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Ghana - Political Dynamics Under the Fourth Republic
Political dynamics under the fourth republic
The coming into force of the new constitution with the inauguration of the Fourth Republic and the installation of Jerry Rawlings as the first popularly elected president of Ghana on January 7, 1993, opened a new chapter in Ghana. In spite of the heat of partisan politics, the country's political climate remained encouragingly peaceful on the whole. There were clear indications that both the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and opposition parties and groups as well as the general public were committed to making constitutional democracy work.
The new government faced several challenges in early 1993. One of the most serious, of course, was the problem of persistent and widespread economic hardship. Another was the institutionalization of democratic practice and constitutionalism in a de facto singleparty parliament that resulted from the opposition boycott of parliamentary elections. In boycotting the elections, the main opposition parties, who together received about 40 percent of the total vote in the presidential election, denied themselves not only potential cabinet appointments but also any direct representation in parliament and any opportunity for real power-sharing.
This was regrettable, because throughout Ghana's postindependence history, the legislature has been the weakest of the three branches of government. Without sitting in parliament, the opposition could hardly constitute an effective shadow cabinet or function as a credible government-in-waiting. The creation of a new voters' register and a national individual identification system as called for by the opposition, the need for which Rawlings publicly acknowledged, would also help build a more effective and durable multiparty democracy. A step in this direction came in early 1994 when the National Electoral Commission, created in 1993, set up the Inter-Party Advisory Committee to advise it on electoral issues. This gesture has helped dispel the opposition's view that the electoral commission is a pro-government body.
Since the 1992 elections, the opposition parties, notably the NPP led by Adu Boahen, have sought to prove their commitment to constitutionalism by organizing public rallies, peaceful demonstrations, and press conferences. They have been aided by the emergence of a vigorous private press and by state-controlled media that have sought to report the views of opposition groups. The opposition also has chosen to go to court against alleged breaches of the constitution rather than to resort to confrontation and violence. Indeed, the NPP has urged its supporters to familiarize themselves with their constitutional rights, to criticize the government when it is wrong, and, whenever necessary, to resort to the courts and not to violence.
Such tactics on the part of the opposition are consistent with the principal concerns raised by Rawlings at the inauguration of the Fourth Republic. In his presidential address, Rawlings called for consultation and cooperation with all political groups in the country. He said that the NDC government would continue to reach out to the opposition parties that had boycotted the elections because it was the government's aim to establish a culture of tolerance, consultation, and consensus-building based on mutual respect.
In his address, Rawlings also indicated the basic orientation of his government. He emphasized that the condition of the national economy "must be the foundation of Ghana's democratic aspirations and remained the government's greatest challenge." He noted that his government was determined to continue the Economic Recovery Program (ERP) and that the new constitutional order could not be divorced from the changes brought about by the 31st December 1981 Revolution. In addition, he remarked that he bore no personal grudge against any person or any group (having in mind the pre- and postpresidential election disturbances and violence) and invited others to adopt the same attitude.
Rawlings assured the armed forces that they would remain actively involved in all national endeavors and also indicated that Ghana's role in world affairs would not change. The continuity in domestic, economic, and foreign policy that Rawlings stressed is reflected in the government's ministerial and other appointments. For example, at the end of May 1993, twenty-one of thirty-five ministers had been secretaries under the former PNDC government; many of them held the same portfolios that they had previously held.
Despite some positive steps toward national reconciliation, part of the opposition continued to be distrustful of the new administration. In the view of these critics, the PNDC was still in power, and, accordingly, they referred to the new administration as "P/NDC" or "(P)NDC." Some members of the opposition also saw the new parliament as merely a rubber-stamp of the ruling NDC administration. The reappointment of numerous PNDC secretaries to the new NDC administration as well as the NDC pledge of continuity in economic and social policy confirmed the worst fears of the opposition. The same could be said of a presidential order in January 1993 to the effect that persons who had been in office as PNDC secretaries for ministries, regions, or districts should continue in their offices to avoid the breakdown of the machinery of government. As the opposition was quick to point out, the presidential order technically violated the constitution; however, given the extenuating circumstances created by the postponement of the parliamentary elections, the order was probably unavoidable.
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