Parliament's rejection of November 7 election date damns Parliament itself

Sun, 24 Jul 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, July 22, 2016

Folks, the inability of Parliament to confirm November 7 as the effective Election Date for Ghana isn't anything to lose any sleep over. The history behind it is clear, which means that the mere date for the elections doesn't matter.

If those talking about "brilliant and intelligent people" (Sam Okudjeto at focus here) can help Ghana put in place the effective mechanism for sustaining our democracy, we shouldn't worry that much. Will they do so by going beyond mere technicalities, one of which is the date for the polls, which they are thumping their chests over now for winning the day at its rejection by Parliament?

What matters most is how the politicking for the polls is done so nobody destabilizes the country. After all, the electorate will want to put in office those whom they trust to solve their existential problems and not those who are short on mounting rooftops to condemn political opponents without proving their own worth as problem solvers.

December 7 has been used for that purpose since Election 1996 even after what happened at Election 1992 when the Presidential Elections and the Parliamentary ones were held on separate dates in November and December, respectively.

Thereafter, the consensus was reached that both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections should be held at the same time on the same day; and December 7 was settled on. It has been so to date.

Clearly, in the first attempt at free and fair general elections, the Presidential elections preceded the Parliamentary one. And once Rawlings won, his opponents (then, the NPP) decided to boycott the Parliamentary version. They wrote a trite and farcical _Stolen Verdict_ that didn't save any useful purpose except to sustain their own politics of grief and doom.

Later happenings led us to December 7 as the Election Date; but the rumpus that occasioned the transition from one administration to the other, beginning with the Rawlings-led one to the in-coming Kufuor one that had won Election 2000, showed that something drastic had to be done to smooth the rough edges.

Those of us monitoring the transition process saw CHAOS all over the place, including the ceremony leading to the swearing in of Kufuor. There was chaos everywhere.

Then, when Atta Mills was to take over from Kufuor, a lot more chaos occurred, reinforcing the atmosphere of mistrust and distrust. In truth, the handing over process was horrific.

Some analysts quickly traced the problem to the short span between December 7 (when elections were held) and January 7 (when the handing over was to take place). What could be done in a month to ensure a smooth transition, they questioned?

To avoid such hiccups, the suggestion came up that the elections should be held earlier than December 7; hence, the shift toward settling on November 7 so the appropriate homework could be done and necessary efforts made to smooth the path for the transition on January 7.

We have been following the politics surrounding this attempt at making November 7 the effective date for the polls. In truth, everything coming from the NPP camp (supported by allies in the other mushroom parties) has been hinged on doubts about the readiness of the EC to conduct the elections, given their bitter complaints about the voters register or just anything that they can cite to damn the EC. Within that context, isn't strange for the NPP to torpedo the November 7 initiative.

It has happened and should be pushed aside so the proper groundwork can be done to re-introduce it before the next general elections. Democracy cannot be nourished through anarchy. That is why it is important for all those involved in the process to rise above partisan political interests to solve problems, not to compound them or create news ones!!

I won't bat an eyelid over the rejection of November 7. I will only wait to see how the situation is handled at the end of the polls when a winner emerges to be in power. When John Mahama wins, no problem as far as transition is concerned.

If Akufo-Addo wins, absolute chaos in the transition process. Don't ask me why. In the long run, though, it will be a test for our democracy.

In the final analysis, Parliament has to know that whether the general elections should be held on November 7 or December 7, there is much to warrant its being accused as lethargic and irresponsible. Whether its inability to approve November 7 as the substantive date should be factored into the broad public concerns about its failure is another issue; but it must be clear by now that the kind of Parliament that we have is damn useless.

The nub here is that little serious thinking is being done to separate national issues from petty partisan political interests. Setting a specific date for national elections should not be seen through the narrow and blurred lenses of either the NDC or NPP. It is a national issues and should be tackled as such. After all, it doesn't really matter how long a political party campaigns for votes. if it is unattractive on day one, it will remain so till voted down!! So, why the fuss?

Our Parliament is a flop. It doesn't solve problems because it is made up of those who don't even know what the country's problems are. if they knew, they would behave better than they have done so far. If those NDC MPs in the Majority arm of parliament really knew the value of the issue laid before Parliament for voting, they would have been there to add their weight.

They failed to attend the session and eroded support. Some in the NPP camp also failed to turn up. What were they pursuing that they considered to be more important than what was at stake in the day's proceedings? A responsible Parliament won't behave this way.

We know that our Parliament has a huge stake in our democracy, but we are disappointed at the performance of the MPs. What sort of characters are these that don't do as expected? Setting a date for general elections is not limited to the political interests of the NDC or the NPP (or any other political party). It is a national exigency that should have been approached with the maximum respect, decency, and conscientiousness. The MPs who didn't show up for the day's proceedings are irresponsible and should be taken to task.

Folks, I think that the inability of Parliament to make the change for the polls so as to smooth the transition process is a disgrace to our Parliament itself. No political camp should boast of sabotaging efforts. None should also point gossipping fingers, which is why i don't agree with the NDC's Kofi Adams (See https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Election-date-rejection-NPP-anti-Ghana-NDC-457174).

Reasonable public officials who know what they are in office to do will act responsibly to grow our democracy. Do we have such people in positions of trust?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.