ELECTIONS AND REPRESENTATIVE RULE IN AFRICA
A COMPARATIVE study OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION IN NIGERIA IN 2007 AND GHANA IN 2008.
There are various concepts of democracy, and their various practices yield a correspondingly diverse range of outcomes. Democracy's exact shape is determined by a country's socioeconomic realities or social production relations, as well as its established state structures and policy practices. “Classical” democracies assumed direct participation in decision making.
After hearing the choices and assessing their relative advantages and demerits, the gathering citizens were expected to agree on a common course of action. Democracy, also known as liberal democracy,
has been defined as rule by individuals freely chosen by the governed who hold them accountable and responsible for their acts while in office through election. It is vital to remember that elections are not only intended to ensure,
confirm, or re-affirm the legitimacy of governors by regular assent, but also to create a fertile ground for liberal democracy or representative rule to develop and be consolidated.
Elections in postcolonial Africa, however, have become a political liability, a cause of instability and degradation, rather than a political asset and a legitimate force.
Most African countries' experiences with competitive election politics have resulted in the worst of political thuggery and brigandage, as well as unmediated and unbridled violence.
For example, in Nigeria, elections are marked by the wanton devastation of lives and property. In fact, Nigeria's so-called electoral politics have been compared to a weapon of war by other means.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the entity charged with organising elections, failed to do so because it is structurally and functionally dependent on the executive branch of government.
Only in a few cases do elections provide genuine opportunities for the populace to determine who governs, as in Ghana and South Africa, two African countries that emerged from long periods of military and apartheid rule, respectively, to become the leading beacons for Africa's democratic struggle.
The Ghanaian election in December 2008 was a watershed moment in Ghanaian politics. The Ghana Electoral Commission held an election that was deemed free and fair by both foreign and local observers. It was able to accomplish this achievement due to its structural and functional independence from the three branches of government.
The Marxist theory of the state was employed, which states that the state exists to maintain the current social and political order. This paradigm was used to assist us understand why INEC was unable to hold a credible presidential election in 2007 due to its reliance on the executive branch of government and the overbearing influence of the ruling elites who insist on maintaining the status quo ante.
While in Ghana, the Electoral Commission, which is independent of the government, was able to run an election that was deemed free and fair by both local and foreign election observer missions and NGOs.
This report recommends that INEC be structured and functionally reformed to make it more independent of any of the three branches of government, as well as from the overbearing influence of other political elites who have one or two interests to defend or advance.
The report also suggests that the Electoral Commission of Ghana design a strategy to avoid the problems/hiccups she encountered during voter registration and the electoral period in future elections.