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09.07.2019 Feature Article

Democratic Surveying

Democratic Surveying
LISTEN JUL 9, 2019

DIf I were a lawmaker, never likely to be, though, I would sit my somewhere quietly to soberly reflect and introspect over whatever a researcher has found about me. I would be particularly cautious if what was said about me were to be unpalatable. The simple reason being the truth, that measuring the opinion of the governed, actually regularly measuring, is a pillar of democracy. In other words, a democracy that does not regularly measure the opinion of the ruled is short of something.

So surprising, because I learnt that from a book I first saw on the shelf of the library of Parliament House. The multi-chapter co-authored book, Defining and Measuring Democracy is edited by David Beetham. I am sure it is still sitting on that shelf. That book's proximity and accessibility apart, some architects of lawmaking in the motherland were researchers who, before entering the august house, earned their living by researching all kinds of issues and areas. Lawmaking in the motherland is, thus, not without the well versed in research.

That is why it surprises me that when a group of academics come out with the results of research, a lawmaking house will erupt in uproar. Of course, lawmakers are first politicians. And as for politicians who need the thumb print vote to qualify to be a lawmaker, they always want nice things to be said about them so the electorate will like and vote for them.

Researchers, especially in the social sciences, hardly produce uncontestable results. There are often conditions for arriving at certain results. Thus, researchers need to explain how they go about coming by their information and what they do to make sense of that information. Serious and credible researchers must show why their results are believable. But it's also one heck of a task explaining the inherent contradictions of 'deliberative opinion polling' or a 'qualitative survey' which may have produced the most accurate results of depth and spread.

Mobbing or bullying researchers for not explaining something that takes more than simple statements will not help anyone. It takes sitting down and trying to understand simultaneous counting and explaining when they are expected to be exclusive. For whatever reservations, though, academic freedom is sacrosanct as lawmaking when research interfaces with the politics of political actors.

Indeed, lawmaking and lawmakers need regular research for the electorate to appreciate what goes on with them. It is part of democratic governance that public institutions would continuously want to know what the public thinks about them: as to whether they are performing by their expectations.

It is actually dangerous for lawmakers to think no one sees and expects them to be directly contributing to the physical development of their areas. Indeed, lawmakers created for themselves a share of the Common Fund. Now there is a top-up of One Constituency (not District) One Million dollars. Monies accruing from these are for building schools, health facilities, markets and so on for constituents. People vying to be elected in my constituency have always promised facilities and even jobs. Measuring their success or failure in providing these, outside their other responsibilities should be understandable. No one campaigns to serve on a certain committee or initiate legislation (which our constitution totally discourages). The last time a group met an MP about his common fund, it was donation to funeral this and church harvest that.

Doers of facilities and amenities, MMDCEs are going to be elected. I wonder what the MP will campaign on, especially now that they have openly objected to being measured for delivering development. The onus's on them to ensure people know and understand their remit. If they don't, someone will do it for them. Of, course, even if they were to research themselves, others will still research them. It's part of giving a voice, in the silence of anonymity, to the voiceless masses.

Polling, surveying, call it what, is one important way of making citizens out of citizens; affirming citizen participation; one solid way of making citizens out of onlookers or spectators. It is a pillar of democracy (perhaps the fifth estate of the realm) that needs to stand strong and upright alongside all other defined democratic institutions. Let the MP collectively support academic freedom. Let it allow researchers to freely examine their performance.

Lawmakers, who assume and turn development agents, are required to face the consequences. Everyone knows the number of “ampɛbrɛ” who ingratiatingly exploited executive privilege, stole our money to bribe constituents with that stolen public money and to become lawmakers. As if that's not enough, after desecrating a fine building and its surroundings, somebody cannot want a 450 something without any scientific population projections. That many V8s alone will cost the motherland over a billion. Adɛn?! And they can't even countenance scrutiny.

By Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh

Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh
Kwasi Ansu-Kyeremeh, © 2019

The author has 136 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: KwasiAnsu-Kyeremeh

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