One of the mysteries in Ghana’s multiparty democracy is the near embargo placed on the sovereign voter to elect our presidents and MPs only from some two political parties. It is a mystery because the electoral laws of the state do not support the development.
From the Electoral Commission’s records, it is only the National Convention Party (NCP), which in 1992 won 45 seats in the 200-seater capacity parliament. Even that, they rod on the back of an alliance with the NDC and supported their presidential candidate, Flt. Lt. J.J. Rawlings. When the NDC won the elections, the leader of the NCP, Mr. Kow Nkensen Arkaah became the Vice President. The EGLE party, a member of the alliance also won 11 seats.
Since that period, the NDC and NPP have taken total control of both the Executive and Legislature. From the records, the highest that any other party won thereafter was five seats for the People’s Convention Party in the 1996 elections. The CPP and PNC have each won a seat or two before. In each case, however, they decided to pitch camp with the majority side in government. In the current 275-member legislature, out of six registered political parties that contested the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections, the ruling NPP occupies 169 seats while the NDC lays claim on the remaining 106 seats.
Two years after almost every election, complaints of hardship, disappointment and anger are recorded on the lips and faces of many voters. Surprisingly, the same does not reflect in votes in the ensuing elections. At best, the people decide to stay at home to register their displeasure with the government. Their priceless votes then go to waste instead of crediting it to a different party which may articulate their concerns in parliament. What makes the two political parties indispensable? Does the popularity and support that they enjoy genuinely signify improved conditions in the lives of the masses or rather the hands of the voter are tied because there are no alternatives to consider?
Thinking aloud, why would an unemployed voter who is looking for a job reject a popular job creator contesting on the ticket of a smaller party in favour of a candidate of a popular party who may have no job creation experience? Parliamentary work involves a lot of research. Instead of a university graduate with mathematical abilities standing on the ticket of a smaller party, why would the electorate vote for a candidate of a popular party who has no research background?
Again, parliamentary candidates contesting for the first time are virtually unknown by the entire electorate in a constituency. If two businessmen in the same community, for example, are contesting a parliamentary seat, why should the candidates get 20 and 300 votes for a smaller party and a popular party respectively? What significant personality differences exist between candidates of NPP and NDC on one hand and candidates of other parties on the other on the ballot paper? Are the disillusioned people unable to resist the massive campaigns by the popular parties to the extent that they forget their worries? Instead of staying at home due to disappointment and anger, why will those who refuse to vote not give their votes to candidates of the smaller parties, if they want a change in their circumstances? Failure to vote does not take away one’s problems. Indeed, it may rather worsen one’s circumstances.
If the electorates are bribed to vote in a certain direction, are they not prioritizing temporary pleasures over essential social amenities that will benefit them and future generations? It is unclear if we are giving true meaning to our multiparty democracy? That the EC can register as many political parties as possible to contest elections, but the electorate cannot vote outside two parties? What accounts for the virtual neglect of other political parties?
There is a weird argument to suggest that the electorate cannot do away with the two parties because globally, two parties always dominate the political landscape. They often cite the US and the UK as examples. The US is made up of Democrats and Republicans; of course with other lesser known parties while in the UK, the most glamorous parties for several years now have been the Labour and the Conservative Parties. If we are to go by this propaganda, then the argument has been defeated by the European Union parliamentary elections held in May 2019.
We are a country that does not take delight in initiating anything on our own; we want precedents to follow. If so, then the EU has shown the way. The day after the EU parliamentary elections, both the Daily Graphic and the Ghanaian Times on Tuesday, May 28, gave almost the same headlines for the outcome of the polls. While the Ghanaian Times reported that “Power blocs lose grip on European Parliament”, the Daily Graphic said “Europe’s biggest blocs lose grip on power.”
Their introductory paragraphs were the same. It reads: The big centre-right and centre-left blocs in the European Parliament have lost their combined majority amid an increase in support for Liberals, the Greens and Nationalists.” In their third paragraphs, the two papers reported that “the Liberals and Greens had a good night, while Nationalists were victorious in Italy, France and the UK.” Both papers reported that in the UK which is struggling to move out of the EU, “the newly formed Brexit Party claimed a big victory, and a strong performance by the Liberal Democrats came amid massive losses for the Conservative and Labour.” The two most glamorous parties lost the elections miserably.
Similarly, in 2017, the then 39-year old Daniel Macron won France’s presidential election without the backing of any known political party for his victory. Subsequently, France, under his leadership went ahead to win the 2018 World Cup finals to make the young president more popular. Who said political parties are more powerful and important than the good citizens of the land? If we do not know how, the Europeans have shown the way. The originators of the democratic system have spoken. For them, big names do not matter any longer; they can switch from popular parties to lesser known ones or perhaps even an independent candidate, provided that he has the qualities to lead the nation. I am reliably informed that in Europe, they do not organize big rallies and waste a whole day to campaign.
The challenge of the Ghanaian voter is that the media is virtually divided between the two parties. If the individual does not think independently in the exercise of his franchise, it would be impossible for any party to win elections in the foreseeable future. The recent Afro-barometer report on the political choices of the people and the corruption perception has been widely publicized because it directly affects the two parties.
The media houses belonging to the two parties know what to do to kangaroo their followers. I have no doubt that the popular political parties use their vast resources and structures in the various districts and communities to campaign all year round for support. However, the disenchanted category of the electorate must think independently.
Be that as it may, I do not think the smaller parties in the European Union, especially in the UK folded their arms and looked on unconcerned as the masses yearned for a change. They did their best to catch the attention of the electorate for that historic victory. The likes of the PNC, CPP, PPP, NDP and ACP have every opportunity to make their voices heard by the electorate to challenge the two dominant parties in the next election. Granting of interviews to the media, issuing statements to indicate the position of the party on burning national issues and occasional rallies will be a good beginning.
Even if they have no presidential ambitions, at least a third of Parliament made up of their MPs in opposition will make a huge difference in the conduct of the Executive arm of government, especially in curbing official corruption. The electorate, especially the youth should not be intimidated by big names in the media. As young adults whose future is in their own hands, they need to think carefully before casting their votes for any candidate. As is observed by Wilson Mawuli Dovia, author of “Responsible Voting Key To Your Satisfaction”, a wasted vote is one that is not cast at all or rejected at the polls, and not one that is correctly cast in favour of a candidate of a smaller party as the propagandists want them to believe.
From the same book, it is realized that an average of almost 30% (29.84%) of the electorate does not vote in elections. There may be other reasons accounting for this than religious because the 2004 elections recorded 86.93% turnout. Assuming that 50% of this category decides to introduce their own political parties in any of the smaller ones, we would be closer to charting a new policy direction for the state. Similarly, the previous four swing regions of Brong Ahafo, Central, Greater Accra and Western, some of which have been reorganized as a result of the creation of additional six new regions may introduce the nation to new parties for a change. After all, they have no permanent interest in any political party.
The qualifying age of eighteen years or above to vote is enough for the youth especially, to make their own choices without the approval of any political Prophet, Paramount Chief, Pastor, Sheikh, Friend or even Parents. Though these big men and women in our communities may not be wearing ‘political suits’, they may be benefiting from their political utterances unknown to the gullible voter. Voting is a secret exercise. They should have confidence in themselves and take the right electoral decisions that will positively impact their lives. No one can harm them spiritually for exercising their right of choice.
Article: Julius AGBAGBA-DANSO
Author’s email: Jeffmckeon1@gmail.com