Ghana, Malawi, South Sudan Share Experiences On Democracy

A former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Ayikoi Otoo, has urged political parties to move away from writing voluminous manifestoes which are hardly understood by the ordinary people if they want to stay relevant. He explained that for political parties to remain relevant, it was not huge manifestoes and politicians in “big coats’’ alone that counted, but simple manifestoes that took into account the needs of the ordinary man. Mr Ayikoi Otoo was addressing the opening of a two-day workshop organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs for representatives of Malawian and South Sudanese political parties and their Ghanaian counterparts in Accra last Monday. He spoke on the theme: ‘’Issue-based and ideologically founded party politics’’. He explained that Dr Kwame Nkrumah relied heavily on ordinary people such as taxi drivers, teachers and market women to win elections over the intelligentsia in the country because of universal adult suffrage, which was based on the principles of ‘one man, one vote’. He said because of the universal adult suffrage, any party that relied solely on the property-owning class to win elections stood the risk of losing out on the ordinary people who formed the majority of the voters, adding that political parties ought to make conscious attempts to win more ordinary people. According to Mr Ayikoi-Otoo, political parties were the bedrock of democracy and assisted in shaping and influencing the social and economic programmes of their respective countries. In line with this, he pointed out that any political party that wanted to remain relevant ought ro refrain from imposing their candidates on their party members. Concerning internal organisation of political parties, Mr Ayikoi-Otoo said it ought to conform with democratic principles. He said impositions and selection of officers did not augur well but since they discourage democratic dispensation. Happily, he observed, political parties had now realised the destruction that could be caused and were shifting from that practice by embracing democratic principles within their parties. He said it was not for nothing that the framers of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution made it clear that no political party in the country should be formed along ethnic, religious or regional groupings. He indicate that Ghana had been able to shift emphasis from personality-based politics to issues- based politics due to reforms taking place in political parties. Mr Blessing Chinsinga, a member of the Malawian delegation who presented a paper on ‘’Understanding Politics in Malawi”, said because Malawi institutions such as the judiciary and legislature were not fully independent, the President and his people were controlled the citizens under the facade of democracy. He said it was not the state institutions alone that were under the control of the Presidency,but the private sector that had to depend on the government for contracts in order to survive.This,he noted, had led to the joke that the private sector did not exist in Malawi. Mr Chinsinga said Malawi had a lot to learn from Ghana, which unlike Malawi, was shifting from strong-man politics to issues-based politics. Mr Ramadan Mohammed Abdallah, who spoke on behalf of the South Sudanese delegation, said South Sudan, the would hold its first general elections in 2015 after declaring its independence in 2011. Mr Abdallah said the outcome of the elections would taste indicate for the first time whether the democracy being promised by the leaders was genuine or not.