Mr Frederik Willem de Klerk, former President of the Republic of South Africa on Tuesday commended the Electoral Commission of Ghana for being an effective and independent body.
He said: “Genuine democracy requires an independent and effective electoral commission and impartial and fearless courts; here also Ghana has led the way in Africa”.
Mr de Klerk made the remark in Accra during the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) post Supreme Court verdict lecture on the theme: “Fostering peace, national cohesion and reconciliation after the ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana”.
“Ghana has respected independent courts and an impartial embattled – independent electoral commission.
“You should not underestimate the great responsibility shouldered by an election commission in any election, and the great contribution election commissions make to promoting and embedding democratic institutions into a country’s traditions.
“It is a difficult and dangerous business, because it is almost impossible to please everyone and passions run high. So we need to treat them with respect,” he stated.
He said the task of Ghana’s Electoral Commission has been seriously complicated by the fact that the last two national elections have been so close.
The former President said: “Your problem is that your two main political parties are very evenly matched. I wish that South Africa suffered from the same problem! But competition is healthy – and essential – in any democracy. It makes accountable government. It keeps government on its toes and reduces corruption. It provides a credible, peaceful channel for protest for the disaffected.”
“It gives the opposition hope that it can achieve power by following the people’s wishes, rather than by coercion, disruption and violence.”
He said it is only when democracy is supported by independent institutions that it could ensure that elections truly are free and fair and that any electoral disputes could be adjudicated fearlessly and impartially.
“However, there is another and perhaps even more fundamental requirement for the success of democracy – and that is the commitment and resolve of the people to abide by democratic norms and outcomes.
“Ghana has just emerged from a bruising test of its democratic institutions and of the commitment of its people and political leaders to accept the will of the people – expressed in free and fair elections,” former President de Klerk stated.
He said it is quite understandable that the New Patriotic Party was bitterly disappointed – but admirable that instead of opting for extra-constitutional actions it referred its complaints to the courts.
“However, in my view, the soundness of Ghana’s commitment to democracy was reflected not primarily in the judicial process but in the manner and grace with which its politicians and parties accepted the judgment of the Supreme Court.
“Ghana has passed all these tests with flying colours and in so doing continues to provide inspiration to the entire continent of Africa,” former President de Klerk said.
The lecture was attended by former President J. A. Kufuor, members of the diplomatic community, the academia, senior government officials such as Mr E. T. Mensah and Mr Cletus Avoka; and leading figures across the political divide.
It was chaired by Dr Charles Mensa, IEA Board Chairman. GNA