Selecting the next president.
The people of Ghana are being taken through the routine of selecting presidential candidates for the 2008 elections. Aspiring candidates are making the usual noises and pocket dipping in their attempts to improve their exposure to the electoral delegates. Rumours indicate there are possibly over ten candidates in the NPP camp, over five in the camp of the bleeding NDC, and there will certainly be a few others from PRC and the recently registered DFP group. All Ghanaians want smoothly run and peaceful selection processes.
Our democracy requires gentle nurturing.President Kufour has set a high standard and Ghana deserves to have another and even better one to continue with the economic development in progress now. The parties therefore have to ensure that the candidate they select will be accepted by majority of the country and, among other characteristics, will be someone who is intelligent, politically experienced, resourceful and will enjoy international respect. It is also imperative that the spirit of the National constitution is respected. Our democracy is young and developing and need to be nurtured gently to ensure the smooth economic development of the country. The parties also need to remember that Ghana, like most other African countries, is a nation consisting of many nations. While these nations within Ghana have enjoyed reasonable peace for a long time unlike several African countries it wouldn’t take much to disrupt this peace. The political parties must therefore do every thing to safeguard this situation. The parties need to realise also that countries the world over which have made great economic progress have enjoyed stable democracy or stable government for a long time. Cases in point are the Asian tigers and now India. If Ghana does not go the way of these nations it is doubtful we will ever attain the medium income status we seek to achieve by the projected 2015.
The NDC front.So let’s see what is being offered Ghanaians this time. The situation in the NDC is a bit confused with more and more of their top names featuring in the DFP profile. In the last presidential election they marketed the party as being for the minorities and it was no surprise that their presidential candidate was rejected by his own region. There has been attempt in the past two year to change that image especially since the party’s last congress which led to the formation of DFP. It can be seen from the profile of the DFP that it shows a better balance than that of the NDC. In the last two elections the NDC has had only two or three candidates making the selection straight forward. Recent events indicate a weakening of the Rawlings influence which may open up the field and may lead to more than the reported five at present. It is my hope that the largest opposition party will do Ghanaians proud by having a peaceful congress in December devoid of the mayhem and thuggery associated with their previous congresses. Hopefully an early selection will prevent any confusion developing at their front.
The NPP front.The list from the NPP appears to demonstrate a greater depth of democratic practice. It is free for all at this stage so there are more than ten candidates mentioned or who have declared their intentions. It appears the major qualification at this stage is ‘a deep pocket’ and the opportunity to go round the country meeting party officials. Is it of any benefit to the party to have that many people declaring? ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. ‘Yes’ because the party is seen as transparently democratic and anyone who believes he/she is up to it can make noise at this stage. ‘No’ because I believe it will only waste resources (money), create a huge distraction from the business of government and may at the latter stages develop into bickering and personal attacks to the detriment of the party. Unfortunately the party’s constitution appears not to have any stringent measures to check this situation. There are no weeding out primaries or clearance committees. All one apparently needs to do is to declare your intention and make the most noise until the latter stages of the selection process.
What I suggest for the party officials to be mindful of is that the incumbent president and his vice are from Ashanti and the North respectively. They would have served for 8 years with all the privileges and patronage around the executive office. In the interest of our young democracy it is important that other regions get the opportunity to serve next time. There have been arguments from some quarters that this is a democracy and people should be seen as individual Ghanaians and not where they come from or whom they are related to. The situation has even been compared to the ascendancy of the Bush family to the American Presidency. Such a comparison is most inappropriate as the two democracies are incomparable in age, level of education, and national identity. As mentioned above Ghana is a country of several nations each with different perception of its position in the country. The proponents of Bush-American argument needn’t have looked so far away. The probable scenario is more likely to be the situation in Cote D’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Togo and others where Western style democracy of one man one vote simply means the largest group will always rule. The others will feel marginalised and may feel justified in resorting to other means to come to power. Our past experience had informed the writers of the last constitution to limit the term of office to two four year terms. This is rightly so, so that we don’t make dictators of our leaders. Our democracy is several generations before it attains the level of maturity that will tolerate the types of Bush-American situation but we have grown over the situation where the leadership engineers the democratic practice to prolong its life in office to the detriment of other sections of the country.
I believe that the NPP is big enough with competent men and women across the country who can lead the party to success in any elections. The party will by so doing reinforce its image as a truly national party. I only hope that most of the candidates who have declared are only jostling for recognition to guarantee themselves good positions in the next government. Is the present situation the best way to achieve this? I think there are better ways. Some of the candidates need to reassess their positions and quietly throw their support behind those of the same political belief who are likely to win. The party need to find a better system than the existing one to forestall similar situations in the future. The present situation appears manageable but what will it look like towards the election time when some MPs are likely to face ‘deselection’? There will be so much distraction from both the executive side and the legislature.
Conclusion.All the political parties need to take the selection processes seriously. They must look closely at the relevant provisions in their constitutions and fine tune them to reflect the needs of the people. We are on the journey of democratic development. We are going to find some provisions and processes inadequate for purpose for this young democracy and may need amending. The selection of presidential candidate appears to be one such process. We all need to ensure there is smooth changeover this time and in the future. The people of Ghana deserve better.
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