National Peace Council must keep a light burning for democracy

The work of civil society to protect the gains of the Fourth Republic shines through Ghana’s track record of successful elections

Over the past few years, the functionality of democracy and competitive party politics has become the subject of renewed debate in Ghana, even as civil society organisations such as the National Peace Council have worked to protect our democratic culture.

In some parts of Africa, opposition parties continue to be victims of legal and political restrictions imposed by the incumbent regime even when the state has relaxed the fetters on political pluralism.

But this is not the case here in Ghana under the current government, led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

There is a broad consensus between the mainstream political actors in Ghana that democracy is a system of governance in which power and civic responsibility are exercised directly by all citizens.

The people’s interest

Unfortunately, the practice is different in some other parts of Africa.

In places where the democratic culture is less advanced, “the people” are typically represented by governments which exercise power on the basis of unsound elections. These governments do not generally consult the electorate.

The reason why our beloved country is respected in Africa and globally is that we practise transparent democracy and we respect the rule of law.

One important reflection of this is our outstanding record of successful elections under the Fourth Republic.

Leaders of other African nations respect us Ghana as the beacon of democracy in Africa. So do many countries in the Western world.

Good governance

Ghana is tagged as a model of “good governance”, the rule of law and protection of human rights, as is the case in the mature democracies.

When the era of post-Cold War democratisation began in Africa, Ghana hit the ground running. From the first election in 1992, in which Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings the military dictator transformed himself into President Jerry Rawlings, through the 1996 “stolen election”, to the 2000 election which led to the unprecedented transfer of power from Rawlings’s National Democratic Congress government to John Agyekum Kufuor’s New Patriotic Party, to the NDC’s recapturing of power in 2008, to its unprecedented loss of power in the 2016 election to the Akufo-Addo-led NPP, the country has established sterling democratic credentials. The December 2020 promises all the elements of a consolidation election.

This is what Kayode Fayemi, the Nigerian statesman who is now governor of Ekiti State, wrote in 2015 in Reflections on Ghana’s Election. In this, the Third John Evans Atta-Mills Memorial Lecture, he assessed the impact of the 7 December 2000 “Kufuor-Rawlings poll”:

“What Ghanaians have managed to do with this election is prove that election management is no rocket science. It requires adequate and competent preparation, a high degree of transparency, a responsible government which respects its own citizens and an alert citizenry ready to protect their vote. It does not matter who wins the election in Ghana as the results were still coming in by the time this was written, but the process that I witnessed was without exaggeration better than what transpired in the last US election.

“Finally, what Ghana proves is the importance of distance between the Electoral Commission and the political leadership in any state and the confidence that comes from understanding and surefootedness. We need a better understanding of electoral geography in all of our countries in West Africa, a factor that may well be responsible for the fear of election among the contending parties in Côte d’Ivoire.”

Since the establishment of the Electoral Commission of Ghana in 1992, its functions, powers and structure in relation to developing a legal framework for conducting elections have remained unchanged. Its workings are governed by Article 51 of the 1992 constitution, which states:

“The Electoral Commission shall, by constitutional instrument (CI), make regulations for the effective performance of its functions.”

Violence is not an option

The opposition National Democratic Congress and other political parties have started campaigning against the Electoral Commission’s decision to compile a new voters’ register to allow the EC to carry out its constitutional mandate in peace.

The various political parties and stakeholders who feel aggrieved by the Commission’s decision should take out the “militancy” from the expressions of their disapproval for a new register.

The courts of law are open to them to test the powers of the Electoral Commission. To seek to pursue constitutional processes is the right option, not resort to violence.

Ghana is the precious gift we have been given by our forebears. We must protect it.

Charles Credence

* Asaase Radio 99.5 FM. Coming to a dial near you.

* Twitter: @asaaseradio995

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