Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Strengths and weaknesses in Ghana's democracy

Ghana's democracy is robust compared to some other ECOWAS countries, including Gambia. On the same day Ghana's president Mahama accepted defeat, the first sitting president to lose an election in Ghana, the president of Gambia decided he didn't want to accept his electoral defeat after all.

Ghana has had peaceful multiparty elections for 25 years, and Decembers's election marks the third democratic alternation of power between parties, but in other ways Ghana's democracy shows weaknesses, as described in a recent Monkey Cage post from Nic Cheeseman, Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis. The whole thing is worth reading but here are some highlights:
During the campaign, a widely shared video showed Mahama allegedly “buying votes” — handing out money to women at a market.

71 percent of respondents in that survey said they prefer democracy to any other form of government — ... But the results suggest that despite Ghana’s impressive experience of open and competitive elections, Ghanaians accept some problematic electoral practices

For example, 43 percent of Ghanaians ... answered that bribing voters was either “not wrong at all” or was “wrong but should not be punished.” Similarly, 76 percent of Ghanaians ... felt that politicians should not be punished for directing development projects toward areas that support them. 
... our survey reveals that many politicians and voters do not consider giving gifts to voters to be an illegitimate act. In fact, many voters expect or even demand such practices.

... research shows that such practices have problematic consequences. Gift-giving during the campaign makes people forget that MPs are not just sources of patronage but are also supposed to debate legislation and scrutinize government. It encourages voters to judge a politician’s performance by what Americans call “pork”: whether they have built a clinic or paid for school fees in someone’s home town. 
And that has unhealthy consequences for accountability, because it encourages voters to turn a blind eye to where the money to fund these activities has come from.

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