Sun, Jul

Prof H Kwasi Prempeh writes: There are many different problems with our politics, ...

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A rejection of party-based MMDCE elections will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop or change the things we don't like about our politics. It would be misdiagnosing ....

There are many different problems with our politics, each of which demands its own prescriptions and remedies. It is important to tailor the remedy to the disease. Electing MMDCEs on a party basis is not intended as a cure for all the ills that ail our current politics. It is a remedy for a very specific disease, and that disease is "winner-take-all, loser-do-nothing" politics.

So your party wins control of the Presidency by, say, a 51-49 margin. Meanwhile, in a good number of metros, munis and districts your party got as little as, say, 20% of the local vote, with the overwhelming majority of the votes going to the opposition party. Why must we deny the local communities where your party lost resoundingly the right and opportunity to vote into office a candidate for MMDCE who identifies openly with your rival party? Mind you, they are also free to vote for a candidate who refuses to identify with a party.

Electing MMDCEs on a party basis does not mean candidates can't contest on a no-party basis; candidates are free to identify with a party or stand in their own name. What electing MMDCEs means, in practice, is that, at any given time, the main rival parties in the country will be involved directly in the day-to-day governing of the country at the executive level. What's wrong with that situation, which is a situation where, if, say, the NDC controls the Presidency, there is still an opportunity for the NPP to participate in the running of the country by virtue of winning the MMDCE elections in some metros, munis and districts where the NPP has overwhelming support. That way, both parties have work to do governing the country and can be judged and held accountable on their performance, not just nationally but also locally.

Why isn't it better to move away from our winner-takes-all politics and let local communities have the opportunity to have their preferred party participate directly in government at the local level, sharing power with the party that controls power at the center. This way, too, we can begin to build bridges of cooperation between the parties, because for local development to proceed, the local and the center must work together, regardless of which party controls government at which level.

At present, Opposition parties have nothing to do after elections but to oppose, oppose, oppose until the next election. If they had a number of metros, munis and districts to run, even while in Opposition nationally, they would focus on working to deliver results locally, which would require working cooperatively with government at the national level, instead of just doing opposition while waiting for the next national elections.

Yes, there is a lot of toxic and counter-developmental partisanship in our current politics. But our winner-take-all arrangement, where the winning party gets everything and the loser gets nothing and gets to do nothing but oppose, is a big part of why our politics is the way it is. There are other reasons behind many of the other things we don't like about our politics. We must address those directly, such as through serious campaign financing laws, enforcement of the constitutional principle of "internal party democracy", amending the constitution to install real checks and balances among the three branches of government, reducing political control over SOE management through constitutional reform, etc.

A rejection of party-based MMDCE elections will do nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop or change the things we don't like about our politics. It would be misdiagnosing the disease and thus prescribing the wrong remedy for it. Moreover, it actually won't keep parties away from local elections. We and the parties will simply continue to perpetrate a lie, which will prevent us from holding parties directly accountable for how the local is managed, served, or developed.

If we had started the 4th Republic electing MMDCEs and on a party basis, I bet those parties that were regionally/locally strong but nationally weak like PNC, PPP, and CPP would not only have survived electorally, they would have won control of some munis or districts and thus participated in governance, albeit at the local level. And, over time, based on their experience running local government, they likely would have established a record of performance to enable them win and keep some parliamentary seats, at least. Now all those parties have become electorally extinct even in their home bases, because our winner-takes-all, two-party politics has sucked the air out of these otherwise locally strong parties. Winning parties have used their winner-take-all executive power to co-opt the leading politicians of these third parties, eventually killing those parties in all but name. Rejecting election of MMDCEs on party basis merely reinforces the two-party duopoly, not the other way round!

Electing MMDCEs on an open party basis is not meant to suggest that how we currently do politics is so great that we must extend it everywhere. It merely recognises that winner-take-all and do-nothing opposition are among the underlying sources of the excessive partisanship in our politics. Electing MMDCEs on a party basis is a remedy only for that particular disease. We must find and apply other remedies for the other diseases and opportunistic infections that afflict our politics.


Written By Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh.

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