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Opinions of Monday, 4 August 2014

Columnist: Azindow, Alhassan Hadi

Proportional Representation Electoral System -The Solution ..

.... To Ghana’s Political Development

Claude Ake argues in one of his works that African elections are characterized by what he calls “Democratization of dis-empowerment in which people voted without choosing.” I agree with him to the extent that many electorates in Africa go to the polls unaware and ill-informed about the electoral system only to vote for ‘incompetent’ leaders.

I shall attempt, in this article, to propose solutions to the winner-take-all electoral system of Ghana that I think has been the main cause of our developmental woes. I shall argue that the electoral system of Ghana needs a transformation and this transformation could be found in the proportional representation system of electing leaders. My contention in this article would be that the legislative arm of government has often time been a rubber stamp of the executive and until we undermine the polarity that has engulfed the law making body, Ghana’s political development will be a far cry from reality.

Winner-take-all simply refers to the situation in which a candidate with the most votes, whether or not the majority is achieved, is the absolute winner. In simple terms it means that if a candidate wins a simple majority of votes in a particular constituency it is assumed you have won all the popular votes in that constituency. It is therefore a zero-sum game- a gain for one side entails a corresponding loss for the other side.

The electoral method of choosing our parliamentarians is the single member district of the plurality system which means that more than two candidates may compete in a given constituency but the candidate with the simple majority of votes gets the seat. Let us assume that there are three candidates ( A,B and C) in a constituency and candidate ‘A’ gets 47%, candidate ‘B’ 42% and candidate ‘C’11% of the popular votes cast. Candidate ‘A’ becomes the victor by virtue of the fact that he got a simple majority of 47% of the total popular votes cast regardless of the number of votes their opponents obtained. What this means is that we elect a parliamentarian who has not obtained half the support of the constituent they govern. This creates an unstable leader and less support for policies and initiatives. The question then is what happens to the 53% of electorates who did not vote for candidate ‘A’ but form the majority of the popular votes.

The answer lies in the proportional representation system of electing members. In this system votes are translated into seats proportionally. In this way we are able to alleviate the problem of over-representation and underrepresentation present in the winner-take-all system.

I propose that Ghana practice the ‘list method’ under the proportional representation system. Under this system voters cast their votes not for the individual candidates but for the party list. Each party shall present a list of candidates before the elections. In the case of Ghana what it means is that all the political parties would present two hundred and seventy five candidates to the electoral commission. Votes for a particular candidate go to the party and not the individual candidate. After the election, the seats are distributed proportionally to the individual candidates who obtained a quota of the votes cast, which shall be determined by the Electoral Commission. A quota refers to the minimum percentage of votes a candidate needs in order to clinch a seat.

In this way we are able to avoid the situation where parliamentarians are represented with a very small share of the votes while all votes in the constituency are wasted. We also give a fairer treatment to smaller parties to get into parliament which will help diffuse the polarity that has engulfed our law making institution.

Proportional representation also encourages voter turn-out and reduce apathy. This will strengthen our democratic gains since electorates will have a bigger say in the determination of who gets to represent them.

Much of our elections always see the flaunting of resources into the personal campaigns of parliamentarians. Proportional representation will reduce this by ensuring that political parties assist greatly in funding the campaigns of candidates since these political parties stand a greater chance of benefiting from the votes gotten.

Most nations today use the proportional representation system because of the numerous benefits that comes with it. A democracy requires that a legislature represents its people. Representation means that the legislature should be a mirror image of the society. Proportional representation assures the proper form of representation as benefits a democracy. Democracy is further strengthened by avoiding the electoral manipulations of a plurality system. Such manipulations can lead to major distortions of voters’ preferences.

Since the inception of the fourth republic, the parliament of Ghana and the majority in parliament in particular has always been forced to kowtow to the whims and caprices of the executive much to their own dislike. This is so because of the clause in our constitution where majority of ministers must come from parliament. This practice has rendered parliament a complete stooge of the executive and has further made it less critical of the executive arm of government. I dare say that proportional representation will break this hegemony of the majority in parliament and further empower our law making body to scrutinize critically all executive dealings with less political lens.

I would also admonish that we introduce the practice of ‘recall’ as seen in the congress of the United states, Canada and Switzerland. A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended. This happens when a certain number of voters sign a petition requesting for a recall of a parliamentarian. If enough registered voters sign the petition, the speaker of the legislature announces before the house that the member has been recalled and a by-election follows as soon as possible, giving voters the opportunity to replace the politician in question. This I think would put parliamentarians on their toes and make them active participants of parliamentary proceedings. They would almost always put the interest of their constituents first because of the likely backlash they would face.

I look forward to seeing a more effective and efficient parliament and I would be very glad if we all help to make this a success

On Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 3:36 PM, Alhassan Hadi wrote: ---------- Forwarded message ---------- From: Alhassan Hadi Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2014 09:24:33 +0000 Subject: To: editor@ghanaweb.com

* THE MEDIA, AMALIGN INFLUENCE ON ISLAM*

From; ALHASSAN HADI AZINDOW. FINAL YEAR STUDENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, KNUST.KUMASI.

Tears almost always run down my cheeks when I read and see images of bad media journalism by elements manipulated and controlled by the 'West' and their stooges attempting to portray Islam with terrorism. It is not the purpose of this piece to defend the killings and activities of terrorist groups but to attempt to dissociate terrorism from Islam. I am no theologian of any religion but I want to aver emphatically that Terrorism has no historical antecedents or grounding in Islam neither do the Islamic teachings preach terrorism.

Events after the September 11th attack on the world trade center has provided more arsenals to some western media houses and their crony government to put Islam in bad light and further associate it with terrorist groups. Admittedly, we have, as Muslims provided more fuel to this burning desire to malign Islam. Our actions and in-actions have enabled some media houses to denigrate Islam and further drag its name through the mud. The current religious war in the Central African Republic is quintessential of what the loud silence of Muslims can do to innocent lives. Statistically, they may be just seven hundred and fifty thousand (750,000) Muslims in the Central African Republic but they represent the humanity behind each statistic. You may conclude that your country is peaceful and so nothing of external problem bothers you but remember that the ramifications of war knows no boundaries. The cock belongs to one house but when it crows, it is heard by the whole village- Chinua Achebe.

The word 'terrorism' suffers from a definitional sloppiness but it has become so easy for some western media houses to use it as a catch all phrase for any heinous activity that involves an Arab name to Islam. It took the United Nation ten (10) years of negotiation and convention to come up with a definition for terrorism in 2005. That notwithstanding, terrorism today has come to be so synonymous with Islam, thanks greatly to some media outlets.

When you subject the UN definition of terrorism to strict analysis devoid of bias you come to a sound conclusion that the United States is the biggest terrorist group the world has ever witnessed. The UN definition of terrorism reads 'the targeting and deliberate killing of civilians and non-combatants'. The question I ask is, how many non-combatants and civilians has the US killed since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 to present and still counting. "The war launched by the United states as 'Operation Enduring Freedom' in 2001" according to the Guardian has killed as many as 20,000 Afghan civilians. When you do the computation it is as if for every individual killed in the September 11th attack (approximately 3000 innocent people were killed) seven (7) Afghan innocent lives shall be killed in retaliation. At the end the only excuse we get is, as usual, they were collateral damage. The irony of the situation is that the operation has 'freedom' as its bottom-line but has enslaved a huge number of people directly and indirectly.

Will I therefore be cynical to assume that some western media houses are just answering the call of their pay masters by trying hard, even if the facts are to the contrary, to paint Islam black? I have never heard any western media house, correct me if I am wrong, pronounce the US a 'civilian terrorist' rather we are bundled with all kinds of phrases like 'an Islamic terrorist', 'a jihadist', 'an extremist jihadist terrorist', 'a Muslim terrorist' and a whole lot of banal 'nonsense.'

It is indeed true that most of these terrorist organizations are strong in Islamic states and regions but does that give a justification to lump them as 'Islamic terrorist'. It is as if saying that you eat pork simply because your father ate it before he gave birth to you. The reasoning is counter logic and a complete fallacy of sweeping generalization.

I agree totally with the argument that Muslims are the enemies of themselves. Until we come together as one and redefine our outlook as a united people, until we understand the unity with which our forebears fought for us, until we come to terms with the fact that an Arab Muslim is equal to an African Muslim, until we agree to mend our deep cracks, and until and unless we appreciate our differences even as we strive for unity we shall continue to be the laughing stock of the media.

According to Kramer "The only way to apply the brake to suicide terrorism, is to undermine its moral logic, by encouraging Muslims to see its incompatibility with their own values.' All hope is not lost because there are genuine non-Muslims who understand the Islamic teaching far better than many of the so called world acclaim journalist who puts the Islamic religion in disrepute. I urge all Muslims to live a lifestyle that is exemplary of the teachings of the Holy Quran and accept non-Muslims as part of the many creations and diversity Allah has created. I dedicate this piece to the many people who are surprised globally through religious intolerance and perverted understanding of the Good Books of God. Shalom.

From: Alhassan Hadi Azindow. Ba.Political Science. Bawku. Contact;0547078416