20.11.2007 Politics

2007 global report on parties and democracy launched

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A large proportion of the Ghanaian electorate do not engage in active political activities other than voting during elections, Professor Kwame Ninsin of the Political Science Department, University of Ghana said on Monday.

"Political parties on one hand rediscover citizens only when the quadrennial voting year is due and on the other, citizens discover themselves as citizens every four years when political leaders and entrepreneurs urge them to come out and vote," he said.

Giving an overview of the 2007 Konrad-Adenaeur-Foundation (KAS) Report on Parties and Democracy in Accra, he said this pathological situation underscores certain tendencies in Ghanaian and in other developing democracies.

The report contributes to comparative analysis of selected building blocks of democracy through profound research conducted by country experts from perspectives of democracy.

The report also provides information about political parties contribution to democracy and their programmatic and organisation standing.

The study sampled 16 countries which were selected from the geo-political regions of the world; four from Africa, including Ghana and South Africa, four from Asia including India and Malaysia, three from Europe Including Czech Republic and Serbia, three from Latin America including Ecuador and Mexico and Middle East including Israel ad Turkey.

Prof. Ninsin who wrote Ghana's aspects of the report noted that once a political party fought its way to victory, society forfeited all moral claims to demand good governance from the ruling class, while those who owned and controlled them were also free to employ them to consolidate their power and wealth.

An important lesson from this anthology was therefore the failure of political parties to mediate between the society and state in a democratic manner and that was a serious deficit in Africa's emerging democracies.

He partly blamed widespread poverty, illiteracy and ignorance of the masses for the failure of political parties because the masses did not form parties but the political parties did.

He observed that the nature of Political Parties had been shaped not only by the history of the countries concerned but ideas, norms and attitudes of the political class has made a decisive impact on the nature of the parties.

The deficit not withstanding, he noted that it was clear that political parties have played a critical role in the democratic transition of countries like Ghana.

However Maxwell Kofi Jumah, (MP) who also reviewed the report criticised some factual inaccuracies and biases of the author and noted that there was basis and proof in the political experience in Ghana that states that the system of governance created opportunities for the governing parties to stuff their election chess in preparation for the next election.

He said the report also seemed to put across that the system of simple majority was unique in Ghana, but rather the system was common in all democratic countries in the world.

On the issue of party funding, Mr Kofi Jumah noted that the ruling party supported the idea and that it is erroneous for the writer to state that, " when the NPP was in opposition it was a vocal advocate of state funding of parties but since it came to power it has been less enthusiastic about the issue of state funding of the parties".

The report, he said was silent on the role of women, youth and the private press which were very important groups in the country's democratic process.

Mr Klaus Loetzer, KAS Country Representative said the report is the third in a series of KAS democracy report since the project was initiated a couple of years.

He noted that it was the conviction of KAS that when the report was put in the public domain it would generate the needed public discussion.

He said every research provided a good basis for others and expressed the hope that the report would do the same considering the number of recommendations as food for thought for political parties in Ghana.

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