Elections Monitoring and Observation
FONAA trains Ghanaians on how to mark a ballot appropriately to minimize the number of spoilt votes in general elections, and also trains women to engage in leadership roles.
For a country with an entrenched democracy, Ghana has too few women in political leadership roles. In the 2016 presidential elections, 167, 349, about 1.7%, and in the parliamentary elections, about 111,137, votes were spoiled.
Ghana has held quadrennial general elections successfully since 1992 and different political parties have won general elections and different individuals have won the presidential elections. In the 2016 presidential elections, the incumbent, John Mahama, lost and handed over to the same individual who challenged him in 2012. Now, for the 2020 elections, President Akufo-Addo is going to face the same candidate he beat in 2016.
The contest between Mahama and Akufo-Addo for the presidency of Ghana is a draw, because, in 2012, President John Mahama beat President Akufo-Addo. Ghana is going to set another world record in Ghana’s 2020 presidential elections. It will be the first time two candidates have challenged each other three times, in twelve years.
Ghana has a deepened democracy compared to its counterparts in the West Africa subregion.
In Cote d’Ivoire, presidential elections in 2000 ended up in a decade long civil war. Another attempt at presidential elections in 2010 led to another civil war and new president was not sworn in until 2012.
In Togo, which borders Ghana to the east, President Gnassingbe has won three consecutive quinquennial elections since 2005. The President Gnassingbe took over the government when his father, the sitting president of Togo, passed away in 2005.
In Burkina Faso, Ghana’s neighbor to the north, President Blaise Campaore seized power in 1987 and ruled until 2014, when he was removed.
Ghana has a peaceful past, but many challenges remain.
Still some voters in Ghana do not know how to mark a ballot, and, in tight elections, the spoilt ballots could swing the elections from one party to another.
In Presidential elections, Ghana’s constitution requires a candidate to 50% of the votes to win in the first round. A ballot spoilage then could send an election into a second round and cause a defeat to a prospective first round winner.
Another challenge that Ghana faces is low female roles in political leadership. In Ghana, the percentage of female in political leadership is small, for a country where the number of women exceed men. Females parliamentarians number about 40 out a total of 275, and, since 1996, the number of women parliamentarians have stayed below 14% of the total.
Some reports have attributed the low female representation to the influence of money in Ghanaian politics. Since females earn much lower than men in Ghana, men obviously have more financial resources as their disposal when compared with women. Some have also assigned the lower female representation at the upper echelons of political space in Ghana to a cultural bias, which puts female in traditional family roles of caring for children whilst the men go out to seek for the whole family.
In addition, Ghana some political parties have a delegate, which selects about 10 people per polling station to vote in primaries that qualify candidates for candidacy for parliament. The period before elections is called cocoa season for party delegates, just like cocoa farmers get paid at harvest so does party delegates get paid behind the scenes to support a candidate. Political parties openly encourage delegates to demand money for their votes, leading to ostentatious vote buying, which works against a female with interest in politics but resent monecracy in the primaries.
Ghana has limited campaign finance laws. Politicians neither publish their tax returns nor their sources of income for campaigns. This situation of unchecked funding for political candidates, favors men with a higher social standing in political parties and limits not just women but even young people interested in politics as a career.
The money influence in politics has also hampered the political parties in educating the masses on how to select qualified candidates and how even the voting processes work.
Afia Pokua, a Ghanaian TV program host, popularly called Vim Lady, said that elections are not about just going to the polling station to vote on Dec 7, but also on the processes that happens before, during and after voting.
For example, political parties in Ghana charge very high fees to candidates seeking sponsorship from a political. In a country where the minimum wage is $2/day and where top level civil make $500 a month, the NPP charged candidates $10,000 to contest in its primaries. $10,000 is way out of the means of many Ghanaians and have more effect on women than on males. Add on top of this $10,000, the funds needed for campaigning, from primaries to general election, and unless you are from a family of wealth, politics in Ghana is untenable.
If this is the case, the democracy in myopic and benefits a small social class, and, again, excludes plenty of qualified women.
Stephen McNamee and Robert Miller of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington explains in their seminal ‘The Myth of Meritocracy’ that the greater the amount of economic inequity in society, the more difficult it is to move up within the system on the basis of individual merit alone.
The wrong notion is created in Ghana that as long as elections are conducted every four years and Ghana has peace, all is well and good, which might not be the case as the two political parties, NPP and NDC, maintain a revolving door in winning elections.
The test for an efficient democracy is limiting political corruption, improving lives and alleviating poverty.
The NDC and NPP is leaving behind a system that is failing females and the poor.