“Numerous ‘democrats' and good governance worshippers believe that the interference of politicians in local level elections is a curse that has already started diluting the gains of decentralisation in Ghana”, a local government consultant has stated.
Mr Abdul Lateef Umar, Development Management and Resiliency Specialist Consultant, in Local Government Administration and Organisation, said it would weaken the capacity of local governments to deliver and leave out local and indigenous people with local knowledge about their communities.
He was making a presentation on the topic: “Politicising District Level Elections in Ghana: a Blessing or a Curse” at the 12th annual regional Community-Based Organizations’ (CBOs) Festival in Tamale organized by the Ghana Developing Communities Association (GDCA), a non-governmental organization (NGO).
The festival brought together CBOs, NGOs, and community leaders in the Northern Region to learn and share experiences on issues affecting their communities and enlighten them on the impending district level elections and the referendum.
Mr Umar said “Politicisation weakens the capacity of local government to provide basic public goods and services efficiently to the local citizens, for instance if an opposition party has a parliamentary candidate and more numbers of assembly members at the assembly, it reduces the confidence of the ruling party at the grassroots level due to purposeful opposition to the ruling party’s development initiatives”.
He said politicisation of district-level elections also ensured that “Local and indigenous people with local knowledge about their communities are totally left out because politicians begin to do things that are geared towards the survival of their political parties and membership”.
He added that when district level elections were politicised, “Roles and responsibilities are not allocated in the most efficient way, because recruitment and staff rotations are often affected to ensure the party in power has leverage to do things that will strengthen the party goals. Mostly the political head, who is the DCE perceives those, who are not in support of his or her vision (which is largely a party vision) are reposted to other districts or underutilised".
He added that “Politicisation also affects professionalism in service delivery since the winner-takes-all mantra only benefits a section of the community. People who are engaged or employed by the party in power have the tendency to underperform since their appointments are not based on merit but by ascription or affiliation. In this case, local resources are wasted since accountability and transparency are very weak and procurement processes are undermined”.
Mr Umar shed light on the benefits of politicisation of local level elections and said it helped to deepen and strengthen democracy, because of the integration of elected members at the grassroots and as well assisted political parties in building their organizations, which was a healthy thing.
Mr Richard Kambootah, Director of the Institute of Local Government Studies in Tamale, said partisan elections of district chief executives would promote accountability and development and urged the electorates to vote “Yes” during the referendum in December.
Participants expressed varied views on partisan elections of district chief executives with some saying it was good as it was already happening whilst others said it was not good for the unity and development of the country.
Mr Philip Gmabi, Acting Executive Director of GDCA expressed the hope that the lessons learnt during the Festival would enable participants to play their roles towards curbing election-related violence before, during and after the local level elections and for a successful referendum.