An Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Professor Ransford Gyampo, has called on the Electoral Commission (EC) to ensure the rigid implementation of the country’s electoral laws so that only political parties that can satisfy those laws will be made to exist.
According to him, the idea of building strong institutions was to have all the rules and implement them. But instead, he observed, the minor political parties in the country had only existed as “surreptitious branches of the major political parties.”
As of 2019, there are 24 political parties listed on the website of the EC. The commission's latest data on political parties shows most of them do not contest in general elections and only exist on paper.
Implement the rules of the game
Speaking in an interview with the Daily Graphic, Prof. Gyampo said “the rules of the game, the rules that govern everything, must first of all be there. Apart from the rules being there, they must be known by all. Beyond that, they must be implemented and apart from rules being implemented, they must be predictable such that when one runs foul of the rules, there should be that predictability as to what the ramifications are.”
Thereafter, he added, the rules ought to be internalised to be respected to the point that they become part and parcel of the lives of the people.
Prof. Gyampo, who was speaking to the issue of the role of the minor political parties in the country and the role they were playing within the political and governance space of the country, explained that the 1992 Constitution defined the country as a multi-party democracy and that in political science, when a country operated a multi-party democratic system, it meant there were more than two political parties of more or less, equal strength such that in case of any major political contestation, “it is difficult for any major political party to win a clear majority of the votes without support from other minor political parties.”
Weak election machines
But, according to him, the minor political parties in the country were so weak and “Just election machines.”
He said, “They are not political parties. They are election machines that surface during election times and go to sleep after elections. Moreover, they do not have the strength that makes them so important for the other major political parties to borrow votes from them during major elections.”
Prof. Gyampo posited that what happened in the 2012 and 2016 elections was evident that the major political parties did not need the support of the minor parties.
So Ghana, essentially and technically speaking, he said, was a two-party state.
Making a comparison, he said in two-party states such as Britain and the US, there were other political parties but the constitution recognised the two major parties.
Going further, he said, there were other parties that existed to promote other interests.
“That is to say, those parties were formed but not with the aim of winning political power but to promote a certain interest such as the environment.”
EC must be courageous
He, therefore, emphasised that “If we will not amend our Constitution to have a two-party state but still claim to be a multi-party democracy, then the EC should have the courage to implement the rules that ensure that only political parties worth their salt exist.”
According to him, the EC in ensuring that all electoral laws were properly and rigidly enforced ought to be mindful of the fact that because those minor political parties were enjoying the benefits and sponsorship of the major political parties, they would react, not on their own but at the instance of the major political parties but the EC must be resolute in ensuring that the right thing was done.
Civil society and other stakeholders must support the EC to ensure that it was done.
He recounted that the immediate past Commissioner of the EC, Ms Charlotte Osei, in the lead up to the 2016 election, made the move to sanitise the system but unfortunately, the major political actors did not support her.
“The key electoral stakeholders in Ghana, civil society and other stakeholders did not support her”, he pointed out.
He was of the view that “the minor political parties that do not have the muscle to win any major election, also exist as surreptitious branches of the major political parties. They are sponsored by the major political parties that in case it gets to the crunch and there was the need for a public acceptance and support, then they would be relied on.”
Sometimes, he said, the major parties relied on them as a way of getting votes and getting their voices heard at key meetings such as the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC) meetings saying, “When you go to IPAC meetings, you see that the minor political parties pitch camp either with the NPP or the NDC just to give them full support”.
Behind the scenes moves
That was the reason why when Charlotte Osei decided to crack the whip to ensure that the electoral rules were enforced to ensure that the political parties worth their salt existed, she did not get the support from the major political parties.
The major political parties, he pointed out, were actually behind the scenes sponsoring the minor parties to go to court just to ensure that they continued to exist.
Prof. Gyampo, who is also the Head of the Youth Bridge Research Institute, reiterated his call that, “I call on Ghanaians and all major electoral stakeholders to ensure that we act to give true meaning to our situation as a multi-party democracy.”
In that regard, he called on the EC to ensure the rigid implementation of the country’s electoral laws so that only political parties that could satisfy those laws would be made to exist.