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16.09.2004 General News

Abuse of incumbency, a major threat to Ghana's Democracy - CDD

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Accra, Sept. 16, GNA - Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), on Thursday said official corruption and abuse of political incumbency were major threats to the sustenance of multi-party democracy in Ghana. He said incumbency advantage - the use of state resources to enhance the fortunes of the ruling party in an impending election - had been a major concern since the 1992 elections, with the opposition parties complaining vehemently over the incumbent's advantage and electoral fraud.

In the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections, the then ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) was the main target of the accusation, but as the nation prepares for this year's elections in December the accusation has shifted against the current administration of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Speaking at a training workshop in Accra by the CDD-Ghana for election monitors, Prof Gyimah-Boadi said officials elected as a result of electoral corruption were less likely to contribute to the creation of a political environment of integrity and effectiveness. Topics being treated Public/Civil Servants and Elections: Abusing Administrative Resources (Laws, Regulations and Procedures), Understanding the Checklist, and Format/ Template for Reporting. Professor Gyimah-Boadi said real or imagined perceptions and accusations undermined the credibility of the elections and the legitimacy of the government emerging from it. "Worse still, they have the potential to undermine the confidence of the opposition parties and the public in the entire democratic process. "They pose a mortal threat to the very essence of multi-party democracy," Prof. Gyimah-Boadi said.

Alhaji Mohamed Abdulai, a Member of the Civil Society Monitoring and Evaluation Project of the CDD-Ghana, urged the monitors to be guided by the electoral laws, including the Code of Conduct of political parties, and report accurately findings. They should also not to go about arguing with people, he said, and reminded them that election results from the press, television and radio stations were temporary and that only the Electoral Commission (EC) certified the election results.

Mr Benjamin Godwyll, former Ghana Ambassador to Ethiopia, who chaired the opening ceremony, asked the monitors to be "foot-soldiers" with a good checklist in the field. Fifty constituencies and the state-owned media have been targeted under the CDD-Ghana Abuse of Incumbency Project. The criteria used for the selection of the constituencies include newly created constituencies, constituencies where Ministers of State are contesting to the be Members of Parliament, constituencies that fall within newly created districts, constituencies keenly contested in 2000 and are likely to be keenly contested again during the 2004 polls and constituencies which are traditional strongholds of the political divides.

Organised with the support of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy of the United Kingdom, the workshop would equip the participants with the skills to observe the use or abuse of incumbency, and how to report it. It is a follow-up to a project the CDD-Ghana designed to monitor the abuse of incumbency in the run up to the December elections.

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