Co-optation Despite Democratization in Ghana
LEGISLATIVE POWER IN EMERGING AFRICAN DEMOCRACIES, Joel D. Barkan, ed., Lynne Reinner Publishers, 2009
17 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2011 Last revised: 13 Aug 2019
Date Written: 2009
By all indications then, Ghana seems to have come a long way in developing a democracy with a mass based support. Indeed, this trajectory places Ghana in a group of African countries whose transitions seem to be relatively secure (Lindberg 2006), a consolidated democracy.
How do we then explain that one of its core institutions of democracy, the Parliament of Ghana (PoG), does not seem to flourish in the same way as democracy in general? This chapter analyzes the autonomy and performance of the Ghanaian legislature in terms of legislative and oversight functions and finds that these were strengthened during its first two terms following the return to multiparty politics in 1992 (i.e. from 1992 to1996 and from 1997 to 2000), but has declined significantly since. This coincides with an alternation in power when the former opposition party NPP took control over the house and won the presidency in 2000.
Why did this happen? The analysis suggests that limited resources for the legislature, weak capacity of the parliamentary service, a high turnover among MPs, and demands for constituency service all play a part in the explanation. Nevertheless, the most important explanation is to be found in the quest for survival of a new government of President John Kufour under conditions of high political competition, leading to cooptation of the legislature by the executive. The primary means for cooptation have been found in the hybrid constitution of Ghana making it possible for MPs to become ministers; in government’s control over resources for constituency service; and in the creation of seats on procurement boards for ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) distributed as perks for loyal MPs.
Keywords: legislatures, member of parliament, Ghana, elections, democracy, democratization
JEL Classification: O10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation