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23.01.2009 NPP News

Rethinking the NPP Constitution … Why we should debate our internal election procedures and widen our Electoral College

By The Statesman
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The NPP as a political party is often described as a party with no owners but has collective stake holders made up of people who believe in freedom and democratic values as captured by the words of Dr. JB Danquah  that [our party's] policy is to liberate the energies of the people for the growth of a property owning democracy in this land, with right to life, freedom and justice, as principles to which Government and laws of the land should be dedicated in order specifically to enrich life, property and liberty of each and every citizen'

In that sense the NPP belongs to all the people who hold the values of freedom, justice, democracy, liberal economy and respect for other peoples" lives.

 The NPP therefore takes its strength from its roots - the ordinary member - its foot soldiers, the over four million men and women who in the just ended elections gave the NPP 49.87% of the electoral votes.

However when it comes to the election of its national officers suddenly the NPP gets owners and gate keepers made up of an electoral college with constitutes less than 0.5% of the 4 million people I have just mentioned above.

The result of our lopsided internal electoral system is such that our men and women do not feel they belong. They do not feel a sense of authorship of NPP decisions and choices. They do not refer to NPP with the collective pronoun "we'.

Instead they use the second plural pronoun "you'. As a result you cannot blame these great numbers of men and women who do not take part in the electoral process, when they reject the party's choices of leaders. We saw this at Bekwai, Nkawkaw and Bosome-Freho and many places where we threw away golden opportunities.

Out of power but thankfully not with a humiliating election defeat, and under the strong and open-minded leadership of Nana Akufo-Addo, we as a party have a great opportunity to start a debate about how the NPP should be led and managed as a Party to prepare us for the battle for the next four years and beyond.

As many of us continue to play the unnecessary blame game, one of the issues that I would like the Party to think seriously about is the way it elects its leaders, especially its parliamentary candidates and the flag bearer.

There has been an ongoing debate in the Party including research and think tank deliberations since we got into power in 2001 to rethink our constitution and especially bring it in line with some of the current viewpoints being articulated by some members of the Party at home and in the diaspora.  

 In 2005 the NPP UK and Ireland threw in a challenge to the Party for this debate to start. We started our presentation with these very stark and chilling prophetic words:

"The UK & EIRE branch of our Party have a strong sense of foreboding vis-à-vis the NPP Presidential Candidate contest in 2008, bearing in mind the financial inducements and the electoral college tapping by certain aspiring candidates in the last Parliamentary primaries to manipulate the democratic process, thereby, not only gaining an undue advantage but more ominously, contorting the political landscape in our party.

Judging from the self inflicted wound in the selection of parliamentary candidates in 2004 and the concomitant effect on our party"s performance in elections 2004, one must concede that there are certain inherent limitations in our Party's constitution and we are quite certain that if we do not have an open attitude towards the review of the NPP's constitution vis-à-vis the 2008 Presidential contest, the present constitution could become the greatest obstacle to our future progress'.

These were telling words indeed but at the time the National Executives did not se the need to recommend the debate or indeed put it on the agenda for the 2005 or the 2006 Party Conferences.

Our Constitution was drawn in 1992 when, in fairness to our founding fathers, power and authority seemed distant aspirations.

When we won power in 2001 we soon realised that our party constitution could not stand the test of time. The roles for sitting and past presidents are completely missing, thus making President Kufuor a jigsaw piece that is out of place

At the present moment the Party elects its flag bearer through an electoral college which is made up of members of parliament, national officers, foundation members, regional and constituency level delegates in one straight ballot after a long drawn out campaign by as many presidential aspirants as possible.

To secure the votes needed to win in this one straight fight, which is often fraught with sound bites and very little policies, some times it becomes necessary to solicit for votes with all forms of pecuniary incentives.

Again many of the delegates come to the congress not even fully aware of what candidates really stand for but nevertheless will be their die hard supporters because of some affiliation.

The present system of one straight forward voting through an electoral college was put to the test during our last Congress in 2007 elections.

Many party members were not happy with the part presenting 18 candidates and some of the excesses candidates had to get through to secure them the ticket to represent the Party at the general elections.

There were great lessons from that experience and we do not want a repetition of that during our next presidential primaries and the election of our flag bearer for 2012

There is now a strong voice in the Party, both home and abroad calling for a debate in the way we elect our flag bearer and parliamentary candidates in future.

For the presidential candidate, the viewpoint is for the creation of a two-stage and a short listing system before presenting the candidates to an electoral college.

For parliamentary candidates, the viewpoint is a situation where all card bearing members of the party in each constituency get a chance to be part of the Electoral College that selects candidates.

These viewpoints are certainly worth a debate and consideration for the future if we are to avoid an election defeat while we are in the lead.

There is a proposal for the presidential aspirants to initially sell their ideas and policies to the parliamentary party and the elected regional officers where their ideas and policies will be put to test in a tough elimination chamber exercise.

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