Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament has launched the Centre for Democratic Development-Ghana’s (CDD-Ghana) report on proceedings on “Election 2016: Promoting Policy-Issue Debate at the Constituency Level”.
It would be recalled that ahead of the 2016 general elections, CDD-Ghana, with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), embarked on a project titled: “Promoting Policy-issue based Debate at the Constituency Level.”
The debate platforms, which were held across 43 selected constituencies throughout the country, formed part of the organisation’s efforts to promote issue-based election campaign and to ensure interaction between aspirants and prospective voters.
These debates contributed to streamlining campaign messages in the 2016 elections to focus on important policy issues that impacted on the lives of constituents, particularly vulnerable and marginalised groups.
It further offered candidates the opportunity to interact with and share their vision and programmes with the electorates.
Ghana’s democratic achievements since 1992 have attracted commendations from both the domestic and international community, especially within the context of electoral performance of other African Countries.
The objective of the project sought to increase citizens’ participation, particularly marginalized groups in electoral processes and to promote post-election accountability and responsiveness between citizens and elected officials in between elections.
The report emphasised that the 2016 election was generally credible and peaceful by election watchers.
The African Union Election Observation Mission Report on the election highlighted one important feature that distinguished the last elections from the previous ones as the enhanced policy-centeredness of campaigns embarked on by presidential and parliamentary candidates.
The CDD-Ghana’s project report was being released, for two important reasons; first, some of the Members of Parliament (MPs), who participated in debate platforms were currently preparing to go through their political party primaries for the 2020 parliamentary elections.
It would be appropriate for them to have access to the campaign promises that contributed to their success for them to reflect on how they formed and what is outstanding.
Secondly, for the constituents, general public and the media, to use information from those platforms to demand accountability from elected officials going into the 2020 general elections.
Mr Osei-Owusu said there was a disconnection between what voters expected from their MPs and the responsibilities the law gives to MPs.
He said the problem could somehow be solved when Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) were elected, hence, the need for an open discussion in that regard.
Mr Osei-Owusu recounted that during the exercise conducted by CDD-Ghana, it was observed that 99 per cent of all issues discussed at debates were matters relating to executive responsibility.
“So it brings to question, what voters who queue to vote for us expect of us as MPs”, he added.
Dr Franklin Oduro, the Deputy Executive Director/Director of Programmes at the CDD-Ghana, underscored the need for stakeholders to intensify campaign on roles of MPs.
He said the project served as an opportunity for candidates at the constituency level, to present their messages to the audience and for the audience to also ask questions.
Dr Oduro said the Centre initiated the project in 2004 as a pilot programme to help shift electioneering campaign to focus more on policy-issues that had impacted on the lives of marginalised groups, until 2012, when they introduced the post-election accountability.
Mr Mathias Hounkpe, the Political Governance Programme Manager at OSIWA, who noted that they believed in electoral accountability, added that it was important for voters to know what they were voting for.
He also cautioned candidates on promises during their campaigns, saying, it is important for them to take note of delivering their promises.
Mr Hounkpe stated that the initiative being launched, formed part of the mechanism that could sustain the trust of citizens in elections and democracy as a whole.