Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spectator in Ghanaian Election of 2008

Election in December? End of the year? I remember Anthony (my driver) lamented that this year's Christmas season has been overshadowed by their presidential election – imagine that happening back home. And I could empathize with him seeing campaign materials more than the usual holiday decorations and hearing bickerings over the airwaves instead of inspirational messages on the season's spirit. What's more interesting is the way they do the elections. There is a semi-finals then the finals. First week of December witnessed the first round of 5 presidentiables. Their constitution mandates that a president-elect should have 50%+1 of the total votes. As with our presidential elections, having so many candidates results to fragmented vote blocs; it was not surprising that in that round no one mustered the required number of votes to emerge as the victor. But the law also mandates that who ever got the top 2 spots on the first round shall qualify to the finals. Parang game lang. And that round went on last Sunday. I know because no Masses celebrated that day.

One good thing that I personally see with the Ghanaians as politically mature (maybe I'm just using a very strong description but something like it anyway) is their way of affiliating and identfying themselves with a political party. The question "What is your party?" is common here. They have the local versions of Democrats and Republican. There are also those you can call third parties. You can't hear them say that they will vote for this person or for that. It's usually this party and that. As for me, I don't know who I am with. Back home the game is about who throws a party and who's invited. But I have to check out this Kapatiran Party and see if I can start identifying myself to one (this would be for a future blog.)

"I will vote for the administration because I want continuity."
"I will vote for the opposition because I want change."

And you can hear these on any Ghanaian you meet on the street. Ok, if I were to pass through EDSA and ask whom to vote in 2010 (God forbids GMA's Cha-Cha) and why, I wonder what will the responses be? I can only wonder but with hope. Yes, we have our own versions of the administration and the opposition but we also have those political butterflies. Unfortunately, there are still some Pinoys who seem enthralled by the colorful wings of these bugs (no offense to butterflies).

But then, violence seems to mar any elections around; maybe, except classroom elections where classmates are friends. This vehemence seems to negate the abovementioned positivity. Apparently, the administration has lost footing in this year's election (second round). They say that in the first round they have the highest number of votes and now perplexed as to how numbers shifted away from them. Ah, the usual I-have-been-cheated mantra; and I thought it's only in the Philippines. I opined that maybe after Christmas Ghanaians had a change of heart with the Star of Bethlehem guiding them. Then I got some stern looks from the pro-administration that were in the same room. I should have just shut up. Learning from this, never give a political insight (even if said in jest) in a hostile environment; not to mention, foreign. You'll never know who's on the other side. But at least I just got frowns. Outside it's a different story. People are starting to mobilize; a looming clash between the two major political parties, between administration and opposition who usually get the top votes on the first round. And heaven knows what form of "clash" we are talking about. People in the office (yes, they were my only source of news outside) said that this Friday (walang New Year New Year dito) would be the height of this tensed period; one city is to cast its postponed vote and their number shall serve as a crucial arbiter of the warring sides. All Ghanaian eyes are now fixed to them. I might not witness fireworks this new year but I can expect either fires or works. I'd rather think not.

The management of the company I'm working with released a memo for early dismissal of their employees. Why was it so familiar? Ah, the Manila Peninsula seige by Trillanes et. al. in Makati a year ago. Globe Telecom issued a memo of the same kind back then and we went out straight to watch a movie in G4. Apathy? Maybe. But it was like a here-we-go-again moment that made an Andres Bonifacio falter inside me.

For Ericsson consultants, however, we stayed for work. We saw it as an opportunity to lengthen deadlines. Local employees started to stir an agitated environment yet in the middle of the commotion someone joked of airport being closed down; a direct gag on most of us expatriates in the office. Had I been anxious? No actually. Maybe because of that joke. I don't know. I am more concerned with the progress of our project though. And what else can I do? My flat is just a block away from the office. If someone would detonate an explosive it would be within the same radius. Nah, this is just too extreme to be reckon with.

Maybe they all just want to go home.
Maybe jealous of the 11-day holiday back home.

No, wait, that would be me.

GMT 0 Accra, Ghana

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