Earlier in the year, Most Rev. Kwasi Sarpong, Emeritus Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kumasi, delivered the inaugural lecture of the Freedom Power Lectures organised by the Centre for Freedom and Accuracy I think the discussion contained in Archbishop Sarpong’s lecture was intellectually engaging, and worthy of a much wider public discussion.
Although Archbishop Sarpong raised many important points, I was particularly interested in his call for a discussion on possible changes to the Ghanaian political/democratic structure. Only few people will dispute the fact that multi-party democracy is not the best political order.
This widely-held assertion notwithstanding, multi-party democracy remains the best option currently because there is yet no better alternative. If we are to be a people who want the best and nothing else, then we should seriously think about better alternatives to multi-party democracy — or at least, better alternatives to the kind of politics we practise in Ghana.
The smallness of our politics stares us in the face. How do we respond?
The Weighted Electoral System and the Negative Electoral System As I thought about ways we can improve our political structure in Ghana, some interesting thoughts came to mind. I thought about a weighted electoral system. I also thought about a “negative” electoral system — an electoral system that permits the option of voting against (as opposed to voting for). While these thoughts are only in their infantile stages, I think they may make it possible to remove some of the challenges that confront our current practice.
In the case of a weighted electoral system, voters would rank and assign weights to their votes. For example, if there are five candidates standing for an election, voters would assign marks from 1 through to 5 for each voter. Therefore, a voter may assign 3 to the first candidate; 1 to the second candidate; 5 to the third candidate; 4 to the fourth candidate; and 2 to the fifth candidate. At the end of the day, the scores for each candidate would be added, and the candidate with the highest score would win. With the negative electoral system, a vote against a candidate would mean that the candidate would have one vote for him nullified — it’s more like an additive table with the positive half and the negative half.
So why did I think about these electoral systems? What problems can these systems address?
I first thought about these electoral scenarios after Archbishop Sarpong’s lecture. Admittedly, weighted and negative electoral systems are more complicated than the current order of voting for a single entity. Paradoxically, however, I think the inbuilt complications would address the situations of abuse of the current system. Even in jurisdictions that operate multi-party democracies, elections are often two-horse races. Two-horse races pose a great danger because they make political power-houses complacent, lackadaisical and dishonest to the electorate.
If we are to experiment with the weighted and negative electoral systems, what we would be doing is to reduce the 50% probability that the two top parties have of winning an election. The probability of any party winning becomes more difficult to determine. Consequently, political parties would be forced to work in the best interest of their electorates when they are given the chance to govern.
How often have people not said that they vote for the lesser of two “evils” in an election? We have resigned ourselves to the fate of living with less evil, but can we be daring enough to try something new that would scare both “evils” away and give us the best?
What about having Parliamentary and Presidential Elections two years apart from each other?
Away from my own thoughts, I also heard a suggestion by a prominent Ghanaian lawyer to the effect that he would be interested to see a time when the term of the legislature overlaps the term of the executive. In such a situation, if the Presidential elections were held in 2012, 2016, 2020 and onward, the Parliamentary elections would be held in 2014, 2018, 2022 and onward.
Although the duration of a term would remain 4 years, the possibility of overlap would afford voters the chance of voting out parliamentarians belonging to a non-performing ruling executive government. Such a situation would force the executive arm of government to collaborate with the legislature in the interest of the nation. I find this to be a great suggestion, but what do you think also?
If, perhaps, you do not know what politics is about, read this
As a biology major taking a philosophy course (and by the way, I think there is great benefit to a liberal arts education), I often heard my professor use the Greek word polis. My professor used this word to refer to the people making up the community or city. My further checks revealed that polis forms the root for the Greek word politikos which refers to anything that pertains to the inhabitants of a particular community. The English word politics is derived from the Greek word politikos.
Therefore, at the most fundamental level, politics is all about the people in the jurisdiction. All of us, as members of our respective poleis, should undertake political activity for the good of our communities. Politics is not about enriching oneself; rather, politics is about serving and representing our electorates and doing all we can to serve the best interest of our electorates.
Have our politicians really worked in the best interest of Ghana? Please let’s have a conversation!
Arden Darko-Boateng, New York, USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org