Between 2018 and 2019, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government continued to amend Articles 55 (3) and 243 (1) as part of its local government reforms.
Unfortunately, the referendum of December 17 was canceled due to the lack of national consensus on the amendment. In view of the impasse that surrounded the joint amendment of two separate but complementary and mutually reinforcing articles, it has become instructive to clarify the functions and relationships between them.
While Article 55 (3) prohibits political parties from participating in local elections and government, Article 243 (1) on the other hand confers the powers of appointment of general managers to the president. Therefore, the amendment to Article 243 (1) liberalizes the space in the executive branch of government and creates more elective positions. On the other hand, the modification of Article 55, paragraph 3, will make the election inclusive by allowing political parties to participate in the elections at local level.
This will ultimately mean that there will be more than one political party within the executive branch of government and therefore heal the win-win system (WTA) in the country. The amendment of the two articles means that political parties will compete for 260 additional positions in addition to the presidency in the executive branch of government. Obviously, this will end the WTA system in the executive and promote inclusion, cooperation and collaboration between political parties. It also has the potential to nurture smaller parties whose relevance and fortunes continue to decline in the current system and give them real experience of governance at the local level.
Therefore, the successful amendment of the two articles will trigger a transformational reform of the hybrid executive governance regime in a way that will remove all obstacles to the development of a fully liberal democratic multi-party governance system in Ghana. It has the potential to change the power relations between central and local governments and to delegate more executive, administrative and financial powers and resources from central government to regions, districts and communities. Indeed, the introduction of political parties into local government is likely to trigger competition for development between parties at the local level, as has been observed at the national level.
Unfortunately, there are concerns that allowing political parties to participate in local government will not promote national cohesion, but rather divide the country at the local level. While these fears may be real, there is no evidence to support this claim. If the parties haven’t divided the country at the national level, why do we assume they will at the local level. In fact, to argue in this way would be tantamount to calling for the total abolition of multiparty democracy in the country.
On the contrary, if the experience in parliament is something happening, then working together brings about collaboration and cooperation that builds trust between the parties. It will not be different between the multiparty system as seen at the national level and the multiparty elections proposed at the local level.
Currently, the country has experienced a divided parliament with an opposition president and yet the same parties have not divided the country. In addition, national cohesion is strengthened through the cooperation and collaboration of various groups and interests working together.
Admittedly, the political parties under the Fourth Republic did not live up to the expectations to justify their inclusion in local government, hence the understandable aversion and disenchantment towards them.
However, this negative and cynical behavior of political parties is the result of the state’s failure to properly regulate them, as parties in Ghana do not have a strong regulatory framework or regime. Clearly, the 1992 Constitution, the 2000 Law on Political Parties (Law 574) and other pieces of legislation, which should guide their activities, have not been implemented or, in some cases, are woefully inadequate to regulate them.
Solving problems with parties will involve not only the enforcement of current legislation, but also legal and institutional reforms that will transform them from electoral machines into development-oriented institutions. It is also reorienting them towards decentralized multi-party local governance from which they have been excluded for 61 years. This will certainly not be achieved with the only modification of Article 243, paragraph 1, but together with the modification of Article 55, paragraph 3, and the corresponding modifications and reforms of the system of local government and political parties.
There can be no successful transfer of more power and resources without political parties being part of the decentralized local governance system, which is seen as the training ground for future national leaders.
The author is a research fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG).
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