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Opinions of Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Columnist: Amaning, Kwarteng

Ghana's election date should be changed

By: Kwarteng Amaning

Ghanaians deserve credit for the comportment and the show of maturity as well as their peace-loving character in yet another smooth and peaceful election. I also believe both political parties deserve commendation for the gracious way in which they handled their campaigns and the elections especially during the run-off and the Tain constituency re-run. Because of their maturity both the President-Elect, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, and the NPP flagbearer, Nana Akuffo Addo, were able to calm down their supporters to avert any feared potential violent acts before, during and after the declaration of the winner by the Electoral Commissioner, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan.

I personally extend my congratulations to the President-elect and pray that his election will mark a paradigm shift from the business-as-usual attitude that has characterized past administrations, and which blinds them to tapping Ghanaian expertise without recourse to ones political, ethnic, social and religious background, to one of all-inclusive in which the best brains are called to serve Ghana. It should be borne in mind that, great presidents are not necessarily the smartest people in the world, but their greatness is achieved by their willingness and ability to surround themselves with the best and the experienced people to work as a team to a achieve a participatory set of goals. John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and William (Bill) J. Clinton of the United States provide a few examples where the above philosophy was employed successfully. Kwame Nkrumah was also great because he had a vision and he surrounded himself with an able and competent team, this is true without prejudice to any excesses of his regime, which right or wrong, people describe as amounting to some degree of dictatorial tendency. With the elections behind us and having further strengthened our fragile but growing democracy, which is the envy of the continent of Africa, one pressing question that comes to mind, particularly given the circumstances surrounding the 2008 presidential election, is whether or not the set election date of 7th December affords the winning party ample time to put together a strong team to take over the reigns of government after the inaugural date of 7th January.

According the 1992 constitution of Ghana, presidential elections could take place between one and four months prior to the incumbent president’s term expiration. Article 63, clause 2(a) states: ‘The election of the President shall be on the terms of universal adult suffrage and shall, subject to the provisions of this Constitution, be conducted in accordance with such regulations as may be prescribed by constitutional instrument by the Electoral Commission and shall be held so as to begin – (a) where a President is in office, not earlier than four months nor later than one month before his term of office expires’.

In the light of the flexibility afforded us by the supreme law of Ghana, I believe the election date, 7th December, should be changed to an early November date to give sufficient time to the incoming administration to put together a competent team to be at the helm of affairs of Ghana. It is an incontestable fact that putting together a cabinet as well as other important ministerial and other team is a Herculean task, which requires a lot time, hence the transition period should appropriately reflect that. Obviously Prof. Mills and team have their already short transition period further shortened by the run-off and worse still the Tain constituency re-run, which is not a healthy development for them and for Ghana judging by the impact the quality of the team will have on the country by way of the nature of policies formulated and implemented. Our election date could mirror that of the United States, which has November 4 as the election date and January 20 as the inaugural date. This gives the President-elect almost three months to put together his team for governing the country.

It is against the above backdrop that I argue for a serious consideration by the Electoral Commission and the Legislature, if need be, of Ghana to change the December 7 election date for future elections to a date (say 6th) in November to afford the new administration sufficient time to put together their team to ensure quality ministers and other appointees and consequently quality governance and policies.

Kwarteng Amaning Virginia, U.S.A. kwartite@yahoo.com