Two of Ghana’s global icons have enjoined all Ghanaians to uphold the democratic credentials of the country when they cast their ballots on Wednesday, December 7, 2016.
A former UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, and a former President of the Republic, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, in separate statements ahead of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections, acknowledged some challenges in the past but expressed the conviction that once again Ghanaians would conduct successful polls.
According to Mr Annan, “As Ghanaians, we all know that our country’s much-vaunted democratic reputation has been at risk before, but we have always pulled back from the brink in time to preserve peace, stability and prosperity.”
Former President Rawlings, for his part, reminded Ghanaians that, “as in all elections across the world, there have been some challenges but our elections have been successful so far”.
Vote for Ghana
Mr Annan said Ghana’s 2016 presidential election was gearing up to be one of the most highly charged since multi-party democracy was re-introduced.
He was, however, hopeful that at the end of the day Ghanaians would put the nation first, above personality, party and tribe.
“That is the hallmark of a true democracy,” the former UN Secretary General noted, and advised Ghanaians to accept elections as mechanisms for the peaceful and democratic rotation of leadership and the adjudication between competing programmes.
He also stressed that the elections must be open, fair, credible and legitimate, but pointed out that “legitimacy cannot be confused with legality, and it is as much about perception as reality”.
He called on the public institutions involved, and particularly the Electoral Commission (EC), in the name of peace, to take all the measures necessary to reassure the parties and the people of Ghana of their independence, neutrality and impartiality.
“The best way of ensuring this is to be transparent and to address all criticisms thoroughly and respectfully,” he said.
On the role of the EC, Mr Annan commended the election management body for its plan to give the candidates a final briefing on the rules of the game today.
He, however, indicated that successful elections could not be left to the EC alone but that all political parties, civic groups and voters had their role to play and must cooperate with the EC to ensure success.
The police and the security forces, he said, must ensure a peaceful and stable environment and take firm action against intimidation before, during and after the polling.
He further called on Ghanaians to refuse to be provoked, to reject violence and vote on election day, concluding that “whichever candidate or party you choose, make sure you vote for Ghana”.
Former President Rawlings
Former President Rawlings observed that Ghana had enjoyed relatively peaceful elections since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1992.
He, however, pointed out that as the nation drew closer to the elections, the political temperature in the country had risen quite steeply, and with it an atmosphere of uncomfortable anxiety.
To the former President, the desire to win the people’s mandate should be an exercise that was pursued in a peaceful, decorous and all-embracing manner.
“Unfortunately, with exactly one week to go before the elections, the political campaign rhetoric is strewn with invectives, threats and counter-threats,” he noted.
He noted that there had been serious incidents of inter-party violence and the tension continued to linger.
“Ghana cannot afford to derail the constitutional process it embraced some 25 years ago,” he stated, and reminded eminent persons, political leaders, the security agencies, institutions of state and the EC of their combined responsibility to protect the peace and unity of the country.
The electorate, President Rawlings pointed out, needed to have confidence not only in the political parties but also the security services and the EC.
Furthermore, he enjoined Ghanians to refrain from the use of harsh language.
“We are capable of being firm but fair without being abusive, threatening or aggressive,” he argued, and said: “The use of threatening or menacing language at this point in time can be very ill-placed and counter-productive.”
While cautioning all stakeholders to operate above reproach, former President Rawlings enjoined all Ghanaians to remain resolute and vigilant and ensure that the electoral process was transparent, free and fair, saying: “We have a few days to ensure that the process of electing a President and Members of Parliament is devoid of explosive, foul-scented gas.”