Former President, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings says the creeping canker of money politics threatens to destroy the natural consultative role of our political leaders.

“The new and current corrupter towards electoral democracy is the misuse and abuse of money…we are sowing the seeds of instability because we are using it to destroy the important human values that serve as an anchor in our civilisation,” he said.

He also noted that a one-size fits all prescription of democracy for the continent will be a recipe for “stress, tension and failure”.

Delivering the keynote address at the 5th Annual Symposium of the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa (EISA) on Tuesday, President Rawlings said: “Democracy works only when it has evolved within a specific socio-cultural environment and fused into the traditional political systems such that it is seen as an indigenous product, but unfortunately Africa has not been given the opportunity to develop this.”

The former President lamented the disinterest of political parties in strengthening internal structures and making strong efforts to have a huge membership base. He said though political parties work hard to have a strong support base through raising funds from individuals who expect to be rewarded during electoral victories, registration of members seems not to be a priority.

“Registering members seems not to be the primary objective of most parties but rather a desire to have a large base of supporters who are not necessarily registered members. Is it not ironic to see political parties galvanise funds from a few individuals who literally buy votes through the provision of cash, motorcycles, bicycles, and other essential amenities for the electorate and naturally expect to be rewarded when elections are won?

“It is not uncommon to see the campaign offices of presidential, parliamentary or party executive aspirants properly equipped with every conceivable facility comparable to party offices in other parts of the world while the actual party offices in ours are still set in an antiquated way of doing things.

“Parties no doubt have the capacity to be efficient, embrace modern technology and management methods and adopt state-of-the-art communications strategies but all these will come to nought without empowerment – empowerment of the people…the ordinary people.”

Source: Former President Rawlings’ blog





Read the full text of his address below



5th ANNUAL EISA SYMPOSIUM

SETTING BENCHMARKS FOR ENHANCED POLITICAL PARTY PERFORMANCE FOR DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE IN AFRICA

KEYNOTE ADDRESS AND OFFICIAL OPENING SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY Flt Lt JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF GHANA

23 NOVEMBER 2010


• DIRECTOR OF CEREMONIES & EISA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
• MEMBERS OF THE EISA BOARD
• EISA MANAGEMENT TEAM AND STAFF
• MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS
• REPRESENTATIVE OF THE AFRICAN UNION
• THE DONOR COMMUNITY & DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS
• CABINET MINISTERS
• HONOURABLE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT
• LEADERS OF RULING AND OPPOSITION POLITICAL PARTIES
• REPRESENTATIVES OF REGIONAL ECONOMIC COMMUNITIES
• REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ELECTION MANAGEMENT BODIES
• REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS
• MEMBERS OF THE ACADEMIC COMMUNITY
• EXCELLENCIES
• DISTINGUISHED GUESTS
• LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

I feel honoured to have been invited to be part of this continental symposium organised and hosted by the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa (EISA).

Allow me to begin by acknowledging the work that EISA does across the African continent particularly as a leading organisation in the area of elections, democracy and governance. I would also like to congratulate EISA for organising the annual symposia, which have not only become its trademark, but have also positioned it among the leading organisations that seek to promote democratic governance on the continent.

It is also noteworthy that my respected colleague, former President of Botswana, is a patron of the Institute.

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
It was equally delightful to learn that this year EISA was organising a symposium focussing on political parties with the view to enhance the capacity of political parties in Africa, not only to be effective, accountable, responsive and transparent, but also to be internally democratic. I believe that this is a profound initiative and must be sustained.

If democracy is to work efficiently on the continent it should be a reflection of the indigenous social, cultural and political ethos of our various countries. In embarking on an exercise like this let us not attempt to create a one-size fits all prescription for the continent. It will be a recipe for stress, tension and failure.

Democracy works only when it has evolved within a specific socio-cultural environment and fused into the traditional political systems such that it is seen as an indigenous product, but unfortunately Africa has not been given the opportunity to develop this.

None will disagree that today more than any time in the past political parties are a useful vehicle for contestation of power in a democratic setting. Parties must be able to provide alternative policy options and should be able to promote representative democracy through providing a plurality of diverse voices and present alternative choices. In order to be effective in the offering of plural choices, parties have to be effective articulators of their policy message, and of what it is that they wish to offer to citizens and to society. As such, political parties’ ability to provide alternatives to citizens in choosing of representatives and to be an effective voice is crucial.

However, it is evident that our political parties are faced with a myriad of internal and external challenges, which are a setback to their proper functioning. Researchers on political parties offer many and varied explanations. Yet common to their observation about political parties in Africa is a lack or absence of internal democracy, lack of leadership skills, poor administrative skills and policy making skills, poor financial management skills, lack of clearly defined goals and little ideological differences, lack or absence of gender equality, lack of conflict management skills and tolerance both within and between political parties.

Ladies and gentlemen, these lapses do not come about as result of a lack of resources or a lack of competent personnel within political parties. It is oftentimes as a direct result of a misplaced conception that some enter politics to get rich. There is thus little desire on the part of party machinery to put in place effective mechanisms that will allow parties to operate as an effective autonomous body that is there to protect the interests of members on an equitable basis. Political parties definitely abound in personnel who have the requisite competence to guide governments to implement the above-stated requirements but individual interests tend to reign supreme.

Individuals, especially on our continent therefore have a field day monopolising parties either by virtue of their financial wealth often ill-acquired or because they are closer to government – that is in power. Registering members seems not to be the primary objective of most parties but rather a desire to have a large base of supporters who are not necessarily registered members. Is it not ironic to see political parties galvanise funds from a few individuals who literally buy votes through the provision of cash, motorcycles, bicycles, and other essential amenities for the electorate and naturally expect to be rewarded when elections are won?

It is not uncommon to see the campaign offices of presidential, parliamentary or party executive aspirants properly equipped with every conceivable facility comparable to party offices in other parts of the world while the actual party offices in ours are still set in an antiquated way of doing things.

Parties no doubt have the capacity to be efficient, embrace modern technology and management methods and adopt state-of-the-art communications strategies but all these will come to nought without empowerment – empowerment of the people…the ordinary people.

Article 27 (8) of the AFRICAN CHARTER ON DEMOCRACY, ELECTIONS AND GOVERNANCE states:

“In order to advance political, economic and social governance, State Parties shall commit themselves to promoting freedom of expression.”

Let us not be fixated with the adoption of modern party machinery without recourse to the involvement of the masses who really give life to political parties. Political parties have to justify their existence before ordinary citizens of our continent and they can only do so if they endeavour to give true ownership of such institutions to them. A political party cannot boast of being a political party if the ordinary folk are not convinced they own and have a stake at the decision-making level of the party.

I do not prescribe a chaotic situation where an amorphous structure is created which desires millions of political party followers to all contribute to debates before intra-party decisions are taken. I am referring to a decentralised party structure where there is an equitable distribution of opportunities for candidates to party positions. And where contributions are sought from all departments of the party before decisions are taken.

Participants will admit that in many parts of the continent party structures at the lowest constituent levels are teleguided by the national executive and favourites are sponsored to win elections, sometimes against the will of the people of the area. Mistrust is thus sown at the lowest level and there is an unfortunate understanding that even at such a level you must have the support of perceived powerful people within the party hierarchy to be elected into office.

Ladies and gentlemen let us set benchmarks and put in place a machinery to support such targets, but more importantly, let us change our mindset. Let us stop being overprotective of political office by ensuring that a role that is meant to be a service to the people is rather an opportunity to serve them. Implementing the benchmarks you agree to here, is a charge you have to keep. Pay lip service to them and this conference would have been a total waste.

Political parties can only be relevant if they do not allow individuals to establish power-bases within and around the party and use them as an opportunity to emasculate the party. Many parties in power, including Ghana tend to look up to government as the power base rather than vice-versa. Because the party has overlooked the fact that elected leaders including the president are there to serve the party and by effect, the people, government is able to impose its will on the party, further weakening the party structure. These are the issues that have to be at the back of your minds, ladies and gentlemen.

Of particular importance is the adherence to truth, transparency, recognising and respecting the judicial consciousness of the public and a desire to help empower the party resource-wise instead of the individual quest for material gain.

DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
I have been advised by the organisers that the specific objectives of developing the benchmarks are to:

# Explore practices for the institutionalisation of political parties
# Encourage focus on gender equality within parties for increasing the numbers of women in party decision-making positions
# Explore practices in interparty relations, and exploring conditions under which party coalitions are possible and establishing principles for sustainable coalition building.
# Improve existing benchmarks/principles so as to add value to the rebuilding of democratic institutions
# Improve penetration into society and improve constituency building and constituency relations.
# Encourage effective representation accountability, responsiveness and transparency
# Encourage inclusiveness, diversity and representativity
# Encourage political tolerance
# Encourage the empowerment of rank and file membership of parties.
# Improve party operational apparatuses, including party management and administration
# Examine modalities for party funding that are equitable and fair and which lead party sustainability after thorough discussion.


I have touched on several of these benchmarks already but one issue that requires a lot of attention is gender equality and the increase in participation of women in decision-making within political parties. The women emancipation process is not just about instituting percentage participation as a sign of commitment. It is about a conscious effort on the part of political parties to push for national legislation that ensures that women are educated to the highest level. It is also about a campaign to ensure that women are self-reliant economically and given confidence to take up political office right from the grassroots level.

A lack of education should not be used to intimidate women into avoiding politics. Politics is about what affects us on a daily basis. Women are usually more aware of the deeper problems affecting society and we need to encourage them to articulate their concerns through their participation in political activity. Demystifying politics will encourage women to participate and sooner than later we will not need to create the quota systems that are in a true sense of the word discriminatory in character.

The EU Electoral Observation Mission that monitored the 2008 elections in Ghana made some good observations that is relevant to your deliberations and the strengthening of political parties on the continent.

It noted that: “The national capacity of political parties needs to be strengthened including the introduction of pro-active measures for ensuring inclusive political party structures. The draft bill on the funding of political parties, based on the principle of proportionality, should be promulgated by parliament. Registration of political parties should be removed from the mandate of the Electoral Commission and transferred to a suitable body.

“Party agents should receive more training on their role during elections and an adequate code of conduct be introduced. They should also receive visibility material identifying them as agents and should refrain from taking on a too proactive role in the process.

“The system for campaign spending should be reviewed as it is inadequate. Consideration should be given to placing a ceiling on spending and introducing an appropriate and transparent system for public accountability in campaign spending. To complement their annual financial reports the political parties should submit accounts of their donations and spending on a bi-weekly basis to a relevant authority for the duration of the campaign period ensuring maximum transparency.

“More extensive and permanent voter and civic education should be introduced throughout the year to inform and educate voters of both their rights as voters as well as registration and voting procedures. The responsible institutions should also ensure this reaches grass roots level and the authorities provide an adequate budget for these activities to be undertaken.”

Ladies and gentlemen these are recommendations that are relevant to all political parties irrespective of their countries of origin and should be factored into your deliberations in the next two days.

By seeking to develop benchmarks for enhanced political party performance for democratic governance in Africa, the 5th Annual EISA Symposium is relevant and comes at an opportune time as different stakeholders are re-examining the issue of party assistance. Recently, bi-lateral donors, diplomats, international and regional organisations, implementers who focus on political party assistance, as well as political party members, political analysts and a broad range of actors from the peace making (mediation, dialogue facilitation), democracy building, state building and academic fields converged in Sussex, England to deliberate on what needs to be done to assist political parties. The main question they reflected on was how assistance to parties can be done without distorting the domestic political process in favour of one political party over another, and, most importantly, that it does not cement power in non-democratic elite structures that might not be amenable to opening up to more democratic processes.

DIRECTOR OF CEREMONIES, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Judging by the goal and objectives of this conference, and by a rich and diverse expertise you have assembled from across the continent and beyond to present conference papers, I am confident and optimistic that you will live up to the task before you. I would like to hasten to indicate that while your presence here is an indication of your commitment to contribute to the enhancement of the capacity of political parties in Africa to be effective and internally democratic, the real commitment will be judged by your willingness to embrace the principles that will be agreed in this symposium. Put differently, institutionalisation of political parties will remain a distant mirage regardless of the amount of time and energy EISA and its partners spend unless political parties seriously commit to implement the agreed benchmarks.

I would suggest that SABC publicises as much of the educative lectures and discussions for the benefit of the continent and the world.

As leaders of our countries, we have a responsibility to judge the mood of the people and always move the political train in a direction that ensures that the populace feels their interests have been served. Democracy makes true meaning when it is the kind of governance that reflects true people power.

It is not the absence of military interventions, which we seem to have achieved to a significant extent that will restore democracy, freedom, justice and development. What is required is the integrity of leadership and ability to empower the people. Leadership should have confidence in our people and not feel intimidated by empowering them.

The crucial questions are: Are we bold enough to empower the people? Are we prepared to be accountable to the people?

Corruption has persisted because some of our leaders have used state machinery to subjugate the vibrant spirit of the people and silenced the opposition. Vested interests from outside have also contributed to perpetuating this by whitewashing such corrupt and autocratic governments.
Ladies and gentlemen, noble human values will be lost if we continue to allow money to be used to persuade us in our votes. Take it if you may but do not sell your conscience.

Ladies and gentlemen, in South Africa, so long as there was the painful reality of racism and apartheid no amount of money being pumped into the elections could prevent an ANC victory or the Apartheid regime from being removed. This was a struggle to restore and reinstate noble human values. The ethnic factor has also played and may continue to play a determinant role until the importance of merit and integrity finally overrides money or materialism and the negative effect of ethnicity.

A sizeable proportion of Africa is still held down by the ethnic factor and understandably so in terms of voting patterns. The new and current corrupter towards electoral democracy is the misuse and abuse of money. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we are sowing the seeds of instability because we are using it to destroy the important human values that serve as an anchor in our civilisation.

The significant event that took place here in terms of the party instigating and edging out a sitting President is unprecedented in Africa's political history. In most parts of our continent instead of our leaders allowing the will of the nation to guide us through our chosen parties we have the tendency of inflicting our singular will and overriding that of the nation.

Power then corrupts us and we thus lose our natural consultative role. Abuses and corruption then set in. Human rights violations become the order of the day and the creative and defiant spirit of the nation with time, becomes subdued and in some cases emasculated. People then end up literally worshipping their oppressors. Unfortunately discerning voices that begin to draw attention to our deviations are often perceived as the abnormal. The probability of coups and explosions then become the obvious option for rescue.

The very democratic right that is exercised by the party in choosing its leader is expected to have the same mandate to correct deviations or to remove him when it becomes necessary. This is precisely because of the extent to which the executive sometimes decide to use power and resources to bribe, corrupt and emasculate the party leadership. The party leadership invariably ends up becoming an appendage of the executive. How then can we expect the party to be able to fulfil its moral mandate?

The resilience and the strength that was exhibited by the party machinery here in edging out a sitting president speaks volumes and that is what is lacking in many other multiparty democracies in developing countries. The party in government did not wait to be rejected by the populace. It had the capacity to demonstrate its own corrective mechanism.

This is all we ask for - the ability to recognise the stakes and the capacity to take prompt and decisive action. To take away that right to guide, correct and counsel in effect means that the multi-party practice only exists in name. Where then lies the difference between an autocratic regime and a so-called democratic government of the people, by the people and for the people?

Once again, I congratulate EISA for providing this rare space for both ruling and opposition parties to engage each other to find solutions to the common challenges they are faced with as they endeavour to offer alternative choices and become a voice to the multitudes of their constituents.

Democracy is about what the people want and need, not about what the rulers think the people want or need. Herein lies our responsibility.

DIRECTOR OF CEREMONIES, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, IT GIVES ME GREAT PLEASURE TO DECLARE THIS 5th ANNUAL EISA SYMPOSIUM OFFICIALLY OPEN.

I WISH YOU FRUITFUL DELIBERATIONS AS YOU SEEK TO PROMOTE THE LONG-TERM INSTITUTIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR POLITICAL PARTIES ON THE AFRICAN CONTINENT.

THANK YOU.


Visit Former President Rawlings’ blog site - http://jjrawlings.wordpress.com/