The changes of governments that we have had in Ghana, even under the Fourth Republic, can we truly say that they are hundred per cent different from unconstitutional changes? Because when a government has left office, it only looks at the new government that comes in, pursues the officers and appointees of the former government, and we call onto the streets the same security agencies who will take control of the country when there are coups d'état.
So, we need to ask ourselves whether in spite of all the credentials that we have as a shining example, if we have developed the democratic culture. I think we have not yet developed the democratic culture, and that is why when we have a change of government, rather than have a civil way of handling differences, we send security men in uniform and not in uniform, to go following and arresting people with cars and what have you. It shows that we have not had the right attitude yet.
Mr Speaker, that has a lot to do with sustaining the democratic dispensation. Because if appointees see what would happen to them when they willingly hand over power, then there is the tendency for them to want to put their self interest above the national interest. So what I am saying here is that, yes, we are a shining example, but the only reason that we can continue to maintain and in fact, enhance that position for Ghana, is for us to develop the political culture, the democratic culture, develop the democratic mindset of tolerance and to agree that differences do not necessarily mean that we are at war.
Ghana is different f rom other
democracies where we have Members of Parliament throwing chairs across the aisle. But we could even do more when we begin to look at issues involved in everything that we discuss in the House and that on both sides, we do not seek to score cheap political points when the interest of the nation is at stake and we do not seek to hit below the belt when the interest of the nation is as stake.
Mr Speaker, that brings us to the elections where we are doing very well but could do better. This Charter is an improvement on what the Africa Union (AU) had. Before this Charter, we had the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU)/AU Declaration on the Principles of Governing Democratic Elections in Africa, which was adopted in 2002.
But if you look at the provisions of that 2002 Declaration, and you look at the Charter, you would realise that the Charter is a great improvement on the Declaration of 2002. And I say this because we have elections that are held in several countries, including Zimbabwe, and we have had observer missions from the AU who have gone, observed the elections and came out with a number of issues that I think are worrying, but in the end, they also always come with the conclusion that “having considered everything, the election was free and fair”. And that is because the criteria that were used to judge those elections, per Declaration 2002, are vague and I will demonstrate some of that.
First of all, if you look at election Declaration 2002, there is a provision for access to public media, access to State media, but it just says that they should try to make sure there is access. It does not tell us what it means, it does not talk about equality and what have you.
So, now, if you look at the improvement
in the Charter, which is article 17 (3), for instance, which talks about access to media, it says and I beg to quote:
“Ensure fair and equitable access by contesting parties and candidates to State-controlled media during elections.”
So, the experience we had in Namibia was this, that in Namibia the State controlled media is about ninety per cent of the coverage, and although we found there that the governing party, South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) had a predominant - the allocation of time was so bad in favour of SWAPO, we still could not find anything wrong with the results because the Declaration of 2002 does not give us any hard and fast rule by which we could come to that conclusion.
A second example has to do with what my Colleagues have talked about, which is participation of women. And if you look at the Declaration 2002 at (iii) (j), it just states that
“to encourage participation of Africa women in all aspects of the electoral process, including representation.”
That is all that it says. So you see that when it comes to representation, it is just like it is stated, as it is an afterthought. But if you contrast that with what we have in the Charter, which is at article 29, you would see that at article 29 (3), it states and I beg to quote:
“State parties shall take all possible measures to encourage the full and active participation of women in the electoral process and ensure gender parity in representation at all levels, including legislatures.”
So, if you look at that Charter, straightaway, the Ghana Parliament has a problem because we do not meet that criterion. And it is important because that is the direction the continent is going. My Colleagues on the Pan-African Parliament realised that we are adopting new rules
which are insisting that at least, we have two members of that delegation belonging to one gender or the other. And if you look at the number of women Members of Parliament that we have here, clearly, it is not going to be possible for us to do that.
So, we need, apart from signing this, as has been said, to allocate resources to first, the democratic institutions; that is, Electoral Commission, National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), human rights, the Judiciary and all that. And this is where we must stop the cheap politics in Ghana. Democracy is expensive, yes, and indeed, it has been said and I think it was said by Churchill, that
“democracy is the worst form of government except all those governments that have been tried.”
It is the worst form of government except all forms of governments that have been tried and so it is expensive. But the only intention we have to an expensive democracy, is the chaos and the civil wars that we would have and I bet you, the cost is going to be too much for us to bear.
So we should begin to allocate our resources in Ghana, knowing fully well that every other development can only be premised on good governance, democracy and peace, and if we do that, then it should not be difficult for us to begin to give money to the Electoral Commission to get us the most modern forms of voting that will give us the best result. We should not wait for development partners alone to come to our aid. I think we need to put our money where our mouths are and also begin to give money to all the institutions like NCCE, which will help us build that democratic culture that will send us far.
Mr Speaker, I think what all of us must commit ourselves to, and also come to, when we begin to talk about even Parliament-- This Parliament has done
well to allocate resources to the Judiciary, to make it as independent as possible but we also need to empower Parliament that we do not continue to be an appendage, we do not continue to be dependent on the decisions of the Executive and we can only do so if we are all committed - the Executive and all of us to the Charter.
So it is all right to sign the Charter, it is all right to be among the first countries to ratify it, but it is even better for us to invest in our democracy to ensure that we are not overtaken.
Finally, Mr Speaker, let me make a comment on “unconstitutional changes of governments” which is at Chapter 8. Mr Speaker, this is the problem that we have in Africa, and I am particularly interested in the present provisions and it is in article 23 (5). Mr Speaker, we have had a problem in Africa. Although we have always been against unconstitutional changes, we seem to be limiting our understanding of unconstitutional change to a coup d'e tat. Therefore the experience we have had in Niger was when an incumbent President changed the rules and stayed in power. Or the situation we have in Zimbabwe, where the President stays in power and it, is based on an election of a sort. If you look at clause 5, it tells you - it reads:
“Any amendment or revision of the Constitution or legal instruments which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.”
Mr Speaker, it goes beyond the mere coup d'e tat and to cover all, the intrigues that you can have an incumbent government play and think that all they can do is a coup d'etat by constitutional means. You know that one of the cardinal principles of democracy is that, there must be a limit to the term of the Executive,