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Opinions of Friday, 1 March 2013

Columnist: Isang, Sylvester

Having Successive Elections Does Not Necessarily Make .....

Point Of Order; Having Successive Elections Does Not Necessarily Make Ghana A Democratic State

This script is purely in the interest of intellectual discourse but not a mission of vilification or gargantuan verbal diarrhea without decorum. As a product of political science I am very mindful of how people perceive some basic political concepts to be in everyday usage in our political or public discourse especially those who did not have the opportunity to learn the political diction.

It is on this principle that I write to share my understanding on what democracy is and to simply draw many people to order that we cannot and must not equate mere successive general elections which have always been tension packed and condemned by losing candidates as not being free and fair to democracy. Many at times we hear people say Ghana is the beacon of hope for democracy in Africa. I don’t want people to think that I am not patriotic to say that we should rather say “Ghana is the beacon of hope for successive elections in Africa” but not democracy.

Let me acknowledge that I may not be an authority in the subject but I must be quick to say that knowledge is a public property and that no body is a citadel or a repository of knowledge. Unfortunately, in this part of the world we tend to listen more to people who have “big” titles thereby failing to note that even at times the most experienced teacher learns something new from his student. Democracy has been variously defined. The part of the world in which you find yourself and the type of government or rule in which you fall under will inform you of your understanding of democracy.

That notwithstanding, there is a kind of conversion that democracy no matter how one defines it, certain elements or features must be mentioned. Some of these include; the holding of regular free and fair elections, the existence of a vibrant opposition, the existence of rule of law in the state, the existence of separation of powers and checks and balances, the inherent recognition of the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people, political tolerance and an independent media among others. Going by this therefore, it is important to say that although the holding of elections on routine basis is a necessary condition for the realization of democracy in the state like Ghana, election in itself does not constitute a sufficient condition to ensuring democracy and that therefore goes to say that one would commit the fallacy of hasty conclusion or if you like nor causa pro causa if the argument is put that Ghana is a democratic state because we have had successive elections since 1992.

Let’s not forget that democracy is a process and by that the successive elections constitute part of this long “food web” of democracy. For example, if every four years we elect a president and members of parliament who team up to cause abuse of our basic rights, to ‘gargantuanly’ siphon our state resources to the neglect of the masses, who fail to ensure justice in our society and to ensure that a conducive atmosphere exists for each and every citizen to realize his or her potentials can we still hold the argument that Ghana is a democratic state because of mere successive elections?

Look at it this way again, you elect an MP or a President then he is caught by the police to have been drunk whilst driving or for diverting public funds for personal gain. He is freed within seconds. On the other hand, you question your DCE over the poor nature of the road network in your district as a concerned citizen and immediately you are picked up by the police and locked up over 48 hours in contravention of the constitution. Yes of course we have been holding successive elections and things like these are happening in our eyes, how right are we if we say we are a democratic state? From the human rights angle; you hear of Trokosi System, Operation of witch camp, ban on noise making and drumming at certain times and so on all violating the spirit and letter of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and hence which in one way or the other violate the fundamental rights of certain people yet the state or the government for that matter looks helpless. On what grounds can Ghana be said to be a democratic state?

The examples are countless. I could go on unabated.

To conclude, Ghana must certainly be pated on the back for “successful” successive elections since 1992 but it must be stated categorical that Ghana is very far from being a “democratic” state.

Author Isang Sylvester