As Ghanaians await the results of Sunday's presidential
election, political scientists are weighing in on whether Ghana would pass the
test of mature democracy that has eluded most African countries.
scientists define a mature democracy as a country that has had two successful
handovers of power from legitimately elected leader to another.
Joel Barkan is
senior associate at the Africa Program of the Center for International and
Strategic Studies here in Washington. He told VOA Ghana may be on its way to becoming a mature democracy.
you're referring to there is the principle of double alternation formulated by Samuel Huntington, a
distinguished political scientist at Harvard. That was exactly a mis-quote of
his principle because his bar is higher than simply a peaceful transition of
power. He requires a double alternation, meaning that one political party is
essentially defeated in an election by the candidate of another political
party, which in fact happened in 2000 when John Kufuor was elected. And then
there is a second alternation when the candidate of incumbent political party,
in this case Nana Akufo-Addo he is defeated and the opposition comes back in.
Other political suggest that there are other standards for mature democracy,
but Ghana is on its way towards that goal," he said.
said Ghana's electoral system is quite good, including a good commission to
supervise the elections.
said if one adheres to the Huntington definition, then only a few countries in
Africa can be considered as mature democracies.
you adhere to the Huntington definition, the only double alternation that has
occurred has been, I believe I'm correct, in Zambia. But Ghana has had one
alternation so far; Senegal has had one alternation. In each of these cases the
candidate of the ruling political party was defeated and there was an
acceptance of that by the candidate of the ruling party, and the opposition
came into power," Barkan said.
said while Botswana has had a series of a peaceful transfer of power, it does
not meet Huntington's definition of a mature democracy in all cases of
Botswana's peaceful transition the victor has been a member of the ruling party
even though the person elected has changed.
Botswana fits the definition you quoted me (that a mature democracy is a
country that has had two successful handovers of power from one legitimately
elected leader to another). But the definition that political scientists use
that is alternation between candidates of governing and opposition parties,
Botswana has not met that test," he said.
the other hand, Barkan said Botswana passes the test of a mature democracy
because it has had successful elections, it has a free press, an independent
judiciary, low level of corruption, and it has an emerging legislature.
said a few African countries could fit the scientific definition of a maturing
political scientists use different measures, let's put it that way. But when
you assess Africa as a whole, which I think is your main question, what we tend
to find is that there are about seven or eight that are put in the category of
maturing democracy that is close to consolidating democracy. Botswana, Benin,
Ghana would all fall into that category, South Africa too perhaps. And then
another group of countries may be 15 or so that I would aspiring democracies
which are not quite there yet, but are quite promising," Barkan said.
said it has been difficult for African countries to achieve double alternation
because it takes time.
cannot achieve a double alternation until there are series of elections. You
have to have at least two or three for the alternation to take place. But in
most cases, incumbent presidents are re-elected. Another aspect of a double
alternation requires that candidates of at least two different political
parties, government and opposition, are willing to accept defeat and abide by
the ruling of the electoral commission. Secondly, they won't do that unless you
have an electoral commission that is highly competent, which is what you have
in Ghana under Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the commissioner of elections there," Barkan
said the people of a country also must regard the electoral process as
legitimate in order for them to accept the results.