Four governance experts have urged the next administration to go to Parliament with policies and bills that will reflect the interest of the citizens to ensure cooperation from the opposition for smooth governance.
According to them, elected officials in the next administration must adopt negotiation mechanisms to bring on board the ideas and support of the opposition and make governance "workable" in the next four years.
The experts, who said this in separate interviews with the Daily Graphic, are the Dean of the University of Ghana Business School, Professor Justice Bawole; the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Dr Kojo Asante; an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Ghana, Professor Ransford Edward Van Gyampo, and a Senior Lecturer at the History and Political Science Department of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Dr Edward Brenya.
According to them, without "collaboration and compromises", there could be a challenge in governance for the next administration.
The experts were speaking to the Daily Graphic on the aftermath of the December 7 elections and the results of the presidential election that were declared by the Electoral Commission (EC) on December 9.
The declared results do not give a clear majority in Parliament to either of the two leading political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which brings to the fore a novel situation in the Fourth Republic where there is a seemingly hung Parliament.
According to the experts, such a situation required a different approach to governance from what had been the practice since 1992 when the Majority in Parliament seemed to have its way, in spite of opposing views from the other side.
Prof. Bawole said although governance was about collaboration for the national interest, the partisan nature of previous Parliaments in the Fourth Republic had proved that there would be challenges with a hung Parliament, hence the need for greater collaboration in Ghana’s interest, which bordered on development.
"If the government is seen to be pursuing a national interest and the opposition is not supporting it, then it will cause problems for the opposition in the subsequent election; but if the government is seen to be pursuing a parochial interest and the opposition is seen objecting to it in the national interest, then it will be problematic for the government.
“So it takes us back to the basics of governance, which is about pursuing the national interest," Prof. Bawole, a leadership, public administration and governance expert, said.
Dr Edward Brenya Prof. Justice Bawole
Dr Asante, for his part, said the new government would have to find common grounds with the opposition on policy issues in order to prosecute its programmes and policies, given the likely event of a slim majority in Parliament.
He said the orientation from the government had to be one of accommodation, cooperation and concession that would allow for Parliament to deliver for Ghanaians.
“The parties’ abuse of their majority in Parliament is going to change because you don’t have that strength any longer. So the expression: ‘the Minority will have its say, but the Majority will have its way’ is not feasible any longer because you have to work across the aisle to get your policies and programmes through.
“So it has to come with a different orientation and you have to find common ground on policy issues. The other side has to be consulted,” he told the Daily Graphic.
Dr Asante said both the government and the opposition needed to have an orientation that was more accommodating, cooperative and had the interest and welfare of the people at heart, adding that Ghanaians had made the case that they were interested in people delivering, as they expected more from their MPs.
He said there were different kinds of attitudes that had to be adopted to make Parliament deliver, otherwise there was likely to be a gridlock, conflicts and in-fighting which would not produce anything but bring governance to a halt.
“That is really the task for the incumbent government,” he said.
“The orientation from the government has to be one of accommodation, one of cooperation and also one of concession that allows for the possibility that you will get a Parliament that is able to deliver for Ghanaians and actually deliver the mandate that Ghanaians have given to both the Executive and the Legislature,” he said.
No overbearing Executive dominance
Prof. Gyampo said given the current numbers in Parliament, the overbearing Executive dominance would not be there, and that realpolitik, dialogue and tolerance would now characterise the conduct of parliamentary business.
That, he said, was a giant stride made in the country’s quest to promote constitutionalism.
“The outcome of our 2020 elections is truly great for parliamentary democracy in Ghana, as it may likely lead to the assertion of parliamentary oversight over the Executive in a manner that effectively checks the President in order to curtail the near absolute powers of the Executive Presidency,” he said.
Prof. Gyampo added that the only independent candidate must remain independent for the sake of preserving the autonomy and new outlook of Parliament, and that he must decide which of the parties to vote with on individual issues as and when they came up
“He should neither join the NPP nor the NDC; he must remain independent. The two main parties can lobby him anytime there is a vote on any issue,” he said.
Prof. Gyampo, who is also the Head of the Youth Bridge Research Institute, Accra, said as he had predicted, the outcome of the elections had been a victory with a taste of defeat for the NPP and a defeat with a taste of victory for the NDC.
The verdict, he said, must reinvigorate Parliament to play its role as a countervailing authority to the powers of the Executive President.
“Parliament has, since 1992, been deficient in promoting constitutionalism and countering the exercise of power. The idea of constitutionalism connotes a mechanism that limits, bridles and shackles the exercise of power by the Executive arm of government in a manner that does not make the President a political ‘King-Kong’.
“Unfortunately, per our constitutional arrangement and practices, Parliament has, since 1992, been rendered a mere rubber stamp institution that always supports the Executive,” he said.
The proviso to appoint majority of ministers from Parliament, he said, had meant that no minister who was an MP would dare to question Executive decision that he or she might have participated in drafting on the floor of Parliament.
“Those parliamentarians who may not have benefited from ministerial appointments also see the more they support the Executive on the floor of Parliament as a basis for improving their chances of being appointed ministers. Hence they sing the praise names and appellations of the Executive, instead of scrutinising it.
“Parliament has also been plagued with absenteeism because MPs appointed as ministers don’t find the time to attend sittings. Several Speakers have complained about Parliament’s inability to achieve a quorum to do business on many occasions,” he said.
Prof. Gyampo said Parliament had, for long, been also saddled with subservient support of the Executive on virtually all policies, without thorough scrutiny because of the latter’s majority control over the former.
“Lord Acton argued that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. It is, therefore, imperative for us to have the kind of Parliament we are likely to have to check the exercise of power and Executive excesses.
“This is the only way good laws will be passed; this is the only way quality people will be approved as ministers,” he said, adding: “This is the only way good policies to extricate us from the quagmire of poverty and under-development will be fashioned out and approved; this is the only way international treaties and agreements will properly benefit our interests as a people.”
Voice of the people
For his part, Dr Brenya said elected officials would have to listen to the voice of the people and work together.
“I expect the President-elect to find means to reach out to the opposition at this point to ensure that there is cooperation for a smooth governance process,” he said.
Dr Brenya said he was of the view that the elected President would have to be strategic in the appointments he made to help achieve his programmes and projects.
"Right from who is appointed Speaker of Parliament, the President-elect must be very strategic in his appointments. I would even encourage him to appoint some competent hands from the opposition, but I don't see that happening,” he said.
He said carefully appointing people who had proved to be inclusive would help the government in its negotiations with the opposition and win the goodwill of the citizens.
"Ghanaians didn't give either the NPP or the NDC a majority in Parliament, so if they don't work together, it will affect governance and national development," he added.