Ghana’s governing and opposition political parties are resisting plans by a policy think tank to organize presidential debates only between incumbent President John Dramani Mahama and main opposition leader Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic party (NPP).
They say the planned rules by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) are biased against so-called smaller opposition parties.
So far, 22 political parties have officially registered to participate in the November presidential, legislative and local elections, Electoral Commission of Ghana officials said.
Previously, IEA rules required a group to have representation in parliament for a candidate to quality for a political debate.
IEA officials said this year they are considering having just the two leading candidates participate in the debate before November's general election.
The group said its internal polling showed Ghanaians wanted to hear just from the leaders of the two dominant parties.
George Lawson, NDC deputy general secretary, told local media Starr FM, “It’s an absurd decision. We have not yet met to take a decision on that proposal. But how can one possibly engage in such a discriminatory democracy? Such a debate must not be encouraged. ... All candidates must be given the same level playing field and this segregation attempts being advanced by the IEA must be stopped."
Bernard Mornah, chairman of the opposition People’s National Convention (PNC), told VOA the IEA proposal is disquieting and an affront to Ghana’s multiparty democracy.
Mornah said such a vital aspect of the Ghanaian democracy -- the presidential debate -- should not be left in the hands of a private institution to dictate the terms.
“The IEA has simply been so rude, they have been so disrespectful and this outcome is so disgusting to say the least," he said.
"And the PNC doesn’t take it lying low, we have asked our general secretary to write to them in clear terms telling them that we are disappointed, a d our presidential candidate will not participate in any debate of such nature,” he added.
Mornah said the IEA erred in its proposal, saying the smaller opposition parties have contributed to the national discourse to improve the living conditions of Ghanaians by holding the administrations accountable to the people.
“Even though we have not won power, our policy contribution to shaping the political destiny of our nation has not been in doubt,” he said.
To further complicate matters, the ruling NDC party said President Mahama might not participate in the presidential debate.
However, IEA said the presidential debate will proceed despite threats by some political parties that they will consider boycotting the presidential debate.