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Political Parties Must Reform - Kwesi Jonah   
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The Head of the Political Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Kwesi Jonah, has urged political parties to reform in a bid to strengthen the country's democratic process.

He said although parties had made considerable contributions towards democracy in the past 16 years, their failure to develop and disseminate ideology to influence policy, produce more women MPs, conduct productive policy debates and run functional offices in the regions and constituencies, among other things, are inimical to the country's further democratic development.

Dr Jonah was speaking on the topic: "The electoral process, political parties and the media," at a symposium at the 61st Annual New Year School last Monday.

His focus was on political parties while Mr Samuel Yorke Aidoo, the Director of Human Resource of the Electoral Commission (EC), and Dr Audrey Gadzekpo, Director of the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Legon, focused on the electoral process and the media respectively.

Pointing out the significant contributions of parties to democracy, he said they had, through the inter-party advisory committee, suggested very useful reforms such as the use of transparent ballot boxes, holding of parliamentary and presidential elections on the same day and the review of the bloated voters register.

Others, he said, were the replacement of voter identity cards without photographs with ID cards with photographs, balloting for positions on the ballot paper and making possible the alternation of power twice in the 2000 and 2008 elections.

He said in spite of that, political parties in Ghana had failed in many aspects.

For example, Dr Jonah said, with the exception of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), all parties had failed to operate offices in all the regional and district capitals as prescribed by the law.

He said some parties had also failed to comply with the EC's directive to provide a statement of account, adding that the situation was getting worse.

Providing statistics to back his claim, he said while in 2000 only two parties failed to comply with that directive, in 2006, only two parties complied.

Dr Jonah said each of the major parties, namely the NDC, NPP, the People's National Convention (PNC), and the Convention People's Party (CPP), had strong ethnic bases and were male dominated, which were unhealthy for democracy.

According to him, there is also no internal democracy in parties, especially during primaries, adding that people are bribed and coerced to vote for particular contenders.

What is more, ideology is not significant to political parties.

"If a party says it is a social democratic party, it is no guide to what the party will do when it comes to power. Parties themselves are not consistently ideological in their campaigns and public pronouncements," he added.

He recommended some support programmes to build the capacity of political parties and to help them to reform and keep abreast of the times.

He also called on the government and the public to provide financial assistance to the parties to support their capacity-building efforts.

Financial support, he said, should be contingent on capacity building.

Mr Yorke Aidoo, for his part, urged political parties to avoid vote buying and desist from the use of vulgar and insulting language during electioneering.

He also urged them to be truthful in disseminating social and economic ideas to the electorate.

The media, he said, should demonstrate fairness, objectivity and balance in the coverage of elections and must not incite ethnic violence.

"The behaviour of certain media organisations in this country does not inspire confidence that the country is insulated from media-inspired violence," he said.

On the role of the EC to ensure peaceful elections, Mr Aidoo said the commission needed to be adequately resourced and personnel professionally trained and motivated.

The participation of stakeholders in decision-making at the EC, he added, and the sensitisation of the electorate that the EC could not rig elections for any party was important.

Dr Gadzekpo, for her part, said there were obvious deficits in media performance in the 2008 election and added that their conduct suggested a dangerous lack of maturity.

She urged media regulatory bodies to regulate media content.

The Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, who chaired the session, said democracy was not all about elections but also what happened between elections, adding that the intolerance seen during elections began in between elections.

He said inter-party intolerance was very evident in the past one year leading to impunity within the country where people were harassed and the perpetrators never punished.
Source: Daily Graphic/Ghana

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