Sun, Jul

Partisan Election of Local Assembly Members Will Not Cure Winner-Takes-All Syndrome

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These are a handful of the many measures by which we can ensure power and governance is not unduly concentrated at the centre, hence essentially curing our country of the winner-takes-all disease.

In the heat of the upcoming referendum on December 17, proponents of Partisan elections at the local assembly level are arguing that such partisan elections will help stop the phenomenon of winner-takes-all in our body politic. Clearly, that’s a position unsupported by the facts of our elective politics so far. Their assertion also fails to address the real causes of the winner-takes-all phenomenon and simply seek to hang it incorrectly on the cross of local partisan elections.

The fact is, seeking a wider spectrum of Ghanaians to participate in our governance process doesn’t mean they must necessarily be elected along partisan lines. In fact, non-partisan elections rather attracts people of all walks, irrespective of party or political affiliation to participate; without being hindered by the cartelized restrictions rife in the major political parties, where a narrow group of party delegates become determiners of who has the right to contest or otherwise. Clearly, the argument of advocates for partisan elections at the local level falls flatly on its face, because it’s obvious we can achieve wider participation from Ghanaians across all walks of life in the governance process if we rather stay away from lending partisan colours to the process. So by all means, as a matter of necessity, let’s go ahead and make the needed amendments to elect MMDCEs, but not clothing them in party apparels will not in any way lessen the fact that it engenders greater and wider participation in the governance process, it rather helps it.

The other arm of their argument is that partisan elections at the local level will give some work to the opposition to do, so they can also be assessed. My point is, has parliament not taught us anything worth learning from? How has the simple fact of electing our MPs made them any efficient or politically responsible? What has become of the Civil Society Group called Odikro’s work that indicts many of these MPs? I don’t think getting our politicians to be responsible lies in the simple matter of just giving them “jobs” so they can be assessed. Parliament has shown that the opposition has work in there, but they barely show up and we continue to see a lot of water go under the bridge in parliamentary work. So I believe the argument should not simply be that we should give the opposition too jobs, but rather, we must begin to take ourselves and our laws serious and hold elected officials accountable, be they of the incumbent, opposition or independent stock. We can do this by:

a. Holding them to their legal mandates and responsibilities at all times

b. Ensure that the relevant institutional administrative laws and resource legislations empower them to be effective and efficient.

For instance, at the assembly level, instead of struggling to get officials elected along party lines, why don’t we focus our energies on ensuring that there’s a legislation which ensures that allowances from the DACF goes directly to MMDAs, without them having to beg central government for it? What’s the point of electing MMDCEs who still have to be at the mercy of the government of the day in order to be effective? What then will be the net gain?

Should our energies not be rather focused on empowering MMDCEs in tandem with getting them elected? What’s there to gain by insisting that they be elected along party lines?

It’s also important that we look at provisions that will make it easier for these assemblies to access funds; even internationally (but with a cap), to be able to show resourcefulness in the development of their localities. I don’t think a mere focus on partisan elections will help us achieve these. We must elect to enhance participation, but partisanship isn’t a prerequisite to achieve this, in fact, it threatens the objective. Hence it’s only logical to Vote NO on December 17.

Also, it’s true an independent or third party may win elections more easily at the local level. That’s why there’s a consensus on this. But do you think it’d be easier for independents to still win at the local level if we transpose the partisan militancy that characterizes the national level elections to the local level too? I doubt that very much. The partisan goons will simply scare away any well intended independent candidate and mar what could have been issue driven campaigns with their thuggish bullying antics during partisan campaigning, as is witnessed at the national level.

Lastly, I think the Partisan Campaigners are barking up the wrong tree by thinking simply electing MMDCEs along party lines is what will summarily cure winner-takes-all. Far from that. The phenomenon can only be truly uprooted when we look at stemming the imperial powers conferred on the presidency in this country. In order to make sure the governance process isn’t hijacked by a single president and his party upon assuming office, we may look at devolving the centres of power in our governance process by undertaking all or a combination of the following constitutional reforms, while keeping in mind how they impact other statutory functions:

1. Land and natural resources should be vested in the people; not in the President on behalf of the people. That way the President through a Minister cannot simply give out oil blocks, mining concessions, timber concessions, etc. without prior approval by the people’s representatives; i.e. parliament.

2. There should be election of MMDCE’s and provisions made for their share of the common fund paid directly to them from whatever source without they having to beg for it from central government. Local governments should also be given room to raise funds up to some level for local level development without excessive bottlenecks

3. There should be a standard meritocratic system by which heads of public departments, agencies and heads of SOEs automatically rise to their positions without being appointed arbitrarily by the President.

4. The exercise of MPs being Ministers must be curtailed. It only weakens the Legislature.

5. The Judiciary must be independent- The President must not appoint the Chief Justice and the Judiciary should not be paid and resourced through government of the day. Funds due them must automatically be allocated to the Judiciary without question.

6. IGP must be elected by a college of senior level police officers based on merits, without it being a political appointment.

These are a handful of the many measures by which we can ensure power and governance is not unduly concentrated at the centre, hence essentially curing our country of the winner-takes-all disease.


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