Feature Article of Monday, 17 July 2017

Columnist: Evans Dzetofe

John Mahama is jumping the gun

The political temperatures is gradually rising in the NDC as some names are popping up to contest former President Mahama in the yet to be announced NDC presidential primaries. The role of intraparty elections is central to the process of institutionalization and democratization of a political party. It is therefore necessary for the NDC to conduct its executive elections at all levels as well as the presidential candidate freely and fairly in order to resolve its differences, manage the distribution of power and encourage democratic political culture within the party.

However, the challenges of functional politics, transparency management and the procedure of elections appear to have hindered the institutionalization and democratization of NDC. Some of the NDC national executive are subtly and covertly trying to manipulate the primaries and the election of new executive members. The very team that led the NDC into opposition are telling the supporters that they are the best team to wrestle power from the NPP. It just like Joseph Goebbels telling the German army during the Second World War that they could still win the war whilst retreating.

We the advocates of the participatory aspects of democracy place the most value on the intra-party democracy as an end in itself. We see political parties not primarily as intermediaries, but rather as incubators that nurture citizens’ political competence. To fulfill this role, the NDC decision-making structures and processes should provide opportunities for individual citizens to influence the choices that parties offer to voters. These opportunities will help citizens expand their civic skills, and inclusive processes can boost the legitimacy of the alternatives they produce.

For the people to have confidence in the candidate, the NDC should have a transparent system in electing its flag bearer in the primaries. Primary elections are internal party processes that choose a political party’s candidate(s) for the next general election by holding an internal election. Exactly how this is done depends on the legal framework, internal party rules, and informal practices.

It is therefore unfair for the NDC national executive to prevent interested presidential candidates from campaigning whilst at the same time they are creating platforms for former president Mahama to campaign to become the flagbearer again for the party in the 2020 elections.

The National executive should rather encourage competition. Competition brings out the best. Having political competition is the very spirit of democracy as it gives choices to the rank and file of the party to make informed choices.

These same national executive did not see the need to create a platform for the same person to go round and thank the electorate, party, elders, party supporters and foot-soldiers when the party won the 2012 elections. The then President was also not a naïve person not to initiate a tour of the country to acknowledge those who matter in the NDC electoral victory.

Even when the party lost the 2016 elections, the president did not see the need to soothe party supporters, instead, his priority was to globetrot and broadcasting his tours on social media at the time the party rank and file were still trying to come to terms with the worse and embarrassing defeat in the fourth republic.

The speculation that Dr. Spio Garba, Hon. Albin Bagbin and Professor Alabi among others will contest the NDC primaries has compelled the former President to come out of his shell to meet the stakeholders of the NDC. These people should be commended rather that condemned by the fanatic supporters of the former President.

The former president feels threatened by the mere fact that some names have expressed interest to contest in the NDC presidential primaries. He has therefore found it necessary to now go round to meet the very party elders he scolded and abandoned to solicit their support. The former president is alleged to influencing his friends in the media to castigate his perceived contenders. These people are not strangers in the NDC, they have consistently worked for the NDC through thick and thin in power or opposition.

The posture of the National executive can affect the fairness and integrity of the NDC primaries and the election of national executive. The support for the former president to engage in campaign ahead of the others, the restraining of interested candidates not to campaign and the lack of neutrality of the national executive can undermine the internal democracy of the party.

The National executive must realize that regardless of technical procedures, the level of democratic legitimacy of candidates selected through a primary process is higher when elections are fair and transparent. This kind of election is usually considered more transparent by the electorate when some kind of regulatory legislation is in place, but adopting a legal framework for a primary process is not a prerequisite to holding primary elections. Real or perceived fraud erodes democratic legitimacy.

The National executive of the NDC must declare the campaign opened or else their current action or inaction will encourage internal party strife instead of fostering an environment of negotiation, consultation, and compromise at a time when efforts need to be focused on defeating external challengers, not internal ones. The current posture of the national executive by putting focus on the former president rather than the party manifesto is weakening the party structures.

Former President Mahama thinks this is the time to make peace. But peace is not the absence of war, but the absence of conditions for war. At the time he was in the position of strength to make peace, he did not and now that he is weak and lame, he wants to make peace. Is the former president part of the problem or part of the solution in the NDC?