Elections 2016, another test of Ghana’s democracy
Born in 1957 the Republic of Ghana had seen many turbulent political dispensations. On three occasions the democratic bid was disrupted by military juntas who thought it right so to do, and as has always been the case, the nation always came back to the drawing table.
Thanks for the vigilance of the international community, it looks impossible for another coup d’état to occur in Ghana, and so Ghanaians could gladly pursue their new found democracy.
But we are put to the test every four years, a test that seeks to find out whether indeed we can continue to practice this Athenian culture. But we almost always pull through.
The first challenge under the Fourth Republican dispensation was the issue of the fairness of the 1992 general election.
This was because we were faced with an incumbent junta, which was seeking to metamorphose into a civilian ruler, and so there were suspicion of the fairness of the process.
This was made worse by the use of opaque ballot boxes that were believed to have been stuffed already with ballot papers.
We also had issues of thump-printed voter identification cards that permitted multiple voting. This culminated into the writing of the ‘Stolen Verdict’ by the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
But we pulled through with our first parliament being a rubber stamp because the NPP refused to take part in the parliamentary elections. One would therefore be right to say we started off on one foot and struggled through four years until the major opposition party decided to come on board.
Another challenge we faced in the practice of democracy was during the 2000 elections. All watched to see if the incumbent Jerry Rawlings would be willing to accept defeat and go as the constitution demanded. Elsewhere on the continent, dictators had refused to exit, with some massaging their constitutions to give them third and fourth terms in office.
The fear was that the man may not go, and even if he did, it would be in a manner that would make his party win so he might rule through whoever succeeded him.
But that did not happen. We pulled through again with the opposition candidate John Agyekum Kufuor duly elected as president of the republic.
This brought a great prestige to the people of Ghana and of course persons and institutions who were instrumental in this success. Jerry Rawlings earned a reputation as a true statesman who was interested in the welfare of his country.
Our Electoral Commission (EC) headed by Dr Kwadwo Afari-Djan was seen as a credible institution worth emulating in Africa.
Our democracy was again tested during the 2008 general election during which time there was fierce battle between the incumbent NPP and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The battle was so fierce that the winner was decided after three rounds of voting with Tain becoming the famous king-makers who shot up Professor John Evans Atta Mills vote enough to give him the 50 per cent plus one vote to become president.
But that did not happen easily without a court action that sought to stop the voting at Tain. In the end, democracy won with Prof Mills having just three days to prepare for his inauguration.
Another test to our democratic practice came with the sudden demise of President Atta Mills. On July 24, 2012 Ghanaians were hit by the sad news of the passing of our beloved president.
This came with a lot of security implications for the country. But once again we proved to the world how prepared we were constitutionally and morally to embark on a smooth transfer of power. Whilst Nigeria struggled greatly to decide who should take over after the death of Umaru Yara Dua, John Dramani Mahama, then Vice-President of Ghana was sworn into office the same day at about 8 pm ending all uncertainties about whether our democratic process would be interrupted in any way.
Then came the real test to this democracy when during the 2012 general election, the NPP claimed it was robbed by the EC and therefore sought to reverse the election of President Mahama.
The international community sat still waiting for what would happen to Ghana. Ghanaians were also on tenterhooks for eight months waiting for the judgment of the Supreme Court.
In the end democracy won again with the election of the president upheld. But of course it was the gracefulness demonstrated by Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo that needed commendation.
His acceptance of the verdict and the resultant peace that continued in Ghana proved to the world that Ghana had not only bought into the culture of democracy, but Ghanaians indeed understood its language and were prepared to speak it fluently.
Now comes the biggest test to the Fourth Republican Constitution. The NDC had two terms under Jerry Rawlings in the ‘90s. Then NPP had two terms under John Kufuor. Even though not a convention, we seem to want a party out of office after two terms. Would Ghanaians vote the NDC in, again for a third unprecedented term, even though this is the second term for the incumbent John Mahama.
It is indeed a test to our constitutional practice and whichever way it goes Ghanaians would have once again go through the mill.
But the real challenge is the political violence that seems to be unfolding in the country. People are just too determined to do anything to ensure their party wins. How Ghanaians will manage this, such that come January 7, 2017, we swear in a new president peacefully is what we are looking for.
Then indeed the world would not only know we are pace-setters for Africa, we would indeed be carving for ourselves the enviable identity of a peaceful and civilized nation in the world.
By Alexander Nyarko Yeboah