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Jan 5, 2009 | Political

Parliament MUST reform election laws to prevent SHAMEFUL election malpractices

Recently, I wrote about an Electoral College being a must for the Ghanaian political atmosphere and surprisingly found out that many people had already being thinking of at least a reform of our electoral system to deal with election malpractices. Some suggested a system that would give power to the party with the most constituencies and others commented on the things I failed to mention in my suggestion of an Electoral College. It is very heart-warming to learn that at least some Ghanaians are reflecting on the political future of that black star, which finds itself amongst countries with an unfavourable political atmosphere. Although there came ideas that did not agree to the same system, they all held common the idea that our electoral system needs a reform.
Now, be it an electoral college or a system that provides for coalition governments, the goal of the reform, as perhaps all of us agree, is to make it unattractive for political parties to try changing the votes accorded them by the electorate. My suggestion of an electoral college held the belief that since the allotted number of electoral votes is a fix quantity, it would be such a reform that could make rigging the votes a redundant move. Some, however, have argued that we must stop the tribalism in our politics. But if we do not move to decrease the influence of the number of votes coming from the strongholds of the major political parties on the results of the whole country, we may even be heading for a tribalism worse than we experience now in our politics, because the NPP will gravitate more to the Ashanti Region and the NDC will become more and more a party of the Volta Region. This indeed is a development that we should dread enough to compel us into making forestalling reforms.
Looking at the many fightings around us, we may realise that most of them were caused by the same tribalism that we all claim should not be given a place in our political environment. From Rwanda to countries even never mentioned in our national media, men have gone to war to secure their tribe a good standing in their nation forgetting, however, that the importance of tribalism has been diminished by colonialism. The symbol of tribalism being the Chiefs has lost its importance since we are no longer under the laws instituted by Chiefs, but under the laws of the central government. Tribalism was actually important back then when the order of the day was conquering as many tribes as one could in order to build an empire. The advent of colonialism forced the many different tribes to come up against a common enemy being the colonial masters. An example is the fight for independence; it was not the Ashanti or the Ewe that sought the freedom of the Ashanti or Ewe people from British rule, but a cross-section of leaders from the major tribal groups of Ghana that went ahead with a united aim: a free Ghana. Yet given the chance, politicians will exploit every possibility of getting to hold an office including stirring up feelings of tribal animosity.
Left to their own, many politicians, especially those that profit from the evil fruits of tribalism, will probably not abort such practices that inspire tribal or ethnic hostility. It is therefore the responsibility of us the people, the owners of the constitution, to force them to change the state of our electoral system that is prone to malpractices. We need to use the airwaves and engage in discussions to change that situation. Just as we have voted out a somewhat corrupt government, let's invest that engagement in the betterment of our electoral system.
There may be many different suggestions as to which of the many known systems we should adopt or even whether we should invent one for the Ghanaian climate. Whatever the solution will be, it has to have the principal goal of dimming the influence of the votes counted in a single constituency or a single region on the whole country. This would force politicians to incorporate people from all tribes into their politics. Where politics is not about policies but about identity, leaders from the privileged identity group hurt the country, because accountability is hardly ever demanded of them. The aim of political parties is to represent interest groups and not tribal groups. Which interest groups do the NDC and the NPP represent, actually? There are tens of such groups in Ghana and the most important thing is that groups like government workers encompass people from all walks of life and all tribes. We voters should use our vote to force political parties to back interest groups and not tribal groups. The election year is the best time that teachers, "fitters", market women, police officers and all those other interest groups could bargain an agreement with the political leaders. These interest groups should be actively backing the political party that represents their interests especially during the election year.
In the years ahead, I expect the new NDC-majority parliament to reform our election system to dim the effect that a constituency or a region has on the national results. My suggestion is the adoption of the electoral college, because the mere advocation of a stop to tribalism in our national politics will not be heeded by any of the major political parties, but a reform and an activation of interest groups and pressure groups which exist in abundance in Ghana will help reshape our electoral system in such a way as to prevent shameful election malpractices. I further suggest that any mention of or allusion to ethnicity or tribalism made during an election campaign be punished with a heavy fine or any other befitting punishment.
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