Ghana’s Democracy: Quo vadis?

Depending on which side one belongs, being a Ghanaian in these post-Covid times in Ghana could worsen one’s Maalox moments or give one hope for 2024. It is too soon yet, but the current standoff between the very thin majority and the hilarious minority is a thing to think about. We have a political soccer match in Parliament, and a referee fixated more on his position in the tripartite setup in the Republic and struggling to stay neutral. The current brouhaha in Ghana’s parliament calls more for reflection on the future of the West African nation and the possibilities open to the country in the circumstances of the situation. It is a dual-pronged possibility that could go either way.

The 2020 general elections produced a hung parliament of 137 for each party and an independent. Fortunately for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) the only independent opted to caucus with it in parliament and put the NPP in a thin majority. Ghanaians have a name for the kind of voting they did.  They call it “skirt and blouse.” One may decide to vote for the president but wouldn’t vote for his party’s parliamentary candidate for various reasons. Frustration with the ruling party at the local levels, among other reasons, could produce such attitudes among supporters. In some cases, voters may decide not to vote at all- voter apathy. Despite [EO1] the many firsts and good programs the ruling NPP has rolled out so far, some party members could not be convinced to be compensated by the party enough to vote for their local representatives.

In an article in Bloomberg, Dontoh et al (Ghana’s Hung Parliament Sets President Up for Tough Term, Bloomberg, December 18, 2020) warn of the tough term ahead of the ruling NPP administration, and it is manifesting in the uproar over the 2022 budget statement presented by Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta on November 17.

The current crisis over the budget is one such issue that puts a brake on the ruling government’s efforts to get work done in parliament and promises a tough time for the government. In its current makeup, the minority in Parliament can frustrate the majority’s efforts to “act decisively to restore an economy hurt by the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Such situations call for skills in negotiation and understanding of the issues at stake. Governments in certain times plan in response to the existing conditions, economically and politically. And any government, irrespective of party political affiliation, could be a victim of such a situation and condition. Law makers who possess negotiation skills usually hold on to their parliamentary positions much longer than colleagues lacking in negotiation skills. Joe Biden, as President Barack Obama’s vice helped Obama to meet many of the challenges posed by Senate leadership during the latter’s tenure. Skills alone do not make negotiations successful and must be underlined by patriotism and love of country.

Loyalty to party is not enough. Whether in parliament or government, love of country precedes every other skill. It is what could persuade presidents to appoint even opposition members to some positions in government. It is also a common occurrence in the United States. But in Ghana skilled negotiators may not be scarce but patriotism could be a quality not so common to find. Party loyalty, on the other hand, is not uncommon but is for a price. Patriotism knows no party limits. What is good for the nation is what patriots allude to.

This time around Ghana’s opposition party in parliament voted to shoot down the budget – for the second time in the country’s history. It took the government party with a majority of one to also reverse the position of the minority in the absence of the substantive speaker of the house. Experts in parliamentary procedures and rules question the haste in which the speaker allowed a vote on the budget in the absence of the majority that had earlier walked out. The acrimony that the majority’s act has generated notwithstanding, it has become obvious that no party holds sway over the other in such situations.

The political establishment in Ghana flows around the two major political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC). The two have dominated the political landscape since the beginning of the 4th Republic. A victory for any one of them implies a convincing parliamentary majority that supports the winning president. Until 2021, debates in the parliament have always been a done deal by the majority. This time around it is not going to be easy for the majority of one.

Ghanaians may take solace from the fact that rubber stamping in parliament would cease, at least for the next three years. The dicey situation created by the hung Parliament could afford the minority some controlling opportunities at some times and can make things tough for the ruling government.

Amandla is hopeful for Ghana’s future even in the face of the uncertainty of the current circumstances: Lessons to be learned under a hung parliament will go a long way to deepen democracy in the country.

Posted by on Dec 14 2021. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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