Let's take a second look at winner-takes-all system (Friday, August 23, 2013) pg 19

Ghana needs to take a second look at the current winner-takes-all political system to ensure harmony and political balance. 

Making the call at an Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) organized roundtable discussions on the Constitution Review in Accra, the participants observed that the winner-takes-all system had led to enmity, division and sabotage of the national agenda.

Mr Ernest Abotsi, a lecturer of the Ghana Institute of Public Administration; Mr Peter Mac Manu, a former New Patriotic Party (NPP) National Chairman; Prof.  Daniel Adzei Bekoe, a Senior Fellow of the IEA; Mr Kwame Pianim, a leading member of the NPP; Prof.  S.K.B Asante, an international consultant and educationist and Mr Alfred Agbesi, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Ashaiman, all agreed that the current system had polarised the country.

Under the theme, “Ghana’s winner-takes-all system: What are the Alternatives beyond proportional representation?” the programme is part of the IEA Constitution Review Series.

The platform provides the opportunity for political stakeholders and civil society to reach a consensus on proposals to influence the ongoing constitution review implementation process.

Delivering a lecture on the theme, Mr Abotsi said as the country “strives to improve on the fortunes and prospects of the constitutional regime, the issue of the winner taking all needs a careful review and redressing to avoid the pitfalls engendered by its practice.”

He also said while the provision was ostensibly designed to reinforce the tenets of democratic governance which was both co-operative and competitive, it had led to a number of unintended consequences.

“Beyond the allocation and distribution of political power at the apex level, the dynamic of political partisanship has had and continue to have systemic effect on nearly all faucets of governance dealing with resource allocation and distribution and general entitlements in Ghana.”

That, he said, had led to a situation where “Ghana under the Fourth Republic has been marked by compulsory retirements, terminations and dismissals of persons working in the civil and public services, abrogation of contracts, cancellations of entitlements and general persecutions of certain political opponents or persons deemed as such,” he said.

Ghana’s fourth republic cannot develop without the government in power reaching out to the opposition parties.

In 1992, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) went into alliance with the National Convention Party (NCP) led by the late Ekow Nkensen Arkaah who eventually became the country’s Vice President between 1992 and 1997.

Mr Owuraku Amofa of the EGLE Party was also a deputy Tourism Minister during the Rawlings’ regime.
In the current NDC administration, Alhassan Azong, a People’s National Convention MP for Builsa South, is serving as a minister of state at the presidency, responsible for public sector reforms.

Those appointments notwithstanding, Mr Abotsi said  “the constitution may seem to have contemplated political inclusiveness as a value and virtue, false assumptions that parties would reach out have led to the regime of winner taking all, since the commencement of the regime"

While stating that proportional representation was not a way out of the conundrum, he also added that merely suggesting political inclusiveness without addressing the fundamental causes would be futile.

Contributing to the discussions, Prof. Bekoe said it was obvious that a winner-takes-all political system was inappropriate in Africa and other developing parts of the world where there was no proper integration.

He cited the example of Egypt where the Islamic Brotherhood had won elections and used its influence to appoint its functionaries to almost every position only to have the West raising concerns about that later.

Prof. Bekoe observed that while the nation may not be ready for a proportional representation system as being advocated by a section of the Ghanaian society, it was imperative that the “the winner-takes-all syndrome is adequately addressed in a manner that would promote national unity and political inclusivity.

He said the ideal situation for instance was what pertained in Switzerland, a multi-ethnic, multilingual European country where political participation was highly inclusive.

“It is sad that in our case, every election is a nightmare. The fear and apprehension of losing elections is the cause of the current political situation,” he said.

Adding his voice to the discussions, Mr Pianim said the election of metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives remained an alternative that would enhance inclusiveness in the country’s governance system and also serve as a good training ground for young politicians.

For Mr Mac Manu, the decision not to elect MMDCEs did not augur well for the country’s democracy.

“The fact that you are able to elect presidents and parliamentarians does not mean you’re getting it right. Ghana is not getting it it right. What is democracy if does not include the grassroots?” he asked.

He said across Africa in countries including Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Bostwana, Tanzania and Benin, local government elections ensured that the people participated in electing their leaders.

Mr Agbesi, for his part, said the winner- takes- all system had created a lot of problems for the country and also led to a highly divided country.

He expressed regret that the Constitution Review Commission did not touch on the matter in its final report submitted to the government in December, 2011.

“We have to end this as soon as possible for this country to move forward,” he added.


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