You are here: HomeNews2016 06 21Article 449452

Opinions of Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Columnist: Rt. Rev. Dr. Nana Anyani-Boadum

Electoral Commission must make dealings with IPAC public

The above quotation underscores the essence of the Ghanaian populace working to protect its own interest, as against defferring that to political parties. And, in the light of growing tensions and liberal resort to violence by political activists at the least pretence due to misinformation, it is not preposterous to strongly recommend to the Electoral Commission (EC), as a matter of urgency, to make public the decisions and summary conclusions of its meetings with the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC).

The basic premise of today's political communication from political parties we have in the country is steadily shifting from its original role of providing political stability and a common agenda for the country. As ceaselessly demonstrated before, during, and after the limited registration exercise, the tenure of our debates and discussions projects the 2016 national elections as a ‘do-or-die affair.’

Fouled political environment

Our political environment is so fouled with partisan politics; it is virtually impossible for any communication on political or national issues to be devoid of partisanship and sectarianism. Communication which previously ensured the public was informed of the different choices in the political marketplace – not only in terms of candidates but also in terms of ideas, is now brazenly pointing to violent alternatives.

Recent developments in the political arena, including wanton propaganda, misinformation, castigations and divisive insinuations by ‘middlemen’ – the spokespersons, the spin doctors, ‘political analysts’ and pundits - seem to be deliberately designed to entrap sections of voters towards alternatives which are inimical to our aspirations for modern democratic representation and national interest.

All these are happening as the power and expanse of the media continue to grow. The intensity of the influence of the fourth estate and the deepening influence of party spokespersons and spin doctors have hastened the nation’s race towards political crisis, baring the forestalling of their noxious agenda.

Who has greater stakes?

What has provoked the need to demand direct, primary sources of information from EC has been the growing divergence between party interest and public interest. The parties are seeking and protecting their interests to the detriment of the publics. The attitude and utterances of party functionaries and political leaders picture them arrogating to themselves and their political organisations higher stakes in the nation than the rest of its citizens.

Armed with the belief that they have successfully usurped sovereignty from the people, they have turned around expecting to see the people placate them by hailing and graciously accepting and appreciating whatever crumbs are cast in our common direction, while ignoring the plenitude of resources they appropriate for their well-being.

Already, the public perception that politicians only want power to look after themselves rather than the public good is growing in intensity and pervasiveness with each passing day.

The general public is not happy vesting decision making in political spokespersons as the agency to control the flow of information from the EC to the public, much worse the shaping of opinions about the EC and our voting processes at this crucial hour. In our estimation, it is growing dangerously. It is devious to continue to allow political party communicators who were not privy to commitments made by their party representatives at IPAC meetings to debate over decisions of the IPAC in public, and take swipes at the credibility of the EC, festering resentments against it over such decisions taken at its meetings with the IPAC, as if their intentions can be trusted. That is not to say the EC should not clean the register.

On the work of the commission stands the nation's fate, much more than the economic plight confronting us. And whether we will progress into the future as a nation or drop off into the doldrums through violence, to a very large extent, will depend on the public’s trust in the work of the commission.

We are not more peaceful than our neighbours who have suffered from electoral violence. We bear the marks of the option to employ political violence as a key strategy of pursuing parochial political gains. The tendency to instigate the sacrifice of lives and limbs through violence is gaining notoriety as the politicians’ preferred choice over the give and take of political dialogue.

Those we elect are supposed to lead and to listen. They are supposed to keep one finger pointed in the direction in which they will lead us and another finger on the pulse of the public, but they have chosen to lift the finger on our pulse, believing that with sovereignty successfully wrested out of the hands of the populace, and with no institution or organ left to give back power to the people, they can exploit the public’s feeling of impotence without let.

Political party spokespersons and spin doctors, ably aided by the ‘political media’ that is embedded in the womb of political parties, tell us what to think, how to behave and how to respond in their favour and not in the nation's interest, when particular events are reported. They sound as though they are the new red-ooze majority.

We have, however, come to see them as biased, self-involved, self-centred and deliberately isolated from the real concerns of the people; just scoring political marks without necessarily representing the interest of the mass of the people and nation.

Between choice and coercion

The difference between choice and coercion is crucial. This year’s election, having raised such unprecedented tensions, stands resolutely in direct challenge to the resilience and universal acceptance of our democratisation process.

Within the same breadth, it signals an opportune time for the people of this country to extract from its institutions and state bodies responsiveness, transparency and accountability, instead of sitting down and waiting till we are coerced into action by new circumstances.

We are turning to the EC to help change the rules of the game. Stated succinctly, the EC is accountable to the good people of Ghana, and not the IPAC or the various political parties per se. It must, therefore, build the culture to speak to the population directly, than to cede that right to the political parties.

It is no longer good enough for the public to be fed on pre-digested analyses of deliberations at IPAC meetings by party functionaries who seek our proxy, but who are hopelessly dependent on special interests.

If the nation's sovereignty lies with its people, then the people must be seen to be wielding that sovereignty all the time. State institutions must also protect the interests and the choices of the ordinary people of this nation.

When the EC starts informing Ghanaians with summary conclusions from IPAC meetings,it will help to stymie the mischief of political activists and also enable us to hold the political parties and government to account.

When we cast our votes, we do not cast away our right to continue living. Our demand for responsible and accountable leadership signals we are only being reasonable and human.

Our interests must matter.