The Institute of Economic Affairs, which is a renowned Public Policy Institute, has announced its intention to organize three Presidential debates in a segregated format. The first will be for parties with representation in parliament, followed by parties without representation in parliament and finally a two horse race between President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress and Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo of the New Patriotic Party. The decision was taken without consulting the political parties concerned. The IEA would like Ghanaians to believe it is committed to deepening and consolidating multi-party democracy, and the promotion of issue-based elections in Ghana; yet they find nothing wrong with segregating Presidential debates. Why has the IEA not consulted the Electoral Commission of Ghana to determine which of the political parties has fulfilled the requirement of the Political Parties law, Act 574? The introduction of “political parties with representation in Parliament” to legitimize a political party is alien and an affront to the Constitution of Ghana.
In 2000, when the so-called “Parties with Representation in Parliament” snubbed the debate, was it not the likes of Goozie Tanoh of the National Reform Party, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobby of the United Ghana Movement and the late Dan Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party, who saved the IEA from that embarrassment? Did they have “representation in Parliament” when they were invited to save the day? It is important to have all qualified Presidential Candidates on a single platform to dialogue and discuss policies and programmes and answer questions from the electorate. The 2000 Presidential debate was quite useful and healthy because each Candidate who participated was able to deliver their message on a massive public stage; which provided opportunity for committed and undecided voters to get to know the candidates on an in-depth level. If the IEA believes that “those who wish to govern must subject themselves to probing questions by the people, to ensure that they understand their concerns, and have the capacity to address them” then where from this blatant discrimination and obvious disregard to the Constitution of Ghana and the Political Parties Law? Some have argued that the IEA is a private organization and can therefore do anything as it pleases. Well, that argument can be upheld in a despotic absolute monarchy and not under a constitutional order as exists in Ghana. The IEA believes that the creation of an environment in which economic, social, political and legal institutions function openly and freely is key to sustainable economic growth and human development”. If this is the mission of IEA, why has it veered off this “free and fair market” path and is rather promoting apartheid programmes in Ghana?
If the IEA is serious about organizing Presidential debates, why has it decided to organize a segregated debate with emphasis on promoting NDC and NPP? The interest of the IEA should not be about promoting NDC and NPP whose policies over the years are perceived to have redistributed wealth to rich owners of capital, reproducing inequality and apartheid geographies in Ghana. Perhaps, the IEA is not aware that these two parties seemed to have failed the nation and that there is a huge call from the masses to change this borrowed “by force” two-party system of governance. Does the IEA know that discrimination, and its social ramifications have the potential of damaging the morale of a political party’s supporters and consequently causing such supporters to react with feelings of inferiority and a sense of personal humiliation? Segregation in all its forms does not only perpetuate rigid stereotypes and reinforces negative attitudes towards members of the other group, but also leads to the development of a socio-political climate within which violent outbreaks of tensions are likely to occur. It is the view of some connoisseurs that substantial discrimination by the IEA is likely to push Ghana further down the path of chaos and destruction, because an “invisible hand” has decided that the voice of the impoverished, weak, marginalized and disenfranchised should rather be heard on a cut off platform. The IEA cannot use the guise of “this is how we have always done it and political parties have participated in such debates before”. The Institute cannot use its subjective view to create an objective reality of Ghana. It must stop imposing upon voters a distorted sense of political reality because Ghanaians are wide awake.
BY PAA KOW ACKON, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS OF THE PPP