The 2012 December polls in Ghana for both Parliamentary Representation and Presidential Election came to a peaceful end not without issues and disputes.
Notwithstanding these issues and disputes, President Elect, John Mahama, per the Electoral Commission’s declaration was sworn into Office on January 7, 2013 as required by Law pending the determination of the of the Presidential Petition filed at the Supreme Court challenging the validity of his election.
The Petitioners drew their authority from Art 64 of the National Constitution which grants the Supreme Court the basis to make a pronouncement on the action of the Electoral Commission as well as guarantees the running of government by the ‘embattled’ President.
Followers and sympathizers of the President, John Mahama, followed the swearing in with calls on Ghanaians to give him the peace of mind to govern. Some put it more succinctly that ‘he deserves a honeymoon’. I have often questioned why any President deserves anything called honeymoon and what purpose such a honeymoon would serve. Do presidents who have sworn to uphold a Constitution deserve to be left off the hook of that very Constitution?
Should an employee who has just been introduced to his job activity escape the Supervisor’s scrutiny or monitoring? Must the contracted watchman be allowed a period where his decisions, actions and inactions are without question from the employer? In fact in all intents and purposes, that is what Political Honeymoon seems to suggest. That we allow the newly sworn-in President a breathing space for a certain number of days, say 100.
The term ‘honeymoon’ first originated in Babylon, about 4,000 years ago.
Honeymoon came into use for the month after a wedding, when the bride’s father would give the groom all the mead he wanted. Mead is actually a honey beer, and being so, the Babylon’s calendar was a lunar calendar, which is based off the moon. They then started to call that month, the ‘honey month’, which we now have adapted to be honeymoon. Politicians who see the relationship between the Elected President and the voters or the citizenry as that of newly wedded husband and wife sought refuge in the usage of the term honeymoon similar to its matrimonial reference.
In America where this practice has become a convention, the Presidential “honeymoon” is the short period after a President is inaugurated when the opposition party refrains from attack, Congress is inclined to support some of the President’s initiatives, and the President receives high public approval ratings. Within a month or two partisan attacks generally resume and the honeymoon period ends.
President John F. Kennedy went overboard by calling on the Soviet Union to extend him a honeymoon period as a goodwill gesture. One of the shortest honeymoons on record was that of Gerald Ford, whose pardon of his predecessor, Richard M. Nixon, for all Watergate crimes sparked public outrage and led to a drop in popularity in public opinion polls after his first month in office.
This period is needlessly granted for an abuse of the trust that the citizenry repose in the elected president. The Legislature that should exercise oversight responsibility goes to sleep, the opposition indulges in fanfare and the executive decides on which issues to be seriously accountable. That cannot be the case in a third world country like Ghana where duties and responsibilities must be known ahead of the intention to run for Office. Right from the day the President is sworn in, the State begins taking care of him and so it is only fair that he begins being accountable to the people or the citizenry.
The Citizenry, the Opposition and the Legislature cannot afford to wait till a day or a period so desired by the President to begin attacking or criticising his policies and initiatives. The business of running a government starts immediately the Oath of Office is taken.
Even in marriages, the honeymoon period is used to reconcile whatever grey areas that remain unresolved after the whole period of courtship and counselling if there is any. It is not a criticism free period. There cannot be such a period of non-criticism where responsibilities and duties are spelt breach of which is punishable by Law.
Indeed in the American example, I do not believe that any president would be left off the hook should he commit an impeachable offense so glaring. Certainly that won’t be spared. So why must we entertain an exercise that merely suggest a joke in a very serious enterprise?
It is important for the advocates for the honeymoon for newly inaugurated Presidents to be minded by the possible implications when he goes not criticised. The honeymoon suggests that the President cannot commit such a heinous crime as to cost the entire nation something we can never recover.
But the history of our world shows how some leaders have early in the day betrayed the trust of the people who put them there. The so called honeymoon is a gamble and it is not in the interest of any people to entertain.
Once a president is sworn in, the term of the mandate begins counting. If we are to allow some Political Honeymoon, then we might as well allow for Political Half times where everybody goes to rest. What kind of environment shall we then be creating? So long as the Presidents goofs, it doesn’t matter when in his tenure, the goof must not go unmentioned.