Is Ghana’s democracy today running toe-to-toe with the United States?

Mon, 9 Jan 2017 Source: Asubonteng, Bernard

By Bernard Asubonteng

For starters, contemporary democracy as practiced in the U.S., England, Canada, or India, may not be perfect, but it surely is the strongest sea wall ever built against the tide of tyranny, despotism, one-party rule, or government premised on the suppression of human dignity.

It is on this foregoing predicate that Ghanaians home and abroad must contextualize the past unfolding political events with pride and thank the good heavens that the citizens can truly affirm their human dignity via multiparty democracy, regardless of its perceived imperfections. It doesn’t matter how one argues for or rationalizes in favor of one-party regime, socialism, or communism, at least the shocking disintegration of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, clearly reinforces the fact that any system of government based on the repression of its citizens is not sustainable.

More so, it also shows that human’s free spirit and quest for dissenting views cannot be held back forever. Multiparty democracy is the way forward. Majority of Ghanaians have chosen a clear path faraway from dictatorship or a single-party system. This is a cause for celebration. By all indications, the people of Ghana want to be governed just like the people in the countries referenced above.

Thus, it’s not overkill in hyperbolic sense to theorize that the trajectories of Ghana’s democracy now stands toe-to-toe or rivals that of the U.S. This claim is carefully made cognizance of the fact that this present writer is not only a student of global politics, but also he is a teacher of political science at the college or university level in the United States for the past years.

Admittedly, the U.S. democracy is far older than Ghana’s. Also the American political system has strong, less corrupt and nonpartisan bureaucratic structures that prop up the democratic machinery for it to function efficiently. Besides, using one or two instances to draw a comparison of this nature may not be a fair one. More so, democratic governance such as the one in Ghana or in the U.S., evolves from, and reflects the dictates of the sociocultural underpinnings of the given environment. All these factors are relevant and understandable.

Nonetheless, authentic multiparty democracy, irrespective of the historical or cultural contexts, has certain benchmarks that are universally accepted across the board. Notable among them is that true multiparty system must have free and fair elections at an appropriate timeframe.

In the later part of 2016, Ghana, like the United States, excelled in conducting free and fair general elections. Another significant hallmark of multi-partyism is the peaceful transition of power, especially, from the ruling government (in the event of defeat) to the victorious or opposition party.

Again, in January 7, 2017, Ghana’s conduct in the preceding category was peerless in Africa and it nearly surpassed or robbed shoulders among the world-class democratic societies. It is instructive to note that even the United States of all time-tested democracies, the presidential election between Bush and Gore in 2000 was marred by disputes until the Supreme Court settled the electoral impasse in favor of George W. Bush to become president.

Interesting to know were the months or weeks leading up to the U.S. general election last year where Mr. Donald Trump, the touch-bearer of one of the major two parties—GOP—openly and brazenly asserted that unless the 2016 presidential election was declared in his favor, he would not accept the result. It should be noted that these assertions and undemocratic behaviors cited here are normally the stock-in-trade of the so called untested democracies like Ghana and not the U.S, but they happened in America politics.

Many Americans were worried over Mr. Trump’s tyrannical pre-election pronouncements, wondering about the potential constitutional crisis U.S. might be plunged into should he follow through his immature threats. Part of Mr. Trump’s cynical posture above might have been anchored in the country’s undemocratic method and the 18th century proslavery Electoral College system used to choose the president after the election.

One significant fact many people around the world don’t know about the United States is that it is the only major democratic nation-state that can have a presidential candidate wins the overall popular or majority of the votes cast and still lose the presidency.

For instance, these past U.S. Presidents: Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford Hayes, John Quincy Adams, George W. Bush, and now Donald Trump, all lost the popular votes cast yet they became president

(see: U.S. Elections Atlas). In any other modern democratic society, Mrs. Clinton would have been the president-elect easily. She received nearly 3 million overall votes more than Mr. Trump; which means far more Americans wanted her to be the president of U.S. But the obsolete Electoral College process requires that whichever candidate gets more of the “electoral votes” based on the computation of the states won, including the number of Congressmen/women represented in each state become the president.

Imagine this needlessly complex and outmoded U.S. electoral system is in place in Ghana or any of the so-called Third World countries? Even before winning the election, Mr. Donald Trump was strongly against the Electoral College because he thought it was not reflective of the people’s will.

In fact Ghana’s emerging first-rate democratic system, and its recent smooth transfer of power from the incumbent party of NDC to the main opposition NPP, was almost shoulder above that of the U.S. in this past year’s general elections.

One of the best ways to know any of the African countries is doing something relatively better than the developed nations is when the mainstream Western news outlets or the U.S. media under report the events for their domestic consumption. If Ghana’s recently held general elections have been plagued by widespread irregularities with its attendant violence and senseless killing of innocent people, you bet, those sad and shameful episodes would have dominated the news in U.S.

Since Ghanaians conducted themselves in civilized manner far better than most of the old democratic nations during and after the general elections, the U.S. news networks don’t have any captivating incentive to focus extensively on it. Maybe Ghana’s democracy today must be catching up to the United States or…?

The writer is United States-based social critic. He can be reached at: b.asubonteng@gmail.com

Columnist: Asubonteng, Bernard