ANALYSIS: If our political parties fail, our democracy will suffer Part I – By Dr Michael J.K. Bokor

The writer, Dr Michael J.K. Bokor
Our democracy is still alive because it is supported by the various political parties that feed it with the much-needed input. It remains relatively stable despite the obvious shortcomings of the various governments that have led us since the inception of this 4th Republic. And mostly because of the elastic patience and free-wheeling tolerance of Ghanaians!!

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We have managed to sustain our democracy nevertheless because the political parties have helped us choose our leaders by providing options for the electorate to choose from. No democracy can survive without such a provision.

Happenings at the various political party fronts, however, indicate that all is not well within them. In sum, none of the parties is free of destabilizing internal friction, which should alarm us. If our parties fail, our democracy cannot endure.

The danger facing these various political parties is real, which we must recognize as a potential threat to our democracy. We challenge the leadership of these parties to resolve these internal conflict situations so as to restore normalcy and grow their parties to be able to perform the responsibilities imposed on them by our democratic experiment.

If they fail to do so, their parties will collapse and overturn the table on our democracy. That’s not what we’ve made the huge sacrifices to reap. I raise some of the major problems facing the various political camps for scrutiny to confirm my apprehensions.
THE FURORE IN THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS (NDC)
The NDC, which rapidly kicked off both the NPP and the pro-Nkrumahist political tradition to become the country’s foremost political party in contemporary times, has a checkered political history to boast of. It is a potpourri of military muscle and civilian hot-headedness.

In the strict sense of a political party, the NDC is peculiar. It is generally perceived as a “Congress” that came into being on the spur of Jerry Rawlings’ June 4 Uprising and what it introduced into Ghana politics.

Thus, with its variegated membership (coming from the existing mainstream political parties and bloated by those who had nothing to do with those parties), the NDC has survived largely because of the Rawlings factor.

Today, that factor is still strong even though whittled down by internal developments in the party. It is this whittling down which is the key destabilizing factor. Attempts to sideline Rawlings and choke his wife’s ambition to lead the party have created more problems than the party can handle; hence, the very crisis that is forcing the party down to its knees.

As is to be expected, the NDC is reeling seriously and risks imploding if this crisis worsens.

There still remains a clear schism between the Rawlings faction and those supporting President Mils and his group constituting both the party and government. The problem is that if the NDC fails to win the upcoming elections, it will disintegrate.

Who will do the rebuilding after the party has been consigned to the political wilderness in its fractured or disembodied state? Certainly, not those in the Mills-led faction who are regarded by their opponents in the Rawlings camp as those destroying the party (either to annex it for the benefit of the CPP or just to weaken it for it to lose the elections and give them the safe passage into the political wilderness to enjoy their ill-gotten wealth in peace). That is a bleak future for a political party of this sort to wish for itself.

Knowing very well how precious Rawlings is to the party and its government, why haven’t his opponents taken appropriate steps to resolve the internal crisis all this while? Or are they only interested in occupying their offices and being accorded protocol allowances and recognized only in name?

Certainly, the NDC’s problems go far beyond what we have so far seen as the Rawlings-Mills conundrum. Of course, much has been said about Rawlings’ own contributions to the internal crisis, especially his persistent bullying of others and unshakeable resolve to get the Mills government to do his bidding, especially the punishment of ex-functionaries of the Kufuor government, which has underlain Rawlings bitter criticism of Mills.

Concerning the handling of affairs, Rawlings’ open castigation of the Mills government as made up of “Greedy Bastards” is at the root of the conflict. We also recognize Rawlings’ distrust of Mills, especially his refusal to lead a public demonstration to denounce the outcome of the 2004 elections.

Then again, we refer to Rawlings’ earlier statement that he would quit party politics if the NDC didn’t win the 2004 elections. The party didn’t but he couldn’t make good that vow. He has been actively participating in politics, even if now sidelined in his own party, which may be another cause to warrant his intransigence and disdain for the Mills-led government. At this point, then, he has taken in implacable offence and will be difficult to rein in.
As he digs in to the party’s disadvantage, the conditions are beginning to be set for many difficult but possible scenarios in the near future. Getting him to rescind his decision will be difficult. It won’t happen without his setting conditions, which will hold the government to ransom and may virtually give him the additional clout that he has been looking for to have things done his way. Like a spoilt child, he will have a hearty laugh, then. Will the Mills government will be willing to play itself into his hands and be damned?

Pertinent to this bad-blood relationship is Rawlings’ inability to accept any other governance style apart from his own militaristic one, which upholds as the panacea to Ghana’s leadership crisis. His insistence on the “do-me-I-do-you” principle is central to the conflict that has arisen between him and Mills. This refusal to see other pebbles at the beach is disturbing and won’t allow for an easy solution to be found to the conflict between him and Mills.
Any decision to reach out to him to broker peace and restore trust can’t succeed without Rawlings’ calling the shots. In this case, he will know that he has the bragging rights and will insist that his demands be met as a prerequisite for his toning down his criticism or sinking all differences to hop back onto the NDC’s campaign train.

One major demand will definitely be a pledge to deal with the NPP functionaries as wished by Rawlings. There may be others too, which will be difficult to implement without the government’s worsening its credibility problems.

Torn between the devil and the deep blue sea, for that matter, the Mills side may make some concessions in desperation. Anything of the sort will have a boomerang effect and endanger the party’s future. The government will not have it easy if it refuses to do his bidding. Either way, Rawlings will still have the clout to influence matters.

And having that clout means redirecting the party toward an agenda that will certainly reflect the spirit with which Rawlings handled national affairs when he was in power. Is that what the NDC needs at this stage in the democratization process of the country’s politics? A troubling question to ponder as the internal crisis drags on to threaten the viability of the party.

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE COUNTRY’S DEMOCRACY

Any disintegration of the NDC will spell doom for political pluralism, giving the NPP the undeserved monopoly. Although we don’t envisage a one-party state, the fear is real that such a strong political party will have absolute control and reduce national politics to a one-man show. The pro-Nkrumahist front is so dismembered and giddy to count on to checkmate anything of the sort.

Of course, we can’t blame the NPP for such an opportunity if it gains the upper-hand as a result of the other party functionaries’ miscalculations. Or as a result of the internal crises that have fragmented these parties into nothing but deadwood on the political landscape. Ghanaians will definitely get the chance to vote down such a government but it will take more than disaffection with its performance in office to do so.

I know how dominant political parties in power manipulate the electoral system to advantage. If we are not careful, we may grind to that unfortunate situation, which will not help us grow our democracy. It will create conditions for dissension which might even lead to political turmoil. I don’t anticipate such a moment now that we have come far in our constitutional democratic experiment.

We move on to the pro-Nkrumahist parties next…

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
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Get a copy of my novel, The Last Laugh (PublishAmerica.com, April 2009)
Coming out soon: The Story of the Elephant, a novel

The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com and www.africa-forum.net

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