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17.12.2008 Feature Article

Observations From The Polls — Ghana Is The Victor

Observations From The Polls — Ghana Is The Victor
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As a nationalist, I have once again had the pleasant opportunity to give Ghana a big pat on the back and the thumbs-up at the front. Watching the electorate cast their votes on Sunday, December 7, through to the counting process and the declaration of results, I was left with a feeling of pride as a Ghanaian living on a continent bedevilled with electioneering disputes.

As I left the house for church at 7a.m. on that voting day and back, I drove past at least 10 polling stations between Dansoman and Ridge.  I deliberately went off my normal route a bit, just to have a feel of the patriotism of my fellow country folks.  I was impressed with the queues of voters — the young, the old, the weak, the frail, men and women — who were just anxious to exercise an important civic right which happens every four years.

 The genuine interest in the whole process of choosing new members of the legislature as well as a new political leader was very clear.  How I wish this posture reflected in our approach as individuals and groups towards our duties and responsibilities in society.

When voting officially ended that Sunday, at 5.00p.m., I took a walk to two polling stations in my neighbourhood to witness the counting of ballots cast.  Many more curious citizens had also gathered to witness same.  The orderliness, eagerness and enthusiasm at both stations instilled pride in me as the counting processes in the open commenced.

On the morning after, as the results started pouring in, I took an hour walk in the vicinity just to listen to whispers, gossips and opinions on how the early results were being digested.The surprises sprung on us by the NDC and the disappointments from the Elephant's camp had given some people plenty of meat for early morning breakfast digestion.

Later in the day, I drove through some of the streets of the city going as far as Legon.  I noticed less vehicular and human traffic, even in areas where seven days in the week, traffic never goes to sleep.  The streets were quiet.  Was it the result of the not-too-impressive performance of some of the NPP parliamentary gurus or the shocking performance of the 'rising star', the CPP, that had frozen hopes on that hot afternoon?  What had happened to all those rally crowds and the 400,000 or so card bearing members registered by the CPP? Come to think of it, I wish I had taken the telephone number of that taxi driver who dropped me off some three weeks ago and who engaged me in that interesting conversation on rally crowds, or 'rally contractors' as he chose to call them. 

 It is indeed true that the crowds at some of the rallies we saw on television were not all party sympathisers.What a deception and a heartbreak!

Ever since the first announcement on the election results started trickling in, I kept my radio and TV working overtime, capturing every station and monitoring every region. 

In between, I slipped to the Internet to check on what was being fed through.  My mother did not spare my ears with what she was also hearing on her favourite radio station.  The elections did capture every attention, I tell you.

I have walked through the parliamentary results from the entire country following the news on the losers and the winners, the in-comers and the outgoers. Some basic truths cannot be discounted, looking at the way some of the results went. Many more lessons are coming through. 

 First and foremost, why did we score a comparable low voter turn out this time round?  Was it a case of voter apathy?  Did the warnings of the police scare those who had done illegal registration?  Did the long queues put some people off?  We cannot afford a low turnout as we go for the second round.  God spare us a third round!  We cannot sacrifice our New Year celebrations too.

Certainly, the results from the 228 constituencies declared in the parliamentaries underscore the enormous power of the electorate. Voters have used their voting powers very wisely. While for some, it is a pay-back time, for others, the decision they took by the power of their thumbs on that  December 7, was an endorsement of the saying, 'show me your character and I will show you my friendship'.  Others still saw it as a time for separating the hardworking from the time wasters who need to give time and space for the serious-minded to come and work. Many more also saw it as a time to pat the backs of those good and faithful servants who had discharged their servant duties creditably.To them, parliament is not for those who will lord over them.

Some of the results of the parliamentary elections have caused me to look at the role of the one voted into power through a public relations lens.   It is clear that no one should take the electorate for granted.   Instead, the elected member should see his or her constituents as his target audiences, deliberately plan how to build trust, manage their expectations and consistently nurture relationships for predictable outcomes.  

According to some reports, poor human relations account for some incumbent Members of Parliament(MP) losing their seats.  The same goes for a few first-time candidates as well. Parliamentarians are elected by the people to represent them.The voters at the last parliamentary elections are clearly telling the honourables-elect that engagement with the constituents and having ears for all manner of characters are part of the requirements of the job.  

Some people look for the opportunity to talk to their MPs to share a problem, joy or sorrow.  Refusing them that opportunity is seen as being disrespectful or arrogant.  There is also the issue of how to talk to people. Talking people down when you should be talking them up can draw a barrier between a leader and his people and, come the day when you need them most, that barrier would definitely not open for you as it happened in the case of some of those who lost their seats, those whose margins dropped and those who aspired but never got there.A thorough self- search might be necessary.

The last general election has clearly endorsed the sophistication of the Ghanaian voter.Thanks to abundant media, exposure, including access to global media which for 24 hours, continues to make information and education available by the switch of a button, the voter of 10 days ago was more informed on issues and took a lot more into consideration before they voted.Voting is no longer done on family convictions, neither for the mere sake of voting.    

It is not by mistake that no one party had a clear majority in the parliamentary votes.  

The decision Ghanaians have consciously made is that the days of rubber-stamping of unpopular policies are over.  We are going to get serious about the way forward for Ghana and no majority will lord it over us.  The checks and balances that we need going forward in our democracy, has been acclaimed by Ghanaians.  People are also going to be wide awake and many more pressure groups will spring up and work actively to bring out for public scrutiny and discussion matters that affect the well-being of Ghana.

Governance of the country is going to be curious and certainly, the next Parliament will be the spot to watch for the next four years.   It will be a historic moment for our legislative process and a new dawn on the politics of this nation.  The 'House master' and 'House prefects' will have some very hard nuts to crack on the floor of Parliament.  We wait to see.

The Electoral Commission has really done a great job and shown the world what it is capable of.  We are grateful to the commission, our security forces and, indeed, all Ghanaians for demonstrating maturity and tolerance for  one another.  It certainly would not be out of place to propose the name Peace or 'Asomdwee' as the middle name of every Ghanaian.  

 Yes, only peace-loving people could have safely steered clear from the pre-election tides, tensions and apprehensions, which at some point, had scared some of us to death.  Ghana clearly has been a victor in all this. 

By Vicky Wireko 

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2008

The author has 236 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: DailyGraphic

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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