President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged on ECOWAS institutions to flag issues that have the potential to derail the democratic processes of member states.
He said the recent crises in Mali and Guinea tended to derail efforts made at various levels of the electoral process to consolidate democracy in member states, adding: “Good governance should and must imperatively exclude political manoeuvres to maintain power beyond constitutional requirements.”
President Akufo-Addo made the call at the commencement of the ECOWAS high-level parliamentary seminar in Winneba in the Central Region yesterday.
The four-day seminar, which is being attended by Members of the ECOWAS Parliament, is on the theme: “Two decades of democratic elections in ECOWAS member states: Achievements, challenges and the way forward”.
The President said recent events in Mali and Guinea had undermined democratic governance in the ECOWAS region, but said the bloc was committed to maintaining democratic governance.
He urged ECOWAS parliamentarians to take a critical look at the effectiveness of the various electoral systems and processes to ensure free and fair elections and also guarantee accountable governance in member states.
According to him, the authority of any elective public office holder was vested in the people, which could only be expressed legitimately through free, fair and credible elections.
“That is why, having dedicated nearly half a century of my life fighting for the entrenchment of democratic values in Ghana’s body politic, the accession to power by any other means, other than the ballot box, remains for me wholly unacceptable, no matter the ostensible justification,” he added.
President Akufo-Addo said that was in tandem with the ECOWAS supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance, which he said must be protected by all.
“Those who claim to have solutions to the myriad of problems confronting our countries should convince the populations to give them the chance through the ballot box to put their solutions to work,” the President added.
He further said the strength of any democracy was determined by the credibility of its electoral process and respect for the will of the people, and “we cannot overlook the fact that instability has followed disputed elections in many parts of our continent”.
He said good governance frowned on schemes to hold on to power beyond constitutional requirements, and that when it happened, “the marriage between the elected and the electorate becomes forced, the environment becomes toxic and the mandate becomes precarious”.
He, therefore, charged stakeholders in the electoral process to work to ensure that there were no lingering questions about the legitimacy of an election, adding: “There will always be winners and losers in an election; that is the system of governance we subscribe to.”
President Akufo-Addo accepted a proposal by the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis, to be one of the three-member Champions of the process by ECOWAS MPs to be elected directly by the electorate of the various countries.
Amendment of constitution
Dr Tunis said there was the urgent need for member states to pay attention to the phenomenon of amending constitutions before elections or before the expiration of the tenure of an incumbent President.
According to him, amending a constitution to conform to current realities was not, in itself, a problem, but that it only became a challenge when the proposed amendments were aimed at protecting the governing elite, at the expense of the citizenry.
“The truth is that this practice is eroding the gains we have made as a community, sinking the region into more chaos and creating a serious reputational risk for ECOWAS as an institution,” he said.