The Political Scene Under the PNDC

Ghana Table of Contents

For democracy to function effectively in Ghana, it was necessary to relate Western democratic processes to Ghanaian political traditions. Peter Du Sautoy, a former district commissioner, recalled his attempt to explain British democracy in the country before independence. His audience understood the process of election, but he was asked how one got rid of one's representative when he no longer seemed to be representative. Du Sautoy explained that one waited until the next election four or five years later. His Ghanaian audience felt that "this was most undemocratic--from time immemorial they had been able to get rid of their chiefs at any tim, when, after mature consideration and discussion, they felt they no longer had confidence in them."

This observation clearly defines one enduring aspect of the relationship between politics and democracy as understood by the ordinary Ghanaian. It also highlights the significance of indigenous political ideology and attitudes that constitute the core elements of the contemporary Ghanaian political tradition. This political tradition, along with inherited colonial and Christian elements, informs and shapes the institutional pattern of political life. Its basic principles influence disputes and conflicts over the organization, distribution, maintenance, exercise, and transfer of power, and the allocation of economic resources in Ghanaian society.

The published speeches of Rawlings provide evidence of the effective use of symbols and principles drawn from ancestral religious beliefs, Christianity, and chieftaincy. Indeed, Rawlings insisted throughout PNDC rule that the revolution's main and longterm goal was to create a more just society in which the interests of the majority were not repressed in favor of those of a tiny minority and in which the productivity of all Ghanaians would increase. He saw participatory democracy as the best guarantee of such a society.

The PNDC leadership could scarcely avoid the ideological tension and strife generic to Ghanaian popular movements and massbased political programs. Ironically, the ideological strife that haunted the PNDC leadership was similar to that which wrecked the PNP. In 1980 Limann, PNP leader and president of Ghana, had complained helplessly that the PNP as a mass party spanned the whole range of political ideas. He pointed out that party members included pragmatists, leftists, rightists, and centrists, and he stressed that no national party with a broad social base could escape this mix. The left wing of the PNP--for example, the Kwame Nkrumah Revolutionary Guards--was Limann's severest critic. Some of the leaders of the same left wing and similar organizations joined the PNDC and attempted unsuccessfully in the early years of the revolutionary period to transform what was clearly a nationalist, popular revolution in the direction of Marxism-Leninism.

In the first year after the 31st December 1981 Revolution, the PNDC regime established new political structures and legal institutions. The new administration rebuilt or reformed much of the pre-existing local, regional, and national administrative machinery of governance in accordance with the avowed goals of the revolution. During the following ten years, many of these new structures of governance and consultation were modified in response to the demands of efficiency, social and economic realities, and internal and external political pressures. A number of these institutional and structural changes were incorporated into the 1992 Constitution of the Fourth Republic.

One such institution was the National Commission for Democracy (NCD), which evolved from the Electoral Commission of the Third Republic. In 1984 the NCD invited the public to submit proposals on the future form of democratic government for the country. In addition, public meetings were held to discuss how to realize true democracy in Ghana. As a result of these and other efforts, the NCD published its "Blue Book" on the creation of district political authority and on holding elections. These efforts culminated in the district elections of 1988 and the subsequent establishment of 110 district assemblies. In July 1990, the NCD initiated more public debates on the future political system of the country. This marked a significant step in the transition to democracy, which ended with the presidential and parliamentary elections in November and December 1992.

By the late 1980s, the PNDC comprised nine members, the most important being Rawlings, the chairman. It was the highest legislative and administrative body of the state. Below the PNDC was the Committee of Secretaries (cabinet), made up of nineteen secretaries (ministers) who met on a weekly basis under the chairmanship of a PNDC member. The most prominent of the secretaries were those in charge of finance and economic planning, foreign affairs, education and culture, local government and rural development, agriculture, health, mobilization and productivity, and chieftaincy affairs.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress