Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why have a congress?

The NDC will hold its delegates' congress this weekend in Sunyani. Congresses like this one are typically a mere formality--they give a few speeches, the incumbent wins, the party presents a good front to the media, and everybody goes home happy. However, this congress will buck the usual trend. Chances are that the incumbent will win, but it is not clear everybody will go home happy.

I have previously commented on Mrs. Rawlings's prospects in the election as well as its significance for our politics in general. Now, I would like to elaborate on a part of the story that I did not cover: the prospect that Mrs. Rawlings and her followers will split from the NDC if she does not win, or, similarly, the prospect that Mr. Atta-Mills and his followers will split. The former is more probable.

The power struggle in the NDC speaks to a deeply-rooted issue that the NDC was bound to confront sooner or later. Worse, it is a signal of a more momentous shift that will occur in Ghanaian politics.

"What are Ghanaians elections about?" This question is often asked by foreigners who want a better appreciation of our politics. The answer is "nothing of substance." Our elections are not about the economy; neither are they about education; nor about health. How do people win elections then? By making baseless allegations about one's opponents. The one who is able to push the most lies wins. For this reason, all the seemingly legitimate arguments for letting Atta-Mills go for a second term are inconsequential and dishonest. It really does not make a difference who from the NDC is in power as far as the issues that affect the economy, education, health, or other such weighty matters are concerned. Hence, in that regard, it appears Ghanaians may be better off without anybody at the helm as the leaders are more likely to retard progress than they are to facilitate it.

This congress is not about the future of Ghana, to the extent that the outcome will significantly affect our future well-being one way or the other. This congress is about the NDC and nothing more. It is about definition and identity. I will have more to say about this later.

Because of the small size of the delegate pool (about 2000), the influence of bribe money and other fringe benefits incumbents enjoy is overwhelming. It would be a trivial matter to dole out 1000 cedis to each delegate that wants it in return for votes. This is not a mere accusation. There have been many allegations of that happening, not to talk of the threats to delegates who are office-holders appointed by Atta-Mills and are beholden to him.

So why have a congress? Is it not a waste of (taxpayer?) money. Political parties do not render accounts of where their money comes from so the incumbent party is free to appropriate national resources with impunity. Why won't they have a caucus at Kuku Hill or Rawlings Junction to decide on the spoils? That is bound to happen eventually, isn't it?

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