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Opinions of Friday, 28 October 2016

Columnist: Gordon Offin-Amaniampong

Why is presidential transition bill important?

To say you’ve never seen it happen. It means you aren’t that old. But history has it all in her reservoir. Presidential transitions also known as presidential interregnum across the world vary and they carry their own baggage. It is done by countries that practice democracy ---be it the Westminster type in the United Kingdom or the presidential system in the United States of America (USA).

The first and the second Republics of Nkrumah and Busia administrations practised the British system. Prime Minster Busia’s was between 1969 until January 13, 1972 when the National Redemption Council (NRC) led by General Acheampong toppled the government.

On his part, Dr. Nkrumah served as Ghana’s first prime minister and president when the country gained independence from the British in 1957, until he was also deposed in February 24, 1966 by a military junta led by Brigadier Afrifa, Lieutenant colonel Kotoka, Arthur, Yeboah and co.

That happened to be the country’s first political upheaval.

Ghana changed from the Westminster also known as the parliamentary system when it became republic on the 1st of July 1960. After strings of coup d’état between 1972 -1979 the country had the chance to return civilian regime, but that was short-lived.

Bottom line the third republic under President Hilla Liman’s administration (People’s National Party) saw no presidential transition.

In fact the PNP administration lasted less than three years (from 1979 to December 31, 1981). That regime was overthrown by the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) spearheaded by then flight lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings.

It’s worth noting that that was also Rawlings’ third revolt. He’d the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) in June 4, 1979 which took power from General Akufo military regime, prior to that there was an uprising staged on the 31st of May

And since the third and fourth republics (the fourth republic dates back 1992) the country has maintained the American system. So, I think it would be apt to cite a few examples from the U S ‘presidential transitions as we delve into the above subject.

Meanwhile, I should point out that presidential transition is a process governments in our part of the world dread most. They hate it. It’s like a bitter pill for them--- difficult to swallow, even though they might’ve completed their term of office.

I will briefly talk about three US presidential transitions. And the first will be the 1860-1861 transition from the administration of James Buchannan to the terms of Abraham Lincoln. That transition is seen as the most notable one by historians and political pundits.

Between the election on November 6, 1860 and inauguration on March 4, 1861, seven states seceded and conflict between secessionists and federal force began leading to the American civil war between the northern and southern states.

Reports mentioned, the end of the administration of Herbert Hoover, before the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt (November 8, 1932-March 4, 1933 as a difficult transition period. Roosevelt refused Hoover’s request to come up with a joint program to stop the downward spiral and calm investors, claiming it would tie his hands.

It had since been relatively smooth. However the most recent was the transition between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. History has it that theirs was marred by accusations of damage, theft, vandalism and pranks. The General Accounting office estimated the cost of those pranks at $13,000 to $14,000.

Of course Ghana’s democracy is just a fledgling one, but that doesn’t mean doing so isn’t prudent. Presidential transition is like a relay race. In athletics the two standard relays are the 4x 400 metre relay and the 4x 400 metre relay. The athletes or members of a team pass the baton (s) onto someone or a group of persons.

Basically it’s all about taking responsibility for the new task ahead. As already noted Ghana’s presidential transition like developed democracies hit the bumps in its first and the ones that followed had not passed the test. That means we’re still at the learning curve: Still trying to put things at their right perspective.

In 2001 the transition process was characterised by what then Electoral Commissioner or Chairman Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan described as ‘rancor’ and ‘acrimony’ between then outgoing National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration and incoming New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The former EC chairman called for a proper presidential transition process to ensure a smooth handing over. He argued that this will prevent the spite that characterises transition to a party other than the then governing party.

In fact, the NDC under the fourth republic had President Rawlings completed his two terms from 1992-2000. And that transition was between him and President Kufour of the NPP. Mr. Rawlings at the time didn’t or couldn’t hide his strong aversion to Mr. Kufuor. To put it lightly it was awful. Thank God we made it here!

The January 2009 presidential transition was successful given the fact that it was the country’s second democratic transfer of power between opposing parties. NPP Kufuor handed over power to NDC Mills. It was symbolic, but there were problems. In short, it wasn’t a smooth process.

It was against this backdrop that on Wednesday Parliament passed the presidential transitional bill. The bill is a legislation that will make the transfer of political power from one party to the other seamless after a major election in Ghana. The bill seeks to amend the presidential transition Act. 2012 (Act 845) to address the flaws in the Act

Local media reports say no opposition was raised to the bill during deliberations. Among other remedies, it will help cure critical challenges in the past transition processes and administration problems in the transition process.

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