Editorial: Ghana elections and relevance of minor political parties
As at yesterday 23rd July, 2020, there were 27 political parties listed on the website of the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana. Political parties are necessary for any functional democracy, especially where the multi-party political system operates. Political parties bring groups of like-minded people together, and act as a means in which people can participate in the governance process.
Since the return to civilian politics in the early 1990s, the electoral landscape has been controlled by two political parties. Although Ghana operates the multi-party political system, with as many as twenty-seven registered political parties, the sad reality is that there are only two dominant parties, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Between the two parties, they managed to sweep all the 275 parliamentary seats on offer during the 2016 elections, leaving the smaller parties mere spectators. This is a worrying trend, because in past elections since the advent of the Fourth Republican Constitution, some of the smaller parties were able to win seats in Parliament, albeit one or two seats.
The importance of minor parties cannot be underestimated, because of the significant roles they play in helping to create and maintain stable democracies, especially in emerging democracies such as ours. In spite of the recognisable obstacles that smaller parties face, they nevertheless contribute to the health of a burgeoning democratic culture.
The Chronicle is, therefore, happy that the minor parties have found their voice again in this election year. Speaking on Joynews, Mr Hassan Ayariga of the All People’s Congress said the media has not been paying enough attention to their activities, thus accounting for their abysmal performance in previous general elections.
According to the minor parties, because of the media’s constant coverage of the two main political parties, their activities remain in the shadow.
Much as The Chronicle disagrees with Mr Hassan Ayariga for solely blaming the media for their awful performance, we believe the political activities of the minor parties must also be given equal attention by the media. The smaller parties, in seeking equity, must also rise up to the occasion, by not being dormant for three years after the elections, only to become active in election year.
Most morning shows on TV and radio have developed a template of newspaper reviews, with the two dominant parties providing panelists for discussions. The smaller parties appear on the panel only during election year, and disappear after the December elections.
Also, it is only the NPP and NDC which are able to provide parliamentary candidates for all the 275 constituencies, even though they might not be strong in some constituencies. But the smaller parties usually target a small number of constituencies where they believe they have good chances of winning. All these do not help the cause of the minor parties, and it also limits their coverage by the media.
The Chronicle has witnessed the emergence of patronage of the dominant parties as an electoral strategy being used by the minor parties. This appalling phenomenon has seen the smaller parties in Ghana existing only in name, but, in actual fact, are surrogates of either the NPP or the NPP. Members of these smaller parties appear on TV or radio only to espouse the ideologies of the two dominant parties. This will not make Ghanaians take them as serious independent political parties which can stand on their own. If they want equal coverage from the media, then they must also be up and doing. The smaller parties must bear in mind that it is only the state-owned media that is obliged to give them equal election coverage. However, with the private media, the minor parties must be seen justify their inclusion.