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17.09.2020 Feature Article

Ghana: Democracy in the test phase?

Ghana: Democracy in the test phase?
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Ghana's 1992 Constitution states Ghana as a Democracy with full rights and obligations for Government bodies, state institutions and citizens alike.

The current discussion in Ghana whether or not the Supreme Court can be criticised shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Judges, Politicians and citizen about Democracy all the same.

The rights of the Supreme Court and Freedom of the Press have equal rights and power accordingly, to their specific mandate. To argue in an infant Democracy compared to a matured Democracy criticism of Supreme Court Judges is unacceptable, is cherry-picking. One side, Justice System, cannot claim all its full constitutional rights and restrict the rights of the fourth power in a Democracy the Press and with it the citizenship.

A Supreme Court like arguing in Ghana about criticism of its performance puts itself into a supreme position above other powers in a Democratic setting which potentially can work against a developing process to become a matured Democracy. While the mandate of a Supreme Court is to see new laws supposed to implemented and Executive orders are accordingly in line with the Constitution must always be cautious and aware no Constitution lasted forever but will be replaced over generations in full or partially amended.

The Supreme Court has no mandate and no standards for determining at which point in time an infant Democracy has reached the status of a matured Democracy. Germany was an undemocratic state under Nazi Germany but from 1949 a full democracy with all rights given to all parts of the Constitution. Singapore and South Korea are further examples.

The Supreme Court is not mandated to educate citizenship on issues of democracy (see 2013 Election Petition hearing and its failing impact on the society) which is left to political parties, civic societies, schools, universities etc. but only to deliver judgements. E.g. harsh punishment seen by Judges as a deterrent to stop crime proves itself over and over again as wishful thinking.

That during the development of implementing all rights and rules problems occur is part of the process that can last for generations but can never be the reason for the Supreme Court to claim more rights over any party in a Democratic setting unless the Constitution says so and has provisions to which extend and at which stages the rules of a full Democracy finally can be seen as implemented and fully working. The current version of the Constitution of 1992 does not state anything to this effect for which reason the Supreme Court has to manage any inconvenience caused by the press and citizens to voice their criticism.

To criticise the Supreme Court is a vital part of the development of a democratic society. Abortion judgement, anti-gay rulings (1960/70s in Germany) restrictions of voters’ rights (foreigners voting rights on local issues) etc. changed the inclusiveness of parts of the population and their interest. After criticism of Supreme Court ruling, politics addressed the concerns of such groups and implemented new laws to be further in line with the changed expectations of the inhabitants.

Karl-Heinz Heerde
Karl-Heinz Heerde, © 2020

The author has 482 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KarlHeinzHeerde

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