Voter Registration and Coup Talks

Sat, 16 Aug 2008 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

As Mauritania’s coup detat and coup attempt at Guinea Bissau indicate there are still heavy dose of military coup detat hangover dangling in the West African society – a leading region of coups in Africa. And that may explain why a long-running Ghanaian politician thinks some of Ghana’s on-going voter registration challenges are recipe for coup detat, as if anywhere in the world there are no such electoral lapses and that Ghana is so weak that such minute lapses necessitates coup detat.

Maybe Ghana is out of the global electoral process, as, Dr. Obed Asamoah, comptroller of the obscure Democratic Freedom Party, thinks. Even in 2000 the United States of America elections where chad problems created terrible troubles and led the election results taken to the US Supreme Court for resolution, that proclaimed George Bush president, there was no mention of coup detats by any of the US politicians as Asamoah says of Ghana. By linking some of the voter registration challenges to vain coup talk, Asamoah reveals his weaknesses in appropriating the democratic process in resolving electoral challenges.

Asamoah thinks the few double voter registrations and children registering are potent for coup making, as if such exercises are free of such uncivil practices through out the world. Such thought may explain Asamoah’s political psychology and his weak grasp of democratic characteristics. Said Asamoah, who has being in the Ghanaian political scene for the past 30 years but have not shown any remarkable insight, “accusations and counter accusations between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) over the voter registration exercise can create an atmosphere for a coup d'etat in the country.”

Actually in Ghana’s rough-and-tumbled political history voter registration challenges have not sparked coup detat but coup makers can give any weird reasons for toppling a democratic regime. In a country where the elites haven’t had total grasp of the nation-state and have enabled coups to occur, pretty much of the reasons for military coup detats have ranged from dictatorship (as President Kwame Nkrumah was accused of), moral issues (as Gen. Kutu Acheampong was accused of), incompetence (as President Hilla Liman was accused of), and weaknesses (as Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia was accused of).

Despite such worthless reasons, almost all these military take over weren’t necessary if the democratic process were allowed to work out its internal contradictions, as all democracies through the world do. Gen. Acheampong’s overthrow of Busia was as senseless and baseless as Ft. Lt. Jerry Rawlings’ overthrow of Limman.

Even in relation to Ghanaian traditional values, as Maxwell Owusu, of the University of Michigan, explains in “Rebellion, Revolution, and Tradition: Reinterpreting Coups in Ghana,” traditional institutions such as the militant Asafo organizations overthrow rulers who have violated traditional governance norms and values such as “not been accountable to the people.” That happens in traditional democracy where the changes are done democratically.

But the issues with the voter double/child registration have more to do with society’s indiscipline (or rather misunderstanding of the democratic process) and weak institutional watchdogs than the wrong doing of politicians. This doesn’t call for military coup detats in the face of Ghana’s emerging democracy, as Asamoah, whose mind is mired in long-running military juntas and one-party regimes of which he was part, says.

While the other small parties such as Asamoah’s have accused the big parties such as the NPP and NDC of being responsible for the voter registration troubles, the onus rests with all the parties, civil society and state institutions such as the National Commission for Civic Education. While institutions such as the Ghana Armed Forces have not said anything about the voter registration issue a la Turkey, where the Armed Forces teleguide its democracy, the Ghanaian democratic process necessitates traditional institutions, civil society and the mass media doing so and bringing any wrong doing into the public domain, as some have done.

That makes Asamoah’s thinking that "We are creating an atmosphere of tension in the country and there is danger ahead of us. There is also an added danger of creating a conducive atmosphere for coup makers to justify the seizure of power" unintelligible in the context of Ghana’s history, values and experiences in relation to the global electoral processes. The central issue isn’t the Electoral Commission facing problems, the central concern is that the EC isn’t “being transparent as to the availability of resources for the success of the exercise” foretold how detailed and prepared are the political parties in watching the EC and advising it in advance in relation to the democratic process.

That make Asamoah and other politicians as faulty as the EC in Asamoah’s accusations that the “electoral frauds like double registration and abuse of the process would endanger the exercise and affect the upcoming general elections.” And you deal with such problems democratically without even having thoughts of military coup detat.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi