Elections And Representative Rule In Africa: A Comparative Study Of Nigeria’s 2007 And Ghana’s 2008 Presidential Elections

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science


Abstract


There are different conceptions of democracy and their diverse practices produce a similarly varied set of effects. The specific form democracy takes is contingent upon a country’s socioeconomic conditions or social production relations as well as its entrenched state structures and policy practices. “Classical” democracies presumed decision making based on direct participation. The assembled citizenry was expected to agree on a common course of action after listening to the alternatives and weighing their respective merits and demerits. Democracy or liberal democracy has been described as government by persons freely chosen by the governed who hold them accountable and responsible for their actions while in government through election. Elections, it is important to note, are not only meant to ensure, confirm or re-affirm the legitimacy of the governors through a regular consent, but also provide a fertile ground for liberal democracy or representative rule to thrive and be consolidated.
However, rather than being a political asset and a legitimate force, elections in post colonial Africa have become a political liability, a source of instability and decay. The various experiences with competitive electoral politics in most parts of Africa have brought the worst in political thuggery and brigandage, unmediated and unrestrained violence.

For instance, Election in Nigeria is characterized by wanton destruction of lives and properties. In fact the so called electoral politics in Nigeriahas been likened to an instrument of warfare by other means. Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), which is the body saddled with the responsibility of conducting election, failed to do so due to its being dependent (structural and functional) on the executive arm of government. It is only in few cases do elections represent real opportunities for the populace to determine who governs. That is, Ghana and South Africa, two of Africa’s countries that emerged from prolonged military and apartheid rule respectively to become the leading beacon for the struggle of democracy in Africa. The December 2008 election in Ghana was a watershed moment in the annals of Ghanaian politics. The Electoral Commission of Ghana conducted an election that was adjudged to be free and fair by both foreign and local observer groups. It was able to do achieve this feat because of the fact that it is independent (structural and functional) from the three arms of government.

The Marxist theory of the state which state that, the state exists to preserve the existing social and political order was used. This framework was employed to help us understand the reasons INEC could not conduct a credible presidential election in 2007 was its being dependent on the executive arm of the government and alsodue to the over-bearing influence of the ruling elites who insist on maintaining the status quo ante. While her counter-part in Ghana, the Electoral Commission being independent from governmental manipulation, was able to conduct an election that was adjudged free and fair by both local and foreign election observer missions and groups. This study recommend that INEC should be reform both structurally and functionally to make it more independent from any of the three arms of government and also from the over bearing influence of other political elites who has one or two interests to protect or further. The study equally recommends that the Electoral Commission of Ghana should devise a strategy that would checkmate the problems/hiccups she encountered during the registration of voters and electoral period in future elections.


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