ArchivePublished 12Published 12.1

Ghana versus U.S.A. elections

Obroni impressions and comparisons of campaign processes

Published in Public Agenda on July 23, 2012

Author: Kayla Albrecht

There is no prouder moment for a democratic nation than the completion of a successful, fair election. To allow the people to make an educated decision to elect a new or returning leader, campaigns are necessary processes.
While I have been interning in Accra and pouring my interests into the upcoming presidential elections in Ghana, a similar operation has been taking place in my home country, the United States, giving me a unique opportunity to compare and contrast the elements that form each country’s political campaign qualities. Overall, I’ve found numerous similarities between the campaign events of the two countries. However, I have discovered one telling difference between the two nations’ processes — the concerns of the people.

During the “Evening Encounter with Mr Hassan Ayariga,” hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) last Tuesday, I was pleased to recognise aspects of Ghanaian campaign events concurrent with those I am accustomed to in the United States. The town hall-like setting I witnessed also exists during the early stages of the presidential candidates’ campaigns in the United States to allow the constituency the opportunity to probe the prospective leader and discover their values and platforms. These events are crucial opportunities to gauge the quality of the prospective president’s interactions with their electorate.

“Those who wish to govern must allow themselves to be subjected to probing questions by the people,” explains the IEA, “to ensure that they understand their concerns and have the capacity to address them.” Refusing to subject themselves to constituencies would be an act of self-sabotage for presidential candidates in both countries, reason enough to strive for transparency.

In the United States, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) functions similarly to the IEA with a parallel mission — “to ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners.” Recently, the CPD has worked closely with groups in a number of counties, including Ghana, to offer perspective on establishing debate traditions and discuss successes and failures. The comparable organizations reveal yet another congruity between the nations’ processes.

Among the similarities I have observed lies an essential difference between the campaigns in the United States and Ghana — the topic of constituent questions. The majority of concerns expressed to Mr Ayariga during Tuesday’s encounter regarded individual social policies and issues such as child protection and services for disabled persons, while in the United States, candidates are overwhelmingly asked about large-scale economic issues and foreign policy, or that is the matter they chose to near exclusively address. Question choice during election times reveals the values of the populace, and as a foreign observer, I found myself relating to the values of the Ghanaian organisations in attendance.

The ability of the people to appoint their leaders based on a shared vision is something that we, as citizens of independent and democratic counties, are privileged to partake in. I am eternally appreciative to be invited to observe such an important process in a country’s democratic process, and when I return to the United States, I will be enthusiastic to share the humanitarian values of my Ghanaian hosts.

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