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Opinions of Saturday, 12 January 2013

Columnist: Sidibe, Abdul

Careful what you wish; Not all that glitters’ is gold

Very often Ghanaian political pundits and scholars tend to think that foreign political institution are superior to their own. They always wish that Ghana’s parliament is as fair and advanced as the United States Congress. The assume mAmerican Congress has moral and ethical value than their own. It is very common to hear Ghanaian political analyst sight the American Congress when they make value argument about parliamentary best practices.

Unfortunately, this inferiority complex has infected many people including politicians, academics, and journalists. Is the foreign praise and admiration true and factually based or is it just an attempt by the punditry to trumpet their academic gravitas? I will argue it is the latter than the former.

If Ghanaians want American style democracy, I wish you good luck, but brace yourselves for gridlock, disfunction, disrespect, corporatism and political cannibalism. The US congress is arguably the worse political institution in the world. The congress cannot even perform the basic function of a legislative body, which is to pass laws for the country. Last year the House of Representative (the Lower Chamber) in the United States threatened to default on their government’s debt obligations. This act of irresponsibility caused America’s credit rating to be lowered, slowed growth in an already struggling economy and caused unemployed to raise. The Congress did not pass a single budget in that entire term.

If you think the American House of Representative is bad, their Senate (the Upper Camber) is even worse. In the US Senate, the rules allow the minority to have a veto over every legislative initiative of the government. This rule was rarely used. Since Obama became President, the Senate Republicans have used it to block almost every legislative initiative proposed by the Executive and Presidential appointments. A single American Senator could block an entire government budget and block a presidential appointment without either disclosing himself or Justifying his actions. All these was done in congress just because they intended damage the presidency and make Obama a one term President. They failed, but in process they did some serious damage to the US economy and it credibility.

Imagine NPP having a veto power government legislation, budgets and appointments.

The electoral system in the United States is even worse. We all remember Florida in 2000 and how George Bush was forced down the throat of Americans by the US Supreme Court. The reason this happened was that the US has no uniform electoral laws. Elections in American are organized by partisan state officials. In the run up to the 2012 American elections, Most States with Republican governors passed laws to strict voters they know will support their opponents. It is like allowing the NPP and NDC to conduct elections in their respective strongholds.

Also, in American the law allow partisan politicians to demarcate congressional districts (constituencies). The system was designed in the hope that politicians will be fair. American politicians, particularly Republican officials, have gerrymandered congressional district to favor their party. In the 2012 election for instance, Democrats obtained more votes in the congressional part of the election than Republicans. The Republicans maintained control over the House of Representatives. In other words, minority rule in the American Congress. Do you want the party with least vote control parliament? Your guess is as right as mine.

Ghana has an independent Electoral Commission constitutionally mandated with the authority to organize all public election and declare their results. The EC also demarcates constituencies and can increase them when needed. The Ghanaian electoral system has over time devolved an in-build checkers and balances. Whiles the EC has authority over the conduct of election, political parties make contribution in their conduct through the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC). During elections political parties have representation at all level.

The Ghanaian parliament, whiles under resourced and often lacks initiative, allow the majority to have its way and minority its say. Minority parties don’t have veto powers over majority legislation. Government bills get passed by the governing party. This completely different in the good old US.

Ghanaian Presidents are always elected by a majority votes. No one can be President in Ghana with 48 percent of the popular votes. Until Obama’s reelection last November, no American President had over 50 percent of the votes two times since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s.

Finally, those advocating for US style democracy in Ghana must worried about the effect or influence of big money and corporate influence in elections. American elections are nothing but a contest of wealth. Whoever raised the most money wins. In the US a few rich people can finance representatives to the congress campaign and demand that certain the favours from elected officials. An example is the effect of big oil, big banks, the gun industry on the American congress.

So enough of the inferiority complex that assume others are always better than us even as the facts does not support the accessions by our so-called academics and political pundits. The United States democracy may be centuries older than Ghana’s, but it is not more functional than Ghana’s democracy in recent times. Attempts to make American democracy the yardstick for democratic progress is a fail choice and ferry tale.

Be careful what you wishing for because not all that glitters is gold.

Abdul Sidibe