The Catholic Archbishop of Cape Coast, His Eminence Peter Cardinal Appiah Turkson, has expressed the hope that the conduct of the four leading presidential candidates in their debate last Wednesday will deepen the culture of political tolerance in the country.
He said seeing the four aspirants on the stage shaking hands and patting each other on the shoulder in a cordial manner was a great credit for the nation's fledgling democracy and expressed the hope that their followers would emulate them to avoid violent clashes.
Cardinal Turkson made the remark at the end of the presidential debate organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs (lEA), a public policy institution on Wednesday.
His comments were shared by other participants in the event, including a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Ivan Addae-Mensah; a Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (lDEG), Mr Kwesi Jonah; the Deputy Commissioner of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Mrs Augustina Akumanyi; Dr K. Hiadze of the University of Ghana, and the Head of Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution Department of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre, Dr Kwesi Anin.
They described the debate as a feather in the cap of the nation's efforts at entrenching peace, stability and democracy.
The four presidential aspirants who took part in the debate were Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP); Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People's Party (CPP); Prof. John Evans Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Dr Edward Mahama of the People's National Convention (PNe).
They were selected on the basis of their political parties having representation in Parliament.
The debate, which was live on Ghana Television and other broadcast media, was moderated by Prof. Kwame Karikari, the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa, and Mr Cyril Acolatse, a retired broadcaster.
Cardinal Turkson, who is the Chairman of the Presidential Debates Planning Committee, said there were many questions that had been reserved for the next debate scheduled to take place in Tamale on November 12, 2008.
Prof. Addae-Mensah said he was impressed with the delivery of the aspirants, adding that the candidates kept to the issues.
He said to enrich the next debate in Tamale, whatever lessons learnt at the Accra debate must guide the organisers.
On his part, Dr Hiadzi described the event as a good exercise that gave every candidate the opportunity to explain himself and applauded the fact that it was devoid of acrimony.
"The debate teaches us to be tolerant and secondly to be able to debate issu~ in an open environment without resort to violence," he added.
Mr Jonah described the debate as good quality but he was of the view that the structure of the questions did not meet all expectations.
He said there should have been a question on the macro economy because that was how the candidates would raise money to finance their programmes.
"On the whole, it was an improvement," he said, but pointed out that the candidates could have been made to make opening statements because that would establish their stance and within that, establish their claims.
Mrs Akumanyi said, "It's nice to see all the contenders together debating in such a civil way which is taking us forward."
She said it was high time the followers of political parties emulated the lessons arising out of the debate in their interactions.
Mrs Akumanyi said politics was not war or fight, but was about ideas and how a group of people, through the ballot box, could get the mandate of Ghanaians to rule and improve the lives of the citizenry.
Dr Anin said the greatest success of the presidential debate was seeing the candidates on the same stage in a friendly and open discussion.
"That should send a signal to followers of the various political parties that if the leaders are not fighting, it is important for them to coexist," he said.
Dr Anin said although the content of the messages might not have satisfied specific detail, the atmosphere of congeniality and respect gave "Ghanaians something for us to think about".
He said seeing Mr Alan Kyerematen and Mr E. T. Mensah hold each other's hands, whispering and smiling should be an abiding issue.
According to him, the first round of the debate itself provided much detail and specific responses but that the concluding statements were very disappointing.
The concluding statements should have been used by the candidates to rally their supporters and particularly the floating voters to their side but that was lacking, he observed.
Dr Anin said the format of the debate only provided the avenue for the candidates to repeat what they had been telling the electorate already.
He said a real debate should have afforded the candidates much more time to discuss topic by topic what they intended to do and have a thorough critique of their messages.
Source: Daily Graphic