gaps bedevilling the country since democratising more than two decades ago. The occasion was used to honour the Executive Director of the Gender and Human Rights Documentation Centre, Mrs Dorcas Coker Appiah, who had helped accommodate IDEG at its inception. The refurbished IDEG house was also formally opened and an office plaque unveiled by the Chairman of the National Peace Council, Most Rev Prof Emmanuel Asante. Writer’s email: caroline.boateng@graphic.com.gh

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