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Ghana: Election 2020 – the Role of Citizens and Political Parties

Come 7th December, 2020 Ghanaians will go to the polls to choose (vote) their Members of Parliament as well as a President to run the affairs of the country for the next four years. The right to vote is considered as one of the first generation rights due to its implications for individuals’ liberties. Indeed, it is through the exercise of the right to vote that citizens express their preferences for which political party or candidate should govern them and also through which citizens hold governments accountable by voting them out of power if not satisfied with their performance.

It is for this reason that article 45 of the 1992 Constitution grants every citizen the right to vote and eligibility to be registered as a voter provided he or she is of 18 years of age or above and of sound mind. The coming elections will be the 8th successive attempt since the inception of the fourth republic. While this feat is highly commendable, it should not be construed as a mere democratic ritual of picking-and-choosing a party or candidate over the other, but rather an important democratic process for ensuring commitment by political actors towards the provision of social services, protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, promoting accountability and good governance for the citizenry.

What Should Citizens Consider Before Voting

The desire of every citizen in a democracy is to have the best of life‒access to basic social services such as clean drinking water, quality education, access to health care services, access to justice, improved sanitation, protection of the environment, provision of safe communities, and protection of the vulnerable and so on. As a matter of fact, these aspirations beyond being described as governance indicators are equally considered as human rights standards under several international human rights treaties ratified by Ghana as well as the 1992 Constitution.

This is rightly so because what use is a democratic system of governance if it is unable to fulfil certain minimum core obligations in areas such as education, health, social protection, food security for its citizens? Again, what relevance is a democratic enterprise if it cannot offer its citizens hope for the future that their living conditions are going to improve?

Going into the December 7 elections, citizens should therefore be very concerned with some of these critical questions or issues rather than resorting to trivial and divisive matters such as ethnocentrism, violence, name-calling, nepotism or sloganeering which are in themselves counter productive.Certainly, the bread and butter issues should occupy the minds of voters particularly when assessing the social contract documents or manifestoes of the major political parties which will soon be launched by these political parties.

Shouldering the Ultimate Burden‒What Must Political Parties Do?

Political parties have become indispensable actors within every democracy. They consist of like-minded individuals who come together to contest for political power. Once they win an election, they get access to state power and resources to run and manage the affairs of the country. Against this backdrop, it is therefore of utmost importance that political parties are guided by the realities of a developing society like Ghana where significant number of citizens cannot afford a decent meal, lack of access to quality health care or housing, poor drinking water and a bulging unemployment situation among the youth.

Another equally important issue of human rights and governance is the pervasive issue of corruption in Ghana. How are political parties going to address the canker of corruption in the country given its implications for human development if given they are to be given the opportunity to govern the country beyond the half-hearted attempts Ghanaians have witnessed so far ? What practical and pragmatic interventions are they prepared to introduce to fight corruption? What specific measures do they set out for institutional strengthening of anti-corruption institutions and others in line with Goal 16 of the SDGs? It is undisputed that dissipation of national resources due to corruption denies every country including Ghana the needed resources to fulfill the provision of social services which are considered human rights.

What are the practical measures outlined by political parties in the contestation for political power in this year’s elections in their manifestoes in addressing vulnerability, social protection, disability and women and children’s rights in line with the SDGs ?

The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) as a human rights and governance institution is therefore of the considered view that these issues must underpin the social contract document(manifesto)of political parties going into this election. Since a manifesto well-grounded in human rights principles will to a very large extent address the numerous social challenges faced by citizens.

Source: Human Rights Department, CHRAJ (allafrica.com)

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