This week we got chance to watch Jarreth Merz’s documentary An African Election. The one and half hour film is about Ghana presidential election in 2008 between the New Patriotic Party (NPP) candidate Nana Akufo-Addo and National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate John Atta Mills. Having experienced 2 smooth transition of power in 4 successive democratic elections between 1996 until 2008, Ghana is undoubtedly regarded by Jockers, Kohnert, Nugent as model for African democracy.
As the documentary went through up and down moments as the campaign period progressing, Jarreth obviously tries to highlight the similarity of candidate’s campaign approaches and political offers to attract their supporters. Although religion and ethnicity is a matter of perception in Ghana politics according to Jockers, Kohnert and Nugent, one that catches my attention was both candidates approached religious sentiments by offering aid to the church and a direct flight for muslims to perform Hajj in Mecca.
From the beginning of the film, we can see a person that taking huge role in the election explicitly and the person was the former president of Ghana, Jerry Rawlings. He actively campaigning for fundamental issues of electoral processes and exposing what he believes the ruling NPP government abuse in substance of democracy rather than promoting the candidate. It is something unique though, the representative of African Union came to visit him to get insight of the running election campaign. Rawlings may have shown us that some political elite might have strongly put their foot down in the state building, even though no longer in political position.
Nevertheless Ghana as a good model of Africa as compared to Kenya, Zimbabwe or Nigeria, it electoral process still need improvement. The use of technology to simplify result , the neutrality of electoral commission and many others and failure of responsible authorities to put commitment to resolve claimed fraudulent voting, Jockers etc identified as possible “amounts to a dangerous time bomb of unresolved conflict which could detonate in future elections.”
In my home country, the electoral process still in deep concern of it citizen. The ruling government flip flop in providing satisfactory solution to long list accusations of being overshadowed election commission decision, manipulated electoral registry and to some extend the interference in voting process for the last 3 decades. A civil movement called BERSIH demands for electoral reform established in 2006 and since then gained mass support from Malaysian through 4 massive mass demonstrations.
I believe that while most of developing countries in Asia and South America might have more established electoral process than other African counterpart, no one could deny the fact that the true form of democracy must fulfill the motive of democracy – to give the right to the people. It’s true indeed to grasp inspirational Mahatma Gandhi’s quote :
” The spirit of democracy is not a mechanical thing to be adjusted by abolition of forms. It requires change of the heart”