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06.11.2008 US & Canada

Democracy Is About Losing An Election - US Envoy

By Our Reporter - newtimesonline.com

IN the early hours of yesterday, as the world brimmed with joy at the election of the first black President of the world's number one super-power, the Ambassador of the United States, Donald G. Teitelbaum, hosted a cross section of the Ghanaian society to a 2008 U.S. Presidential Election Breakfast celebration at the Embassy in Accra.

Toasting to victory for democracy, the ambassador gave what many of his guests thought constituted the freshest, and most provoking definition of democracy.

Democracy, he hypothesised, is not about the one who won; it is about the one who lost. It is about the loser finding the grace to concede defeat and getting their followers to acknowledge same, showing a readiness to join forces with the winner to move the society forward.

In a room bedecked with American colours against a backdrop of live television coverage via two large television screens, Ambassador Teitelbaum said being a loser is part of democracy.

As he said this, his guests nodded in approval, obviously because many of those present — politicians, including MPs and party executives such as NPP's Peter Mac Manu with his General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, NDC's E.T. Mensah, media editors, the clergy, businessmen, top Ghanaian diplomats (among them Ambassador James Aggrey-Orleans) and security capos – could readily recall Kenya and Zimbabwe.

The visibly elated Ambassador shared his joy with his guests and extolled the unique qualities of democracy not only as it operates in America but as it should operate wherever people believe in free speech, free press, freedom of association, among others.  

Expatiating on the issue further in an interview with Times reporter, Kwadwo Donkor, earlier on Tuesday, the US Ambassador said “democracy goes beyond just holding election but making sure the entire governance system works enough for the people to trust in it.

“It is when the citizenry trust the system to give them the needed justice that they will not take the law into their own hands”.

He said election was just an aspect of the whole process and it would take the collective collaboration of the entire system to make it work.

Factors such as press freedom, good justice system and a legislature free from government interference all contributed to make a country democratic, he said and added: “It is only when all stakeholders play their respective roles and allow the system to work that we can talk about real democracy”.

Using the US as an example, he said in the 2000 elections, even though the Supreme Court declared George W. Bush to have won, “people accepted it although they did not   like the decision.”

This, he said should be the norm everywhere such that when government lost elections, it would peacefully hand over power and trust the system to purge itself.  

So far, he said all the indicators pointed to Ghana that  the country is in the right direction, even though he admitted that more needed to be done to sustain the gains made.

However, Mr Teitelbaum advised the citizenry against depending on the opinion of outsiders on what to do to maintain peace in the country.

“What the Ghanaian thinks about the election is more important than what outsiders think or expect of it,” he noted.

As a government, he said, the US would not meddle in Ghana's internal affairs but would not hesitate to offer suggestions when necessary.

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