As the world prepares to celebrate this year’s International Day of Democracy on Saturday, September 15, 2018, under the theme, “Democracy Under Strain: Solution for a Changing World,” the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) calls on the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government to take concrete steps to enhance the country’s democratic systems to benefit its citizens.
This year marks an important milestone in the country’s democratic journey – 25 years of the Fourth Republic. As noted by the Afrobarometer Executive Director, Professor E. Gyimah-Boadi in a recent public lecture, the 14th edition (2018) of the ‘Kronti ne Akwamu’ lecture series, Ghana’s democracy has entered the stage of consolidation.
The Center congratulates Ghanaians on this important feat, and also recognizes the substantial progress made in our democratic governance system. Significantly, we note that popular support for democracy in the country has increased over the years. This is evidenced in the Afrobarometer 2017 survey that revealed a 13-percentage-point increase in Ghanaians’ preference for democracy (from 68% in 2015 to 81% in 2017). As one of Africa’s touted democracies, Ghana prides itself for having held seven successful elections, three of which led to alternations of executive power.
Notwithstanding the achievements, it is equally important to note that there remains a significant gap within the political system which can always lead to democratic reversals. While Afrobarometer data indicates that eight in 10 Ghanaians support regular, open and honest elections – which is one of the key indicators of a good democracy – CDD-Ghana is concerned that the rising cost of elections, both elective and administrative, puts an undue strain on political inclusion and ultimately, our democracy.
According to a 2017 research conducted by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) and CDD-Ghana, the cost of elective politics (i.e. electing a Member of Parliament to serve a 4-year term) increased by 59% from 2012 to 2016, costing a candidate in 2016 as much as $85,000 (GH₵403,750) to contest primaries and parliamentary elections. This excessive cost of campaigns has implications on further widening the inclusion gap; has exclusionary effects, especially by gender and other social groups; deter qualified, honest and service-oriented citizens to contest elections; and above all has the tendency to reduce citizens’ interest and preference for
democratic governance over time. As the cost of elective politics (campaigns) is on the rise, the cost of running elections is also on the ascendancy. For instance, at $12.3 per voter in 2016, the cost of Ghana’s general elections per voter is unjustifiably higher than in Nigeria ($9.33 in 2015), Tanzania ($5.16 in 2015) and Uganda ($4 in 2016). This, if not checked, may propel Ghana to a point where it may be difficult to organize elections in the future. The inability to hold general elections at its stipulated time could also undermine the tenets of democracy, threaten the peace and stability of the country and hamper socio-economic development.
The International Day of Democracy presents yet another opportunity for CDD-Ghana to reiterate recommendations put forth by Prof. E. Gyimah-Boadi at the just ended 14th ‘Nkronti ne Akwamu’ public lecture for addressing gap in inclusiveness, representation and political participation of Ghanaians.
- The new leadership of the Electoral Commission (EC) must work to reduce the cost of running elections by half in 2020 and rigorously enforce existing political party financing legislation.
- Government should reconsider and increase the paltry budget allocations to the Ministry of Gender and Social Protection – the sector Ministry ostensibly established to support the vulnerable in our societies.
- State and non-state actors must intensify civic and democracy education throughout the country in order to enhance the civic competence, interest, participation and build political efficacy.
In addition, CDD-Ghana believes our leaders must work towards consolidating our democracy to solve the widening inclusion gap in order to bring into the fold, the young and marginalized to promote inclusiveness, representation and political participation.
Finally, CDD-Ghana takes this opportunity to call on the government and relevant state institutions to create the enabling environment necessary for promoting an inclusive developed democracy as aptly stated by the former UN Secretary, the late Kofi Annan, “No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime”.
For more information, please contact:
Efua Idan Atadja
CDD-Ghana Communications Officer