Should all NPP Members elect the party's Presidential Candidate?

Sat, 28 Mar 2009 Source: Haruna, Mahama

There appears to be a consensus on the need for some changes to the Constitution of the NPP especially after the party has just lost national elections.

The most contentious amendment proposal that is expected to dominate the special conference in may this year will be whether all party members should elect a Presidential candidate or not. At the 2003 National Delegates conference of the NPP at Cape-Coast, delegates unanimously rejected the constitutional amendment proposal that all card-bearing members of the party should be eligible to vote to choose the Presidential candidate.

According to the Party's General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, one of the major proposals on the drawing board for sometime now and which will be critically and rigourously looked at, will be a proposal to amend the Constitution to increase the electoral college of the party. He also explained that it has become necessary for the party to amend that part of the constitution to avoid the temptation of people seeking to lead the party in various positions to influence the delegates through material and financial means.

Even before the secretary of the party gave this hint, a debate has already began. Some party members are of the opinion that, while the proposal may give a significant boost to the party's democratic credentials, it is seen by some as a most unusual practice in the nomination of flagbearer for even party's in long established democracies like the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

At the moment Article Six (6) of the of the NPP Constitution states:

The Party's Presidential candidate shall be elected by the National Congress, which shall comprise the following delegates;

(i) Ten (10) delegates from each constituency . ( ii) One representative of the Founding Members from each Region;

(iii) One (1) representative of the Patrons from each constituency,

(iv) One (1) representative of each Overseas Branch of the party that is entitled to send a representative to the National Delegates Conference.

A section of the members of the party claims this is not representative enough considering the large following of the party. They also contend that it is easy to influence the 2,300 plus few delegates with monetary and material inducements which invariably affects voting patterns unduly as happened during the 2007 Presidential Primaries.

They therefore propose that all card-bearing members be allowed to vote so as to make it difficult for candidates to influence voting patterns of delegates with money and other goodies. There is a feeling among these party members that the number of delegates to the NPP Congresses to elect Presidential Candidates is too small and this tends to make it possible for people seeking to lead the party to manipulate delegates through financial and material means. They also explain it turns to weaken the democratic values of the party.

However members of the party who are against this proposal are of the view that the NPP is trying to bite more than it can chew because considering the large number of votes, the party would be saddled with a huge financial burden and logistic difficulties. Superficially the idea looks great according to those against the expansion and will no doubt fully thumprint the NPP as a party of true democracy but will be pre-mature.

One explained that there could be a scenario in which a rival party with money to spend and plenty of willing conspirators on the ground could go as well as even sponsoring a Presidential candidate for the NPP by sponsoring and planting enough of its members in the NPP by buying membership and playing a decisive role in swinging the vote one way or the other. Also it allows the constituency executive committee to potentially inflate membership one way or the other.

The expansion of the Electoral College will lead to a high cost of running campaigns one explained. Funds to organize rallies, Posters and other party paraphernalia like 'T' shirts, caps as well as advertisements- Bill Boards, Television, Newspapers and Radio should bother all party members, he emphasised.

To me even if the sanctity of the process can be guaranteed, the job is geographically as large as holding a national election. The cost will mean diverting a large chunk of the party's funds and energy not to fight the national election but to contest intra-party election.

There is also a smack of democratic hypocrisy about the whole idea of all party members voting. As things stand now delegates for the election of officers at various levels of the party's organisation are still steeped in the old tested concept of electoral colleges. For National executive elections, only five (5) delegates from each constituency are eligible to vote and for Regional executive elections only four (4) delegates from each of the constituencies within the region are eligible to vote. This means that apart from Polling Station Elections where all card-bearing and paid-up members in good standing in the Polling Station Area shall vote, the same cannot be said of of elections at all other levels.

An NPP Member of Parliament has gone to the extent of arguing for the expansion of the electoral colleges at all levels of election including Parliamentary primaries of the NPP. According to him the NPP must cancel the system whereby constituency and polling station executives in the main form the majority delegates who would vote for Parliamentary candidates. He said even before we get to the stage of electing parliamentary candidates we must also expand the electoral college of electing constituency executives. He bemoaned the situation whereby the select few who elect parliamentary candidates always wait for four years to await bribes from those aspiring to be parliamentary candidates. He also explained that with an electoral college of between hundred (100) and two hundred (200) delegates, it is not difficult for aspirants to give out flat screen television sets; mobile phones; plus cash or as much GH 2,000 Cedis per delegate to influence them. ''Can a person do that to as many as 3,000 delegates'' ? he questioned.

"I suggest that we use the end of 2008 as the cut off for paid -up members to be eligible to vote in their constituencies. The cut off date is very important, to avoid a situation where a clever opposing political party can let its members register and pay up as 'dummy' NPP delegates and eventually electing a politically weaker Presidential candidate" he emphasised.

While it will be necessary to test the popularity of Presidential nominees on a much larger scale than currently is the case, more care must be taken regarding the party's readiness for such an exercise. I agree that the present pool of delegates needs to be increased. An upward figure of between 15,000 to 30,000 will be strong enough to test the national support commanded by the contestants. But how this can be achieved must be worked out.

I propose that Article Six (6) of the constitution of the NPP be amended completely to read as follows:

"The Party's Presidential candidate shall comprise the following delegates:

(i) All Polling Station Chairmen in each Constituency;

(ii) All Members of the Executive Committee in each Constituency;

( iii) All Members of the Executive Committee in each Region;

(iv) All Members of Parliament;

(v) All past Regional Executive Committee Members who are paid up members and in good standing;

(vi) All past Constituency Executive Committee Members who are paid up members and in good standing;

(vii) All Members of the National Executive Committee;

(viii) All past National Executive Committee Members who are paid up members and in good standing;

(ix) All Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives who are members of the party when it is in Government;

(x) All former Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives who are members of the party when it is not in Government;

(xi) All Ministers, Deputy Ministers who are members of the party when it is in Government;

(xii) All former Ministers, Deputy Ministers who are members of the party when it is not in Government;

(xiii) Five members of TESCON from each selected University, Polytechnic or Tertiary Institution;

(xiv) Ten representatives of each overseas Branch of the party that is entitled to send a representative to the National Delegates Conference;

(xv) All Members of the National Council of Elders, Members of the Finance Committee, Constitutional Committee, Disciplinary Committee, Organisation Committee, Research Committee and Vetting Committee;

(xiv) Twenty Members from the Communication Directorate;

(xvii) The incumbent President and all former Presidential Candidates of the Party in good standing;

I believe this will prevent aspirants from manipulating delegates through financial and material means, It will also make room for representation from every nook and cranny of the country as well as a broad spectrum of the party's stakeholders. At the last Congress in 2007, there were situations in which husbands, wives, close family relations and cronies were selected as delegates at the detriment of the larger party.

This idea is also to add more delegates to the current pool in order to push the number to a more appreciable and respectable one, where it would be difficult for candidates to influence the voting patterns of delegates with money and other goodies and as well eliminate all inconveniences and risks involved in transporting delegates to a single town or city. One advantage is that it will do away with the huge cost involved in organising Congresses

To conclude I wish to add that this will be feasible and easy to work out. The election will be conducted at the constituency level. The Electoral Commission will be notified of the date of the Primaries which will take place on a particular day. Time for opening the ballots after voting could be fixed at 5.00pm. Candidates will recruit 230 agents to monitor the elections at the constituency level. Where it involves reading of Manifestos, a representative of the candidate will do so on voting day at the constituency level.

By Mahama Haruna.

email maharun1@ yahoo.com Tel 0243-313-113.

The writer is a former Constituency Secretary of NPP for Bole- Bamboi.

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama