... party irked by accusations of 'moneytocracy' The New Patriotic Party (NPP) is to hold an emergency mini-congress next month, to consider some proposed amendments to their constitution. Speaking to the Chronicle in an interview last Thursday, the Press Secretary of the party, Mr. Kwadwo Afari, said top on the list of proposals that have come up so far is one that seeks to widen the selection of delegates at the polling station level.
The amendment seeks to widen representation of the party at the constituency level, by having all five executive officers there form part of the Electoral College, that vote at Constituency elections.
According to the Press Secretary this amendment would prevent or minimize corruption as was widely complained of in the primaries of the last elections, when only polling station chairmen were voting. Under this arrangement, constituencies like Madina-Abokobi which has 80 polling stations for example, would have all five members of the executive to be part of the electoral college to elect the Parliamentary candidate, meaning that there will be as many as 400 delegates.
The previous dispensation had only the chairman of the polling stations forming the electoral college to elect the MP, so that only 80 people as in the Madina example, will meet to elect the MP. An MP who could find c200,000 of c100,000.00 or even c1million to give to each of the delegates and camp them in a hotel away from the competitors was almost always likely to win the nomination. Now with 400 member electoral college, it will be very expensive to 'buy' more than 220 people.
It would be recalled that during the Constituency primaries, in the run up to the 2004 elections, there were many accusations by some party candidates, accusing their fellow contestants of bribing delegates.
The National Organizer of the party, Mr. Lord Commey, however, sees the widening of the Electoral College as a demonstration of the party's understanding of representative democracy, than checking corruption.
According to him what can be done to check corruption is to rewrite and enforce party guidelines against the practice. According to the National Organizer, a time-table for holding elections from the polling station level to the regional level are expected to be put forward.
Meanwhile, according to him polling station elections would start in April, and continue through to culminate in the National Annual Delegates Conference, to be held in September.
Another proposal, expected to come up is one seeking for the creation of two Deputy General Secretary positions. The need for the introduction of this position became apparent, as the appointment of the former General Secretary as a Minister, highlighted the need to have one or two substantive deputies automatically performing the functions of the General Secretary, when he is away.
Chronicle gathers that there were urgent discussions on how the party should go about selecting their candidates in such a way as to prevent the spate of corruption charges that has been rained on the party at the last elections by the NDC and which is irking the party's top men.
On of such document is titled NPP ELECTORAL PRIMARIES: A SEARCH FOR A NEW DIRECTION It reads in part: True to its democratic upbringing and credentials, the NPP developed what then looked like a fairly decent and acceptable way of selecting candidates our Parliamentary candidates.
In fine “theoretical” thinking, a mechanism was put in place whereby the chairpersons of the various polling stations in each constituency would constitute themselves into an electoral college, and select one candidate from amongst many, in a primary system. The underlying assumptions were, of course, based on a system akin to the Principle of 'Subsidiarity'.
The origins of this principle are rooted in the Catholic social ethics, elaborated in the second half of the nineteenth century and laid down in the papal encyclical, “Quadrigasimo anno” issued by Pope Pius XI in 1931. The essential tenet holds that the functions that can be performed by more local bodies should not be transferred to the higher or more central authorities, for every social activity should be an “aid”, a subsidium, to members of the social body, but not destroy or absorb them.
In paragraph 80 of the document, the Pontiff goes on to say that although the more central body, is not to take everyday details out of the hands of the local level, has the task of “directing, watching, stimulating and restraining, as circumstances suggest or necessity demands”.
The NPP has just gone through its primaries, the conduct of which clearly indicates that in spite of our best intentions, the system and the process has not worked to our credit and in the way we hoped it would. Indeed, it has become a detraction, distraction, and an unnecessary drain on valuable time and resources of the party and its members, and threatens its very credibility.
On average, aspiring MPs were reported to have 100 million cedis each on trying to get nominated. This raises a lot of concerns. After winning a primary, how much money will a candidate have left to spend on the general election?
Since no MP is cast in the natural role of a Father Christmas, the obvious expectation is that he or she will need to recoup the vast sums spent in one way or the other. Given the level of pay of MPs, one is sorely tempted to conclude that the means by which this will be done will be unsavoury or plainly illegal. That will not be helpful in nurturing our nascent democracy. Once bastardized, we will then continue to move from one level of degenerating to a more degenerate level.
To lessen the angst and anxiety we all feel about the current developments, some have sought to explain these sad and confused events as the “workings of our internal democracy” on one hand. On the other, many have lamented the fact that experienced Members of Parliament have lost out in these primaries and therefore, there must be something wrong.
On both counts, the assumptions and consequent conclusions are disagreeable. The internal workings of a democratic process are never chaotic or confused. After all, an essential contribution of democracy is order.
However, the outcomes of any democratic process are not predictable or tidy, and that is acceptable as a necessary part of the process. We must not confuse unpredictable outcomes with a confused and chaotic process. The two are very different.
It is true that the loss of experienced Members of the House will leave the House poorer for it. However, we ought to remember that the first mark of a true MP is the quality of SERVICE to his or her constituents, and not mere longevity of service.
Longevity certainly has its place, but it is not and must not be at the expense of dedicated service and representation. Therefore if constituents feel inadequately or ill-served by their MP, they owe a duty to themselves to replace such an MP, the fact of his or her enormous experience notwithstanding.
One should recall that in a democratic process, Parliament is not and should not be the first training grounds. Typically, a political operative would cut his teeth and sharpen his or her political skills from involvement in activities at the polling station level, graduating to district and constituency levels before making it into Parliament, ready with a complement of skills to his or her credit.
Our misfortune, as a nation, has been that the frequency of military interventions and all other forms of political instability did for a long while; freeze all these necessary means and avenues of political development. We have, constitutionally, compounded this injury by accepting that political activity at the polling station and district levels cannot be based on political party affiliation.
Thus, the very institutions that have been created to nurture and groom our future political activists and leaders are prevented from performing their legitimate functions. The problem of inexperience in Parliament, as we perceive it, would not be so bad if we as a nation took the work of Parliament seriously enough to provide the necessary resources and environment for them to do their work, but this will be a separate discussion for another day.
There is something wrong indeed, but it is not with the fact of having primaries per se, but with how the process has been managed. Here are a few pointers.
Inherent to the Principle of Subsidiarity, as it would apply to a democratic organization or process, is the representative composition of the local bodies. The local bodies here refer to the electoral colleges made up of the chairpersons of the polling stations in the various constituencies. One immediately begins to sense the flaw.
In this particular instance, since they themselves were not freely and fairly elected, we must question whose interest they were reflecting or representing and to whom were they finally accountable in case of gross misrepresentation or misconduct? Without such an exercisable recourse, it is clear that members of the various electoral colleges, as presently constituted, could choose to represent their own parochial pecuniary interest which may be at odds with what the membership of their polling areas wish for.
Underpinning the present discontent is that indeed, the members of the electoral colleges only represented their “pocket” interest by selling their votes to the highest bidder, in most cases, instead of the best candidate, and even the best candidates were “required” to pay in order to ensure they would get through.
A source close to the party who intimated The Chronicle about these deeply well thought edict, noted that Mr. Boakye Agyarko then the North American Coordinator of the NPP sent the proposal. Asked about the reports that Mr. Agyarko is seeking for election as the General Secretary of the party, he flatly denied it.