Ghana has heralded the values and principles of democracy so highly that, in many ways, it serves as a reference point for contemporaries on the continent and across the world.
Despite this achievement, there are areas where constitutional amendments or the introduction of new laws are deemed necessary to further enhance democracy in the country.
The current 1992 constitution, which has been in effect for the longest period in Ghana’s history, is undoubtedly here to stay. However, many believe that adjustments should be made to areas such as the powers granted to the president, the structure and operation of local government, and the emoluments given to public officers, among others.
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, in his last State of the Nation Address, for instance, advocated for considering a five-year tenure for presidents instead of the current four-year term.
During his tenure, the late President John Evans Fiifi Atta Mills established a Constitutional Review Commission, which embarked on the arduous task of collecting inputs from across the country. The commission submitted its final report in 2011, a year after its establishment.
Despite all the efforts and discussions surrounding this process, the constitution has yet to undergo major transformations that address the acknowledged challenges it currently faces.
However, it is interesting to note how easily and effectively these changes are implemented at the political party level. Both major political parties in the country have recently made constitutional amendments that have brought about considerable changes in their internal operations.
For example, the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP), which will be holding elections later this year to select a flagbearer, experienced a prolonged electoral contest in 2007, with 17 candidates vying for the position heading into the 2008 General Elections. This led to various controversies, including the controversial book by one of the candidates, Dr. Arthur Kennedy, titled ‘Chasing The Elephant into the Bush.’ Subsequently, the party made amendments to prevent a recurrence of such controversies.
They introduced the concept of a super-delegate congress aimed at narrowing down the number of candidates in cases where there are more than five contenders. The selection of the flagbearer is determined through voting during this congress, before the larger congress takes place to elect the final candidate.
In the case of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), recent amendments have been made to the party’s offices. For instance, the position of Propaganda Secretary has been abolished. Another significant change is the election of the presidential flagbearer. Instead of a centralized election process, elections are now conducted at the constituency level and the results are collated to determine the party leader.
Prior to this the elections have happened at the national congress level (centralized) and branch (subset of the constituency). Ongoing discussions also involve amendments regarding who should have the right to vote in these internal elections, with calls for all card-bearing members to participate, as many argue that it would help prevent instances of vote-buying. Others say this will also show what the true will of the larger party is.
The question that arises is why similar changes and amendments have not been seen at the national level. The revisions proposed by the Constitutional Review Commission since 2011 have yet to be implemented.
Considering the comprehensive and conclusive nature of the commission’s work, which addressed many of the challenges Ghana faces today, there should have been a strong commitment to incorporating and implementing these changes.
This is particularly relevant because Ghana’s governance in the Fourth Republic has largely been dominated by two political parties, the NPP and NDC. While these parties may be dedicated to strengthening their internal democratic processes, it is essential to ensure that Ghana as a whole progresses in its democratic journey.
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By: Samuel Swanzy-Baffoe