With barely eight weeks to the 2012 parliamentary and presidential elections, only eight out of the 23 political parties registered by the Electoral Commission (EC) have organised their national congresses to elect their flag bearers.
The rest are yet to do so.
Even though many of the parties yet to elect their flag bearers appear moribund, their names remain in the books of the EC.
The parties that have organised their national congresses and elected their flag bearers are the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), the Convention People’s Party (CPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Ghana Freedom Party (GFP), the United Front Party (UFP) and the Independent People’s Party (IPP).
The Kumasi-based UFP is currently embroiled in a tussle over who the party’s flag bearer is, with two people currently in contention. They are Mr Akwasi Addae (Odike), the supposedly dismissed candidate, and Mr Kweku Owusu Antwi, the new candidate.
While Mr Addae picked his nomination form last Friday, ready to seek support from credible party members across the country to endorse his candidature to enable him to lead the party to the 2012 elections, his main rival, Mr Antwi, will be at the EC today to pick his form for the same purpose.
The parties that are yet to go to congress to elect their flag bearers, according to EC records, are the Democratic People's Party (DPP), the Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere (EGLE) Party, the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), the United Ghana Movement (UGM), the Ghana Democratic Republican Party (GDRP), the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) and the Reformed Patriotic Democrats (RPD).
Others are the National Reform Party (NRP), the Ghana National Party (GNP), the United Renaissance Party (URP), the New Vision Party (NVP), the United Love Party (ULP), the United Development System Party (UDSP), the Yes People's Party (YPP) and the National Democratic Party (NDP).
Strangely, parties such as the EGLE, the DFP, the UGM and NRP which, in one way or the other, have merged or are in alliance with other political parties are still recognised by the EC as fully registered political parties.
Among other things, the Political Parties Law requires that where two or more registered political parties come together and merge as one party, the registration of each party existing immediately before the effective date of the merger shall lapse and the new party shall require registration for the purpose of the law.
The law also states that political parties must have functional national and regional offices and presence in at least two-thirds of the districts in Ghana.
Among other requirements, political parties are equally expected to furnish the EC with details of their existence and the location of their national, regional, district and constituency offices, as well as the names, titles and addresses of their officers at the national, regional, district and constituency levels, and also at such levels of organisation as the commission may direct.
On the selection of executive officers, the law states that the election of national, regional and constituency executive officers of every political party shall be conducted under the supervision of the EC.
Every political party is also expected to submit to the commission a written declaration giving details of all its assets and expenditure, including contributions or donations in cash or in kind made to the initial assets of the political party.
If any party fails or refuses to comply, the EC may cancel the registration of that party.
Since 1992, Ghana has had uninterrupted democratic practice, conducting five globally acclaimed successful elections.
Come December 7, 2012, the country will organise its sixth general election and, once again, the world expects Ghana to go through the process successfully.
Ghana’s 1992 Constitution allows for multi-party democracy, but, in the considered opinion of a political science lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon, Mr Ransford Gyampoh, multi-partysm is not a licence for the formation of weak and mushroom political parties that cannot satisfy the main objectives for which political parties are formed, including the capturing of political power.
“In a true multi-party democracy, no single party is able to easily win an election without the help of the other parties. This is because the parties are more or less of equal status, strength and capacity,” he said.
Mr Gyampoh observed that that was not the case in Ghana, saying, “In Ghana, we are practising multi-party democracy in theory but not in its true sense.”
A female governance expert who wishes to remain anonymous also told the Daily Graphic: “There is something wrong or illegal with the existence of any party that fails to meet the laws regulating the conduct of elections in the country.”
In her view, it appeared the EC had relaxed its rules a bit because if it was to rigidly enforce or implement them to the letter, even the so-called bigger parties might not be spared.
“We may eventually not have multi-party democracy,” she argued.
That notwithstanding, she said, the EC must still do something innovative to strengthen the capacity of the so-called weaker parties for them to play their right roles in a true multi-party democracy.
“The EC’s tolerance of the parties which appear to be flouting the law and why the EC still recognises those parties are issues confronting Ghana’s democratic dispensation,” she said.
The EC itself seems divided on the matter.
According to sources close to the EC, there were two schools of thought: those who believed the non-performing parties should be kicked out because they had unreasonably swelled up the numbers for no just cause, and those who were of the view that the weaker parties must be encouraged to grow up.
When contacted, the Director of Elections at the EC, Mr Isaac Kofi Asumaning, explained that the commission had a policy to grow democracy in the country.
“We don’t want to kill our political parties; we want to encourage and see them grow. If they want to die, let them die naturally,” he told the Daily Graphic in an interview.
Mr Asumaning’s view was corroborated by the EC’s Director of Communications, Mr Christian Parry, who asked, “What will form the basis of a political party that is dormant and one that is active?”
Mr Asumaning hinted that very soon the commission would embark on a nationwide inspection tour of all the political parties to see the way forward.
That, he said, would inform the commission on the parties which appeared to be dormant.
The EC has, meanwhile, fixed October 17 and 18, 2012 to receive nominations from presidential candidates for the 2012 general election. Political parties desirous of sponsoring candidates for the parliamentary election and individuals who are interested in contesting the said election can also obtain nomination forms from the returning officers in the respective constituencies or the regional offices of the EC.
Currently, it is only the NDC that has so far elected all its 275 parliamentary candidates to contest seats across the constituencies.
The NPP has already elected candidates to contest 230 seats and has opened nominations for eligible aspirants to contest the parliamentary seats in the newly created 45 constituencies.
The PPP, the CPP, the PNC, the GFP, the UFP and the IPP are at various stages of electing their parliamentary candidates to contest all or some of the 275 seats.