The countdown to the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections has virtually come to an end. The December polls will be the 8th general elections of the Fourth Republic of Ghana since the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution.
It is refreshing to learn that Ghana’s democracy has survived seven successful elections since the last military government ended in 1992. This is no mean achievement for a developing country like Ghana and the Africa at large.
As a matter of fact, the road map to democracy did not come on a silver platter. This is because the leadership of this country has suffered series of political turmoil and instability between 1966 and 1992.
In most African countries, elections are characterized by violence, chaos and conflicts; a situation that hampers development and creates tension on the continent.
Once again, the people of Ghana are on the threshold of electing political leaders to steer the affairs of the country for the next four years. Why should every election season create fear and undue tension among us?
Since politics is about mobilizing people for development through governance, I wonder why political activities seems to be doing more harm than good in our part of the world.
Not long ago, we recorded incidents of clashes between the supporters of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the National Patriotic Party (NPP).We have come a long way as a democratic nation; therefore, much is expected of us.
We should not allow partisan politics to divide us on tribal, religious or ethnocentric grounds. In fact, political divisiveness mustn’t tarnish the hard won reputation of our nation, since Ghana is touted as a beacon of democracy in Africa.
The impact of the media
The significance of the media, as the fourth estate of the realm, cannot be downplayed as regards our democratic dispensation. The media deserves commendation for its various roles, including public education and awareness ahead of the December polls.
Admittedly, the media acts as a watchdog under democratic elections and, thus,safe guarding the transparency of an electoral process. Simply put, a free, fair and transparent election is practically impossible without the media.
In spite of the immense contribution of the media, the influx of newspapers, radio and television broadcasters have the tendency of truncating the impact of the mass media in promoting peace, human rights and nation building.
On the day of the elections, many will be glued to their radio and television sets for updates from the various polling stations. For that reason, much will be expected of our selfless correspondents.
It is therefore incumbent on the press to demonstrate a high sense of professionalism, accuracy and impartiality in the course of their duty.
The erroneous impression that, ‘bad news sells’ should not be entertained during and after the elections. The media should be circumspect and report from a neutral perspective, and should not be used a tool of inciting chaos or violence.
Furthermore, the media should not be quick to declare the winner of the presidential race, until the Electoral Commission has announced the election results.
The sovereignty of voters
According to the Constitution of Ghana, every citizen of 18years or above and of sound mind has the right to vote and is entitled to be registered as a voter for the purposes of public elections and referenda.
The electorate forms a major stakeholder in deciding the future of a country, since the sovereignty of choosing a leader lies in their hands. Basically, elections are held to afford the citizenry the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate.
The General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Pastor Mensa Otabil, hit the nail on the head when he cautioned Ghanaians to elect the best presidential candidate in the interest of country, since our vote can influence the destiny of Ghana.
Pastor Otabil also entreated the electorate to take personal charge of their vote, and not to exchange them for money, gift or any other physical items.
In recent times, vote buying has become phenomenal in our body politic. No amount of money or gift is worth your vote. Some politicians may appeal to your conscious with all sort of gifts, but don’t sell your future.
Fellow Ghanaians, let’s exercise our franchise peacefully by observing all the electoral rules and regulations. Do not foment trouble; avoid partisan politics at the polling station; maintain a distance of not less than 500 meters from the polling station; and remain sober.
Road map to peaceful elections
In the spirit of unity, the seven candidates contesting the 2016 presidential slot have signed a peace declaration ahead of the general elections. The ‘Accra Declaration’ is the road map for a peaceful election.
The move was a step in the right direction. It is also an indication that Ghana is keen on sustaining its reputable image as a beacon of peace and democracy in Africa.
In the face of the fierce competition, the civil society organizations, associations, religious bodies and some supporters of the major political parties have demonstrated that Ghana is poised for a smooth election.
The flag bearers of the various political parties should not be over-confidence of their victory. Eventually, Ghanaians will elect a President and 275 parliamentarians, so the defeated candidates must accept the choice of the majority.
In any case, the court is the appropriate quarters of seeking redress. The security agencies should be not spare law breakers as we undertake this crucial exercise.
Let’s take cue from neighboring countries like Cote d’Ivoire that suffered electoral conflict few years ago. We have to allow a peaceful electoral process to prevail. I am confident that Ghana will emerge winner at the end of this competitive contest.
By ASP James Annan