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Opinions Sat, 2 Feb 2019

By-elections and Ghana’s democracy

Our country has already been described as a “Flawed Democracy” according to a comparative study done by Todaro and Smith between Ghana and Ivory Coast. Electoral violences experienced at by-elections keep worsening this tag imposed on our democracy. Ghana’s democracy is still growing in terms of global standards but better in regional comparative analysis. By-elections are part of the several functions the Electoral Commission is supposed to perform.

So all political parties know the importance of such public choices or processes of choosing leaders. By-Elections are not in themselves superior to general elections held every four years to choose the President and Members of Parliament. Then , why are they (by-elections) carried out with “all die be die” attitudes when the history favours the party that loses its candidate of winning the elections? By-elections have been characterized by violence in their history in Ghana.

If this is what they are meant for, then our democracy is in a precarious state and amendments by the political actors who are their beneficiaries is desired. From Chereponi, Akwatia (a re-run election) to Ayawaso, the history goes against a growing democracy. There is no better explanation to justify why these acts must be done and not condemned in our country. The violence in our by-elections have evolved over time and the likelihood of their potency to disrupt and darken the gains made in our democracy is huge.

Democracy is a choice that citizens are afforded to choose people to lead them. As Mr Ace Anan Ankomah rightly expressed it on his facebook page, “the only constant thing is the BEATING Police” nothing changes with a change in power. The story does not change with opposite political parties. They are always beaten by incumbents of power.

The central theme for discussion in the media and stakeholders of democracy as well as development is the role of the security. The security is supposed to mediate the actions of the political party members. The actions of the security have assumed a partisan nature as claimed by parties in opposition. The security have a natural responsibility to protect and save lives.

This role need not have partisan colours as the defence of a state including the provision of security is a public good to be enjoyed by all from taxpayers money. The role of the security in such skirmishes over the years has been awful and could be named as complicit. The panic the citizens are exposed to is extremely vast. The comments of political leaders and their followers are ugly. By-elections are avenues created to fill in the gap that are left by the loss of the occupants of parliamentary seats. There is no need for such acts of violence.

There is no need for retaliation and the security have a role to put the democracy of our state on the right path. Democracy needs a practical execution and not a theoretical issue. So far the practice of democracy has not reached perfectly desired levels in Ghana. If the authorities of the security operatives arbitrarily use the powers given to them by law, then perish their integrity. Professionals need to ensure, highly that their integrity is maintained always.

If by-elections will continue to take this form, there is the need for parliament to amend the article of the constitution that gives powers to the Electoral Commission to conduct elections and referenda including by-elections. The constant experience of violence in by-elections that are organised in this country is gradually deteriorating the democratic image of Ghana. There is the need for parliament to review these impasses and take precautions to consolidate the level of democracy of the state.

The history of our by-elections suggests caution in our actions in choosing leaders to move this republic to the desired levels. The public has already expressed a wish that by-elections are cancelled to save the state money, time and energy. Though, this wish expressed by many is against the practice and tenets of democracy. The feature of choice in the practice of democracy will be eliminated if political parties automatically select candidates to fill the vacant positions that are left arising as a result of death.

This issue is considered meagre and so the persons that embark on these acts of violence go unpunished. There is much impunity in the system and as such people are not deterred to commit electoral violence. There is always a veil available to the people to act behind during these public events. The whole procedure for conducting by-elections need a review by the parliament of the country. Political parties, security personnel and other stakeholders need to be bonded to have good behaviours during by-elections.

The Electoral Commission of Ghana, the Security and the Political party leaders in the country need to have a meeting immediately to plan a proper way forward in future by-elections. The status quo is an enemy to our Democracy. Ghana’s Democracy is suffering from ill-intentions of parties.

Columnist: Emmanuel Kwabena Wucharey