Elections in Ghana
Ghana, the first country south of the Sahara to gain independence in 1957 has since 1992 been conducting elections which has earned her several praises from the international community for its democratic credentials. The November 2016 election is yet again another great opportunity for the tiny West African nation to demonstrate its level of maturity in the democratization process.
If conducted successfully, the 2016 election will further deepen Ghana’s democratic credentials and send a signal to the international community that peaceful elections can indeed be possible in Africa.I was excited when I met a retired United States Ambassador recently at a program for retired diplomats who asked me of my country of origin and as soon as I mentioned Ghana, he remarked, “Ghana is one of the success stories on the African continent”. We have a good name out there and should jealously guard it.
In the impending presidential and parliamentary elections, various political parties in the country are preparing feverishly to wrestle power from the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC) party. Some of these contenders include the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Progressive People’s Party (PPP)and the Convention People’s Party (CPP). The various flagbearers have been traveling across the length and breadth of the country to solicit votes from the electorates.
Preparations towards the 2016 elections in principle began immediately results ofthe last elections were announced and winners declared. Political parties started evaluating and reviewing their previous campaign messages, policies, programs, stratagems etc. in order to appreciate their performance and to make for better performance in the next elections.
Stages of Campaigns
As stated, thefirst stage of campaigning towards 2016in Ghana began after the 2012 election results were declared which pronounced the NDC as winners. The NPP, CPP, PNC and others reevaluated themselves to find out why they lost the elections to the NDC and to prepare for 2016 elections.
In the 2012 election, the NPP attributed their defeat to vote rigging by the ruling NDC. They contested the election results at the Supreme Court and for almost eight months, the country came to a standstill. Nonetheless, the NDC were declared winners. Similarly, the NPP many believe lost the election in 2008 due to complacency and arrogance on the part of the campaign team.
Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, one of the numerous party bigwigs who failed in a flag-bearer race of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the time attributed the party’s Election 2008 defeat to complacency stating “we lost an election that in our complaisance we deemed was easier to win than to lose”.A leading member of the NPP, Dr. Arthur Kennedy in his book, ‘chasing the Elephant into the Bush: The politics of complacency’ espoused reasons for the NPP’s defeat to include extravagance, arrogance, tribalism (Akan verses Akyem) factor within the party among others which has created a lot of controversy in the media and among political analysts.
The other political parties, the CPP and PNC obtained minimal percentages in the last elections and did not come close to winning. They lack the numbers needed to win any election in Ghana and it might take them years to mobilize themselves into formidable political groups capable of winning any election.
The second stage towards 2016 election is organizing party congresses to reaffirm the commitment of members to the parties as well as elect leaders to prepare them to become a winning party. The NPP was the first to organize a congress to elect a flag-bearer. Three presidential candidates in the persons of Alan Kwadwo Kyerematen, Francis Addai Nimoh and Nana Akuffo Addo contested for the single slot to represent their party which was won by Nana Akuffo Addo, who was flagbearer in both 2008 and 2012 elections.
This was followed by parliamentary primaries across the country which was successfully done and now battle ready to lock horns with the other political parties especially the governing NDC in the impending election. The NPP has also maintained Dr. MuhamoudBawumia, an astute economist and former Deputy Governor at the Central Bank as running mate. The NPPare still however embroiled with internal strife and factionalism born from its last congress and the suspensions of its party Chairman, Paul Afoko, General Secretary, Kwabena Agyepong and first Deputy Chairman, Sammy Crabbe for supposedly violating the constitution of the party.
The ruling NDC on the other hand conducted their presidential primarieswith the sitting president, John Mahama going unopposed. The only person who tried contesting the president, George Boateng was disqualified for not meeting the standards of the party’s registration.The NDC has also completed their parliamentary primaries across the country.
On the part of the CPP and PNC, internal strife seems to have set in the initial stages of preparations towards 2016. Hassan Ayariga who was the presidential candidate for the PNC in the last election fell out with the party after losing to Dr. Edward Mahama in the primaries, and has since formed his own party known as African Peoples’Congress (APC). Ivor Kobina Greenstreet, a former general secretary of the CPP shocked Samia Nkrumah, daughter of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to win the only slot to contest the presidential election on the ticket of the party. The PPP is led by Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom, who many believe is a good presidential material in the wrong party.
The final stage of preparation will be ushered by the Electoral Commission (EC) when they announce the final list of contesting parties and persons and lift the ban on official campaigns. The parties will then begin serious cress crossing of the country to solicit votes from the electorate. The NPP have called for a new voter’s register because they believe the current register is not “clean” but the EC has rejected the claim and said the current register is the best since Ghana returned to multiparty democracy in 1992 and has called on all stakeholders to help “clean” the register to remove all “ghost” names from it.
President Mahama is currently moving from one region to the other commissioning projects and telling Ghanaians what his government has been able to achieve since 2012, which the NDC has dubbed “Accounting to the People”. Nonetheless, the opposition NPP has accused the president of abuse of incumbency and that the president is only campaigning towards the 2016 election.
Activities of political parties towards election 2016
The NDC believe they have achieved over 80% of their campaign promises and are confident that Ghanaians will renew their mandate come November, 2016. The founder of the NDC, ex-president Rawlings who is a grassroots man fell out with the party after campaigning vigorously for themin the 2008 election. Jerry Rawlings has accused his own government of massive corruption and that they have neglected the very people at the grassroots who voted the party into power. It remains uncertain in political circles whether the ex-president will change his mind and campaign for president Mahama in the 2016 election since he did not join the team in 2012 and yet the NDC won.
Others have argued that the National Democratic Congress (NDC), as a party, does not need former President Jerry John Rawlings to survive any given election. Those who follow this line of argument say the party has grown from an individual-centered one, into a whole political institution, and for that matter, no individual could lay claim to its fortunes. The ex-president,his supporters say, is a man of charisma, one who moves crowd and the people’s man and is still relevant to the NDC.
The opposition NPP which is the only party capable of giving the ruling NDC a run for their money in the 2016 election is doing all it can to wrestle power from the NDC. Thereis however disunity amongst the rank and file of the party. That explains why Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey said he weeps for Ghana because “the 2016 election will be between chaos and incompetence”, chaos on the part of the opposition NPP and incompetence on the part of the ruling NDC.
Prior to the 2008 election, the NPP laughed at the NDC for their ‘door to door’ campaign style. After realizing the potency of this strategy, the NPP has also adopted same but has rebranded it, ‘listening ear tour’, and ‘thank you tour’, among others.In their own case, the flagbearer of the party, Nana AkuffoAddo has been moving round the whole country interacting with people to vote the NPP back to power.According to him, the NDC does not have what it takes to move Ghana from being a third world nation into a first world nation.
One thing Nana Addo will never be forgotten about was his infamous statement to some NPP members in Kofuridua, the Eastern Regional capital which many have condemned. Nana Addo told a gathering of the NPP members that, “one must understand that this party (NPP) was formed by courageous people. Our leaders who formed this party that has now become the biggest political movement in Ghana were not cowards. So we need to be courageous because “all die be die. All die be die”. That was one of the reasons for their defeat in the last election.
The other political parties apart from the NDC and NPP so far seem to be making little progress as far as the 2016 elections are concerned. They do not seem to have the leadership commitment to galvanize themselves into a united front capable of becoming an alternative to the ruling NDC and the opposition NPP which have been alternating power since 1992.
As typical of Ghanaian and African elections in general, 2016 promises to be exciting judging from the euphoria that greets people every electioneering year. Apart fromthe usual sweet talks on political platforms, politicians would suddenly turn to be nice towards everyone. They attend every funeral they hear of and make their presence felt. Ghanaians particularly like funerals and use such occasions to wish their love and departed ones their last respect. Politicians often use such moments to show how caring they are to the people and sometimes support the bereaved families financially.
Even though Ghana has conducted successful elections since 1992, many Ghanaians are still entertaining fears due to the stakes of this election. This is also as a result of the tension that has characterized previous elections in Ghana. There is also a growing culture of insultsand the use of intemperate language by politicians who use the media to castigate political opponents. This is further sending shivers down the spines of many people who fear there is likely to be the shed of blood in Ghana in 2016 as being witnessed in certain parts of Africa including, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Egypt, Libya, Ivory Coast, Liberia etc.
The General Overseer of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Pastor Mensah Otabilhas in the past remarked that “I think we have become a very pessimistic society and we underestimate ourselves” adding that, “…we have failed to accept our own maturity, our own growth, our systems are getting better and better, the people are becoming more discerning, the politicians are coming to terms with the reality that power is transient that they can be voted in and out of power.”
According to him, “we have done well over the years and we shouldn’t devalue what we have done. We should be grateful for the lessons we’ve learnt and we shouldn’t become panicky, I think elections have become normal in our national life…I think there is nothing to panic about. I think we’re going to have a very smooth process and we will be fine.”
The 2016 election generally will be about bread and butter issues and not which party can insult the most. It will be about employment generation, infrastructural development and which party can lead Ghana out of poverty to a higher income status.
The NDC touts itself for eliminating schools under trees, increase in capitation grant, introduction of science and mathematics scholarships to students, introduction of free school uniforms, and massive infrastructural development across the country, among others. These achievements they believe are unprecedented in Ghana’s history and believe Ghanaians will renew their mandate to continue with their good works.
The NPP on the other hand, have learnt lessons from their defeats in 2008 and 2012 and have put in stringent measures not to repeat the mistakes of yesteryears. The NPP sawpower slipped from their hands to the NDC by a small margin that has been described as the closet election contestsin the history of Africa in both elections. The NPP presidential candidate, Nana AkuffoAddo promised in the last election campaign to introduce free education from the primary to the senior high levels in order to give the Ghanaian child a future of hope and prosperity since education is the surest way of becoming successful in life. He believes the NDC lacks the vision to move Ghana out of poverty and is traveling wide and near to convince Ghanaians to buy his vision and vote him into power come 2016.
Nana Addoknows clearly well that the 2016 election will probably be his last shot at the presidency. A lost will mean that he would have been over 76 years in 2020 to contest on his party’s ticket and that will end his political dream of ever becoming a president of Ghana. This means Nana Addo must work hard to win in 2016.
It is the hope of every Ghanaian that the 2016 election will be peaceful without skirmishes and Ghana will come of the election as a winner and show to the world that “the African is capable of managing her own affairs”. It is good the president of Ghana has assured the whole world that he will do everything possible to give Ghana peaceful election. Some Ghanaiansare calling on the international community as usualto come and observe how Ghana will cement their democratic credentials in 2016. The security service must prepare adequately and act professionally during and after the election. When this is done, Ghana will be peaceful before, during and after the 2016 election.
Source: Francis Xavier D. Tuokuu
a PhD Student in Environmental Studies. You can reach him via (firstname.lastname@example.org), 73 High Street, New Hampshire, United States of America.