It is disappointing that political parties have over the years used their manifestoes as a decoy to win political power. After the election, the winning party most often fails to fulfil the greater part of its manifesto. The current state of not placing any obligation on the political party which eventually wins power to implement the manifesto it promised has reduced election manifestos to a mere rhetoric to hoodwink unsuspecting electorate. There is the need to make it mandatory for political parties to demonstrate how they intend to implement plans of the National Development Planning Commission and Chapter six of the 1992 Constitution, so that this becomes constitutionally and legally binding on the political party which shall emerge victorious after the election. For the avoidance of doubt, Chapter Six of the Constitution operationalizes Articles 34 to 41 by pigeonholing state policy in terms of Economic, Social, Educational and Cultural Objectives. Article 34 says “the directive principles of State Policy shall guide all citizens, Parliament, President, Judiciary, Council of State, Cabinet, Political Parties and other bodies in making policy decision for the establishment of a just and free society.” This will also ensure that new governments do not truncate projects initiated by their predecessors as provided in the constitution which states inter-alia, as far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments. It is true that some parties have managed to implement at least a fraction of the plans they promised in their election manifestos.
However, observers are apprehensive that the zeal with which manifestoes are propagated prior to elections is entirely different when it comes to implementation. It is interesting to note that in the 2008 manifesto of the NDC, the party promised inter alia to separate the Attorney General’s Department from the Ministry of Justice, establish a pre-school training college in each of the ten regions, provide every Ghanaian with a job from which they can earn their livelihoods and, not to introduce any new taxes. Similarly, in the 2000 Manifesto of the NPP, they promised to replace slums with high-rise buildings, cut rice importation by 30%, make Ghana a leading agro-based industrial country in Africa by growing what we eat, eating what we can and can what we cannot, introduce a Farmers' and Fisherfolks Security Trust to cater for them in their times of need and in their old age. Can anyone say that the NDC and NPP were able to fulfil these promises? Certainly not! And here again, how can we take such highly alluring promises like “Dumsor shall be a thing of the past,” “We shall transform lives,” “We shall reduce fuel drastically,” “We shall eradicate unemployment,” and “We shall root out corruption,” while in fact and indeed, they are growing, or more precisely, have reached alarming proportions? It is very obvious that many party manifestoes are filled with lies, mediocrity and populist appeal. The ostensibly divine principle that if the party in power fails to implement its manifesto, it is up to the electorate to vote it out of office in the next election may not help our development, because we live in a country where a vast majority of voters allow themselves to be carried away by the passing and material temptations thrown at them due to economic insecurity, ignorance and illiteracy. Sadly, majority of voters remain the same old folks, who easily become victims to the worldly freebies like bags of rice, saucepans, IPADs, cars, roofing sheets, mobile phones, flat screen TVs, fertilizers and cash from political parties. It is quite possible, of course, that some voters generally lack the discerning faculties to assess the relative merits and demerits hidden in political party manifestos.
Such voters are likely to succumb to fiscal allurements; and this sort of intellectual deprivation is likely to land the entire country in troubled waters. This growing menace of presenting a “rosy picture” in a manifesto and tempting the electorate with a “cozy life” must be checked to ensure that there is some semblance of respect, honesty, probity and accountability in public life.
BY PAA KOW ACKON, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR OF THE PPP.