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Politics of Friday, 1 August 2014

Source: The Chronicle

Bagbin digests ‘winner-takes-all’ mantra

Alban Kingsford Sumani Bagbin, Member of Parliament for Nadoli Kaleo and Majority Leader in Parliament, has identified the phenomenon where elected presidents become ‘alien’ to the political party that voted them into power, as a major contributing factor to the Winner-Take-All phenomenon that has crept into the country’s body politic.

Mr. Bagbin made this observation at the sidelines of the final public consultations organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs in Accra on Tuesday, on proposals for rethinking “the Winner-Takes-All” practice in Ghana’s political governance. Winner Take-all is an expression used to describe a situation where the winner of an election receives all the rewards and take absolute control of political and executive powers, to the neglect of other political parties.

The phenomenon has been described negatively as being divisive, polarizing, exclusive and has the tendency to throw the country’s young democracy into chaos. Mr. Bagbin, however, holds the opinion that the basics which have to do with getting people with integrity into power positions is key and not the pursuit of lofty ideas that would not have the needed impact in consolidating the country’s democracy.

He argued that the country can draft the best ever constitution but if it fails to elect people with integrity or good citizens to implement it, it is dead on arrival. He noted that the various political parties are not able to hold their elected presidents to account and this, he says, is a major contributing factor to the winner take-all syndrome.

“The reality is that when we elect presidents, the party cannot hold the president to account. Our presidents become total aliens. You dare not invite them to party meetings because they are the leader of the party. “So at their own pleasure they will invite the party and dictate to the party what they want to be done,” he noted asking, “who is the winner, is it the president or the party, or the members of parliament.”

Political party funding Mr. Bagbin said it is time to consider how political parties and campaigns are funded if the country is keen about ending what is perceived to be the Winner–takes–all syndrome, indicating that political parties form the crust of multiparty democracy. He contended that when political parties fund their way into power, they are expected to recoup their investments and this makes it even more difficult to talk about sharing that power.

To him, before the country even thinks of tackling the winner-take-all syndrome, a critical look must be taken in addressing first, the issue of political party funding and campaign financing. “Because if you take all your resources and go and challenge me and then win and I now say ooh come and share what you have won with me…. let’s see the type of political party we want and let’s see how they fund themselves and let’s see how we strengthen them and let’s see how we can hold whoever is representing them as president or member of parliament accounts to that political party.

“You have no idea how much we spend to win power and you never ask where that money is coming from. There is no law saying the individual candidates, be it presidential or parliamentarian should account for the sources of funding. We don’t have that, we only say parties should account.” The General Secretary for the Peoples National Convention (PNC), Bernard Mornarh kicked against the idea to end the winner take all syndrome, “because it is not the solution to the problems that confront us.

“The people who keep on telling us about an all-inclusive government have not told us why we kicked out the union government. How different is the union government from what they are proposing today”, he queried According to him, the country’s “hypocrisy” in not wanting to fund political parties is what needs to be discussed. “If you do not publicly fund political parties then they are seen as private independent businesses or institutions that would go anywhere to raise their money to come and contest an election.

How they raise their money is not a concern to any of the citizens, but when they win the elections then it is a concern to them “How can we be so hypocritical, let us take the bull by the horn and fund political parties,” he suggested. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Okere, Dan Botwe, also holds the opinion that people voted into positions are able to deliver and not necessarily from which political parties they are drawn from.

He likened the situation to a bus service. If the bus is providing an excellent service, no one cares who owns it; people would only begin asking for the owners only when it is running poor services. In his address, Rt. Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Martey, Moderator of General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana was emphatic that for a Country that believes in the rule of law, the “Winner-Takes-All” practice of governance is a political disorder which must not be allowed to operate.

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