Ghana must have strong ethics of accepting national election results in order to avoid going to the Supreme Court, the Dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel-Aviv-Yaffo, Professor Naomi Chazan, has advised.
“We must cultivate the habit of having ethics for accepting election results for the sake of sustaining the electoral system. If you lose one day, the next day you will win and you will expect the loser to accept the results and congratulate you,” she gave the advice in an exclusive interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra last Thursday.
She was in the country as the guest speaker at the 11th Kronti Ne Akwamu lecture series on Democracy and Governance which took place in Accra last Thursday. The Kronti Ne Akwamu lecture series is a Centre for Democratic Development initiative which discusses issues about democracy and governance, with support from the British Council.
According to Prof. Chazan, established democracies do not always have perfect elections but have managed to create a rhythm of change at the ballot box and that is why the global community is excited at Nigeria because it has achieved rotation of government.
She lauded Ghana for achieving the global status where the formal aspect of democracies, including the processes leading to free and fair elections, has been achieved.
These are signs of democratic maturity, she pointed out, but encouraged Ghanaians to do more in the area of cultivating strong ethics for accepting election results.
Free, fair elections
On how to attain free and fair elections as Ghana approaches the 2016 polls, she said, “there is always somebody who will try to take advantage of the electoral system” and cited instances from Israel and the United States of America where such things occurred.
What we must do, she advised “is to find ways of ensuring strong monitoring and supervision of elections in order to prevent malfeasance.”
“You also need commitment for free and fair elections, she stated, saying that “over-reliance on technology, i.e electronic voting, alone is not full proof, since computers can break down.”
Sharing her perspectives on a broad range of issues bordering on good democratic governance with the Daily Graphic, Prof. Chazan, who is also a three-term Member of the Knesset on behalf of the Meretz (Democratic Israel) party, also postulated that “democracies that do not incorporate diverse groups and opinions run the risk of imploding.”
She, therefore, proposed that “smart leaders promote participation through consultation that helps to form good policies and decisions that take different perspectives into account.”
She also enjoined Ghana to strive for better inclusion of all interest groups to promote strong democracies, development and social cohesion.
According to Prof. Chazan, who also spent 2004-2005 as the Wilhelm Fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the principles underlining democracy were equality, justice and equitable distribution of resources, and the vehicle to achieve these principles was to have the policy of inclusion.
Challenges of inclusion
“Without inclusion, democracy will slowly wither or implode,” the Israeli academician and politician stated.
In her view, “if people are excluded from the system for long period of time, they will lose faith in the system and rebel. So such a democracy will implode.”
She observed that almost all democracies around the world had partial inclusion and that “certain groups do not have access and they feel disadvantaged.”
The critical element of democratic sustainability, she opined, was to find ways of ensuring inclusion so that the people would believe in the system, believe that the system worked for them, was fair and had credibility.
She further said it made sense to make a larger group of people happy and that “political inclusion will lead to social and economic inclusion which ultimately will lead to accelerated growth and development.”
For democracy to thrive, she said political leaders must also subject themselves to accountable governance while the electorate demand and insist on accountability and transparency.
She postulated that the tool for inclusion was accountability and pointed out that “the great lesson of democracy is that leaders who are accountable to the people and transparent deserve the vote of the electorate while those leaders who are not accountable should be rejected by the electorate.
On the need to minimise polarisation in the country, Prof. Chazan gave an assurance that “Ghana is not polarised, if compared with what is happening in other emerging democracies.”
“I can assure you that we do not know what polarisation is,” she stated and added: “If you think your democracy is bad, try other alternatives and you will appreciate what you have.”
She stated further that “Ghana is a diverse country with competing interests. We need to admit that we are diverse and how we can take into account the different interests such that each group contributes to growth of the Ghanaian society as a whole must be the focus. We need to strive always to address the needs of people.”
Role of Media
In all of this, Prof. Chazan pointed out that the traditional media and new media had responsible roles to play.
The media, she stated, must endeavour to give enough, accurate, balanced and fair reportage to enable the citizenry to make informed choices and decisions.
Anything short of this, she pointed out, would not help to promote transparency, good governance and accountability in the democratic dispensation.