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18.03.2008 General News

Extend Transition Period

The Ghana Political Parties Programme (GPPP) and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) have recommended that the current four-week transition period between elections and handing over be extended to eight weeks by bringing the general election day forward to November 7.

That, they explained, would accommodate any possible run-off and the resolution of any election-related petitions. Currently, the election date is December 7, while the date for the assumption of office of the elected President and Parliament is January 7.

In a joint 15-point communiqué issued after a two-day workshop at Atimpoku to discuss guidelines for future transitions at the weekend, the two bodies, however, pointed out that the guidelines to ensure smooth handing over while maintaining national cohesion might be considered for this year.

For instance, they recommended that a symbolic transfer of power from the outgoing President to the incoming President, which might include the physical handing over of the Sword of State by the outgoing to the incoming, might be considered.

It was also agreed in the communiqué that judicial reviews of election issues should be completed within 12 days of the close of filing of petitions.

Members of the GPPP, made up of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the Convention People's Party (CPP) and the People's National Convention (PNC), indicated that the specific recommendations were not for the 2008 general election.

The communiqué further stated that the outgoing administration (Presidency, heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies (MMDAs) should prepare comprehensive handing-over notes according to a prescribed format, covering their tenure.

They recommended that within seven days of the declaration of election results, the Chief Justice shall convene an ice-breaker meeting between the outgoing President and the President-elect to prepare the ground for the formal transfer of power.

To facilitate the smooth inauguration of the President-elect, it recommended that Parliament should convene 24 hours to organise itself and elect a Speaker before the date fixed for the President's inauguration.

In all that, a joint technical team must be set up to ensure a smooth exercise.

The GPPP, therefore, urged all stakeholders to examine the recommendations and support their enhancement into law to deepen multi-party democracy in the country.

Speaking at the workshop, Mr P.V. Obeng, a former Presidential Adviser to the NDC, and Dr Kobina Arthur Kennedy, who is in charge of communications at the office of the NPP flag bearer, enjoined the country to prepare for future transitions by agreeing on a multi-partisan framework, ground rules and regulations to govern and guide political transitions.

They pointed out that the political transition from the NDC government to the NPP government in 2001 represented a political and constitutional first and, therefore, many mistakes were made.
 
The noted that political transitions must be organised in a harmonious manner, while maintaining national cohesion.

It was their belief that transitions raised issues which, if not addressed, could undermine national cohesion and the country's democratic practice.

Mr Obeng spoke on, “Guidelines for handling political transitions”, while Dr Kennedy spoke on, “Transitional arrangements in other countries: Success and failure lessons for Ghana”.

Under the auspices of the GPPP, the workshop was organised for political party leaders and sponsored by the IEA.

Mr Obeng pointed out that Ghana and many other African countries had, in the recent past, adopted a multi-party democratic system as the basic foundation of the political and governance system of their countries.

That, he said, had come about after many years of political vacillation as newly independent states wandered in search of viable systems of governance that could satisfy their often ill-defined ideological outlook.

He said the contradictions associated with their attempts to craft their own home-grown system of governance got even more complicated as a result of the ideological competition between the Western “liberal democracy” and the “democratic centralism” of the East during the Cold War era which brought in untried and foreign influences to impact negatively on their effort.

Mr Obeng said over the past 10 years, the multi-party political system of governance had been adopted by many African countries, even though it was still facing many challenges.

He, however, pointed out that the inability of many African countries to deal with issues of political accommodation between politically opposed groups and the absence of home-grown political transition arrangements to ensure a smooth transfer of power from one political party to another had been the bane of our multi-party system, a situation that needed to be urgently addressed.

Dr Kennedy, for his part, pointed out that many African countries lacked experience and had no transitional arrangements in place to guide smooth handing over of one political administration to another.

He said political transition was a process and not an event and called on the gathering to study how the US and other advanced countries had gone about their transitional periods.

He said a good transition involved structure, as well as the goodwill of the incoming President.

“Let us build the institution of presidency because if you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” he stated.

Story by Kobby Asmah

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