“The Winner Takes All”: The Root of Electoral Violence That Is Inherent In Our Political Parties?
The elected president of the Republic of Ghana is vested with power by the 1992 constitution to appoint almost everyone that occupies state offices, from the districts to national. He appoints the boards and directors of public corporations and agencies, the various heads of the security services, directors of the Ghana Health Service, Ghana Education Service (GES) as well as the GES council.
This unbridled power to appoint given to the president creates a phenomenon called "winner takes all". This puts the opposition in a vulnerable situation, making them powerless and exposed to all kinds of discrimination in employment and awarding of contracts.
There are party faithfuls who believe their fortunes in life and their success depends on their party winning elections. They can get their dream jobs, appointments to serve on various boards, get hefty contracts and their businesses flourish greatly when their party is in power.
However, their businesses are hunted down and they are starved of contracts when they are in opposition. This has made elections in Ghana to become a desperate battle to secure appointments, economic opportunities and hoard wealth for families and friends. Political party faithfuls will, therefore, do anything whether lawful or not to make sure their party wins elections.
After a party wins elections, these party faithfuls who claim "y3n aban aba (our government is in power)" take it upon themselves to cease all state vehicles from incumbent appointees. Some even go to the extent of taking over public toilets. Others forcefully remove incumbent appointees from their offices and even those appointed by their own government that they believe didn't 'work hard' enough during the elections to merit the appointment, irrespective of their competency.
Victory in elections in Ghana is about economic fortunes, it's about who controls all economic opportunities in almost every sector. If you win the elections, you will leave in bliss for the next four years but if you lose, you are doomed for the next four years, you are going to be disadvantaged economically; no contracts, your business is under threat of being collapsed and you may even lose existing jobs.
In an effort to avoid these political intimidations and vendetta, both party executives and supporters do everything to stay in power or come to power, hence the elections become a do or die affair.
The stakes are always very high going into every election. This struggle for power and economic dominance because of the winner takes all culture is what fuels the violence associated with voter registration and elections, and why political parties seem to accommodate violence in their election strategy.
Former President John Mahama, now flagbearer of the main opposition party, NDC is on record for saying; "We are not going to joke in 2020 and I'm sounding a warning to the NPP - we are going to match them boot for boot." The Ashanti regional chairman of the NPP, Bernard Bosiako aka Chairman Wontumi also said: "winning elections in 2020, 2024 and beyond is a movement and it is stronger than apartheid." People may be alarmed by these utterances but these men are not mincing words, it is actually the reality in political parties' quest for power. This year's election like previous ones is going to be do or die, eye-for-eye, boot for boot because of what is at stake. The security services, unfortunately, cannot do much to stop this. They themselves are accused of being politicized.
Political parties as a strategy perpetrate violence against each other especially in their strongholds as a way of intimidating the other party so they can go on with their "dirty works" (i.e. registering minors, non-nationals and people voting more than once). Political violence seems to be accepted by both the two main political parties because those who are caught perpetrating violence are not punished, rather, they are defended and even given positions after elections are won.
Elected presidents just give the impression that they are fighting violence perpetrated by their supporters and party militias but deep down they cannot punish them. This is because these party militias and supporters' "dirty works" brings and keeps them in power. So all the laws and words of caution from civil society groups, think tanks, peace council are just superficial. There's no political commitment to enforce it.
Aside the economic fortunes associated with winning elections, some people want to get to power for political vendetta, witch-hunting and to settle personal scores. Some politicians want to win elections to show some people where power lies. An example is a warning the National communications director of the NDC, Sammy Gyamfi issued recently; "The police officers and the military officers are making their career conterminous with that of President Akufo-Addo. The day President Akufo-Addo exits office will be the last day they will serve as policemen and military men and we will deal with them mercilessly". Some people are targeted and deliberately frustrated by those who win elections.
One way we can seriously deal with electoral violence is that our constitution should be amended to limit the authority the president has to appoint and remove people from offices after elections just as it is practiced by some western countries. Boards and directors of state corporations, GHS and GES directors should be independently selected in a similar manner to appointment of the EC or CJ. This will drastically reduce the winner takes all situation which is the underlying cause of most voter registration and electoral violence.
Until the winner takes all culture in our politics is rooted out and the various state security services are allowed to do their jobs independently without interference, the situation of political violence is never going to change. The stakes will always be high going into an election. Winning elections will, therefore, be all die be die and boot for boot affair; hence violence is inevitable.
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