It may sound stupid or inconsistent with reason or common sense for one to say that Ghana has an emperor under a democracy because under a proper democracy the leaders and for that matter, the president are voted into office for the number of years specified in the constitution.
An emperor, on the other hand, is a male ruler or leader with undisputed powers who controls a nation until his demise or overthrow. The term Emperor may be chronologically misplaced in modern day life but in Ghana, one can technically invoke the term base on the things the president can do as the constitution and the political system allow and sanction.
Emperors although not common in recent memory has unchecked and undisputed powers and no one ever questions his authority with respect to his decisions. His unlimited or undisputed power makes him all-conquering larger than life figure over the nation.
I would like to enumerate some of the things the president of the republic can do without any restriction whatsoever. Some people may disagree on some of the sections/ provisions of the constitution but looking from the perspective of true individual freedom and independence and the circumstances surrounding the period when the constitution was written, the people who wrote it and how the constitution was written, the independence of various institutions and the separation of powers was and has been absent to say the least. Before I get into the details of the issues I want to address in this paper, I would like to be categorically clear that I have NO POLITICAL AFFILIATION and I have not voted for the past 16years in any of the elections.
I have looked at the issues from the perspective of both NPP and NDC party respectively. The issues I would like to discuss will cause some sections of the population including those whose positions have no political affiliation to be uncomfortable or even threatened because their job may be on the line some day as a consequence.
The President appoints the Chairman of the Electoral Commissioner, the two deputies, and other four (4) members on the advice of the Council of State according to the 1992 constitution. The chairman having the same term and condition of service as Appeal Court Judge means that the position is a lifetime appointment. Similarly, the two deputies have the same term and conditions of service as a Justice of the High Court (lifetime appointment) while other four members’ terms of office are silent (but assumed or implied, a life time appointment) but the condition of service is comparable to that of a parliamentarian.
It should be noted that during the years when there is no major elections, the chairman, the two deputies, the four other members and for that matter everyone working at the electoral commission are either unemployed or under-employed but they are being paid. Major elections are conducted during every four years so three years out of the four all these people are either employed or under-employed and yet the nation pays salaries monthly to these people. What a waste! The commission according to the 1992 constitution has other functions including educating the people on the electoral process and its purpose; undertaking programs for the expansion of the registration of voters (but not making it fraud-free); and to perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law under the constitution.
Who or what regulatory authority supervises to make sure that the commission is performing or has performed these functions over the years. I may not know the salary of Appeal Court Judge, High Court Judge, a parliamentarian or any of the people working at the electoral commission but Ghana is paying huge sums of money which are a waste of the nation’s scarce resources. Democracy is expensive but trusts me ours is too expensive for the nation to emerge out of our financial problems.
I believe if the democracy that the nation was looking in the late 1980s was not this emperor appointed and untouchable bureaucrats, then it would have been better for the nation to remain under the dictatorship- I mean under the PNDC government. The best type of democracy is the one in which the people are not afraid of their government but rather the government being afraid of the people. From this perspective, the elected leaders become accountable and responsive to the plights and issues affecting the electorate.
Besides the financial and other wastes with the electoral commission, the issue of lifetime appointment presents more serious problems. Apart from death, the constitution did not state any other cause for the removal of any of the leaders at the commission. No one supervises, regulates, or reviews the work of the commission. The electoral commission shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority says the constitution. If the president supervises or reviews the work of the electoral commission that also represents a conflict of interest because the president is the only person under the constitution who is suppose to be a politician and the civil servant simultaneously.
So under what capacity is the president going to review the work of the electoral commission? Since the president belongs to a political party his ability to review or supervises the electoral commission is questionable. Where is the accountability or even the incentive for the commission or the commissioner to be efficient? The lifetime appointment means there is no incentive for efficiency or effectiveness in the work of the electoral commission. Since 1992, what major improvements or changes have the electoral commissioner under Dr. Afari Gyan instituted either mandatory or voluntarily to reduce election fraud, improve voter registration or public education? Nothing.
Life time appointment also suggests that the commission becomes untouchable. Criticism in any form on the work of the electoral commission or on its leadership from any political party is viewed with cynicism from either political party. In a situation when there arise a tangible cause to remove anyone on the leadership at the commission base on non-performance or gross misbehavior, either party will accuse the other of wanting to rig the elections. The Electoral Commission in Ghana has become the holy cow which no one can touch. Even the president who appointed the commission may find it very difficult to remove any of the members.
I have examined the elections in USA, Belgium, Canada, Norway and Denmark; they all have a commission who is voted for to handle elections in various regions of the respective countries. There is no centralize lifetime appointed bureaucrat with powers to handle all elections. In the USA, for instance, every state has a secretary of state with qualification and skills who conduct election base on rules already established. Since the electoral commission is voted for with term limits there is always the incentive for the commissioner to improve upon the voting process by reducing fraud and other irregularities. Lack of performance on the part of the secretary will cause him/her to be fired in the next elections.
Also, everybody’s vote is counted since everyone has an ID. Voters’ registration is conducted throughout the year base on a person’s ID and the resident or precinct. There is no way the votes can exceed the number of registered voters within any particular voting precinct. In the USA voting need not necessarily has to be on the voting day because they know everyone who is eligible to vote in any elections. The ID mechanism allows polling data to be compiled with accuracy in predicting the outcome of the elections.
The issue of voter registration has been very contentious in every election since independence. Nothing has been done on the issue and every election it comes up again for debate and discussion.
We need to realize that problems with the electoral commission which was created by the constitution do not and will not go away by themselves. The debate over the issue had been unending over the years. Can we get leadership at the commission to rise up to the occasion and say enough of this rat race? Who is supposed to show leadership in addressing this pertinent issue by making our elections and democracy a little serene and civil? What policies have been instituted to reduce or eliminate the problems with voter fraud based on the commission’s mandated constitutional functions since 1992? Nothing. The commission’s function of undertaking programs for the expansion of the registration of voters has outlived its usefulness hence outmoded.
For instance, in Great Britain, they have National Identification and in the USA they have Social Security Numbers. These numbers are given at birth so everyone has it. With this ID people are able to obtain drivers’ license or photo ID which becomes one’s voter ID throughout the nation for all elections. The personal ID makes it possible for the nation of over 300million people to organize for elections without much problem. It a shame that Ghana has less than 10 percent of the US population and yet it is impossible to have an election that is free from fraud and irregularities. This national ID system has the potential to solve many of the problems the nation has been facing and the issue of election fraud will be a thing of the past.
The nation will be able to know the entire population (through the national database) so conducting the census and compiling election results will be very easy. Elections result dispute will be a thing of the past and our courts will have fewer problems on their hands. To be continued…
Source: Frederick Ofosu-Amankwah