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Election 2012 and its Political Implications (1)

Mon, 17 Dec 2012 Source: Gyan-Apenteng, Kwasi

Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng

The elections are over – bar the shouting; especially if you are of the NDC faith, this is it. The shouting is coming from the other side of the fence which currently is an unhappy place. As at this writing, the NPP is threatening to go to court where the issue may well be as you read this. The usual Ghanaian attitude is to advise the NPP to accept the result, give it to God and let the nation move on. The party has the right, even a duty to go to court if it believes that it has a case.

However, the NPP’s case appears to be undermined by the results released by the highly respected Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) which stated on Monday that “the Ghana presidential election results released Sunday were the true reflection of the will of Ghanaians as expressed in their ballots”.

The coalition, which comprised some 40 different organizations, said their own projections showed that President John Dramani Mahama won the elections by 51.38 percent on its Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT), compared with the 50.70 percent declared by the Electoral Commission (EC). In the coming weeks and months we, the sitting army of armchair critics and analysts - will have plenty of opportunity to dissect the full impact of Election 2012 and its impact. Before then, we all have to continue working for peace in our diverse ways.

Even if the NPP succeeds in court it is not likely that the overall electoral picture in Ghana will be substantially affected by the outcome. Indeed, as at this writing, the overall picture of Ghana politics as seen through the election lenses in 2012 remains worrying. Peacefmonline has helpfully produced a map of the election result on its website and I invite all those who can to take a look at http://electionapp.peacefmonline.com/pages/maps/. The map uses two colours, green for the NDC and blue for the NPP, to show the constituencies won by the two main parties. Apart from a splattering of blue in some isolated parts of the Northern Region, the rest of the country is a solid green mass surrounding a big blue lake sitting diagonally in most of the last third of the country stretching from Jaman in the west to Okere in the east, stopping just where the Eastern and Volta Regions part ways. In words, as the NDC keeps reminding everyone, eight out of the ten regions were won by that party and Parliament will be without a single NPP MP from three regions – Upper East, Upper West and Volta.

If you are an NDC person this map will give enormous satisfaction; it is the kind of map the party faithful will probably print and hang in their living rooms. If you are an NPP supporter this map represents the living reality of your pain and the nightmare scenario that your party may stay out of power for a long time yet. If you are not a politician and can step back and take a dispassionate look, you will probably conclude that there is a case for worry or even alarm in the picture staring you in the face. What we need to understand is that while elections are meant to elect our leaders for the next four years, they also forecast many trends that tell us something about the present and the future.

First of all, the elections have confirmed that Ghana is not a multiparty democracy but a two-party state. The NPP and NDC have so crowded the political map that Peacefmonline did not need another colour for its map. Some analysts had dared to hope that the smaller parties, especially the CPP and its “family-rival” the PPP between them could attract enough votes to send a few people into Parliament while forcing a second round. Indeed, the strategy of the PPP appears to have targeted a role for its leader as the kingmaker in a hung election. Of course from the result we know that even if Papa Kwesi Nduom shaved his famous moustache and summersaulted naked across Ghana he would probably attract just as many votes as he got.

Should we worry that our democracy appears to have room for just two parties? The answer is a resounding YES. These two parties know that in certain parts of the country where they have respective dominance they can and do take the electorate for granted. Neither the voter nor the candidate strives for any standard beyond the common platitudes because for most of the time the result is a forgone conclusion. In any case, when you think about it, if a one-party state is intolerable, why should we accept a two-party state as a permanent norm?

The official and intellectual position in Ghana is that ethnicity is not the driving force in our politics but you don’t have to look at the map a second time to see the extent to which this country has been divided by politics on ethnic lines. Ethnic politics is the phenomenon that dares not say its name, but we can no longer play the ostrich here; increasingly, the politics is fracturing Ghana into Akan and non-Akan areas. If you look closely at that map, and compare it with the picture from previous elections you can see the NPP vote coming from a narrow and narrowing stretch of core Akan areas in the Ashanti and Eastern Regions.

This is the big picture. If you narrow it further into voting patterns in our towns and villages you see the same fracturing across ethnic lines within the same town or village. You don’t need to be a genius to know that such political splintering on ethnic grounds can have dangerous consequences and therefore needs to be addressed. As a long-time advocate of proportional representation as a superior electoral system, I feel that the last few elections in Ghana and the trend they portend should now put the issue of our electoral system on the front page.

This is especially important because the other urgent electoral reform issue, namely, political and administrative decentralization can no longer wait. Assuming the electoral figures we have now stand the test of any legal challenge, it means that the NPP could well have been within four percentage points of winning the presidential election with wins in only two regions and fewer constituencies. This means that the NPP would then have had the right to appoint local officials in all regions and districts while having a minority of seats in Parliament. The reverse also means that the NDC with only a few percentage points advantage in the popular vote will now appoint officials even in areas of Ghana where it has virtually no support, including some of the biggest towns and populous districts in Ghana.

No system that allows people to be governed by those they have not elected at the local level can be described as a democracy. Ghana is one constituency only for the presidential elections. The composition of all institutions and assemblies must reflect the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box. This is why in the coming weeks advocates of true democracy must campaign for both decentralization and proportional representation in order to create a society based on genuine democracy and self-government.

kgapenteng@gmail.com & kgapenteng.blogspot.com

This article was first published in the Mirror in Ghana

Columnist: Gyan-Apenteng, Kwasi