Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ghana: Political mood keeps gaining momentum ahead of presidential elections

Ghana's new presidential palace: the Golden Jubilee House worth an estimated $50 million, incumbent Mahama and opposition leader Akufo-Addo races towards this edifice which has been disputed over its cost. PHOTO:Panoramio
The political mood keeps gaining momentum in Ghana as each day passes by. One of the “most celebrated democracies” on the continent, the West African nation of Ghana is gearing up for a decisive presidential election on December 7, 2012.

With barely 38 days to go into the general polls, all political parties are on campaign spree in an attempt to convince eligible voters to buy into the policies they have for the country when voted into power.

As usual on the campaign trail are allegations upon allegations as well as unsubstantiated claims by the politicians when they mount the platform to address the people. So far, the country has remained peaceful as usual with the security agencies mapping out strategies to handle any eventuality before, during and after the elections.

As at the close of Thursday, October 18, 2012, seven political parties in addition to an independent presidential candidate were officially accepted by the Electoral Commission of Ghana to contest the 2012 general elections.

The political parties and their presidential candidates are:  National Democratic Congress (NDC) which is the ruling party has interim President John Dramani Mahama leading them; New Patriotic Party (NPP) headed by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo;  Convention People's Party (CPP) headed by Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster;  Progress Peoples Party (PPP) led by Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom;  Peoples National Convention (PNC) led by Mr Hasan Ayariga; United Front Party (UFP) led by Mr. Akwasi Adddai Odike;  Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP) led by Mr Henry Lartey;  and an Independent Candidate, Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah.

Six other political parties that had showed interest in contesting the polls had their hopes dashed when the Electoral Commission rejected their nomination forms at the close of the nominations.
They are the National Democratic Party (NDP) – a breakaway from the ruling NDC led by former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings; New Vision Party (NVP) led by Prophet Daniel Nkansah; Ghana Freedom Party (GFP) led by Madam Akua Donkor; Independent People's Party (IPP) led by Kofi Akpaloo; YES People's Party; and the Democratic Freedom Party.

Who will win?

At the moment, the battle is clearly between the ruling NDC and the largest opposition NPP.
The two political parties have been the main front runners in any general elections conducted in the Ghana since 1992.

Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his NPP appear to be in a good position to win this year's elections as majority of Ghanaians are complaining about the severe economic hardship situation in the country.

An opinion poll by DaMina Frontier Markets, an international research group based in the United States, has predicted a first round victory for NPP in the December 7 elections.

DaMina, which rightly predicted the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections, says its statistical model, and on-the-ground surveys, predict first round victory for NPP and a return to opposition of the now ruling Mahama-led NDC after only four years in power.

According to DaMina, the NPP would win 52 to 53 per cent of the popular vote in the first round, with the NDC winning not more than 48 per cent. It said traditional incumbency would not help President John Dramani Mahama, with barely less than two months to the vote.  

However, another opinion poll by Synovate Ghana, a research outfit, predicts the NDC will win "if the elections were held today [September 2012]". Based on empirical evidence on the ground, the late Atta Mills' party stands a better chance of winning the elections.

In a random interview, many people said they will vote for Mahama to continue the "tremendous" development that Mills started. Mahama have worked under Mills as vice-president for the past three years.
What are parties saying?

This year's elections are centered on issues ranging from Health Care, Education, Energy (electricity and gas) to keep businesses running, Shelter, Potable water, Jobs, among many others. But the key issue which the two leading political parties are dealing with is Education.

According to the opposition NPP, when voted into power, it will introduce a free fee-paying Senior High School (SHS) education policy to enable every Ghanaian of school going age access second cycle education.

Journalist Stephen Odoi-Larbi in the Ghanaian capital Accra, told me “This campaign appears to be doing a lot of damage to the ruling NDC who have mounted a stiff opposition to such claims arguing that free fee-paying SHS is only possible when the right structures including school buildings, improve teachers condition of service, text books among many others are put in place for quality education.”

Initially, their (NDC’s) argument was such a policy was not possible. However, after realizing that it was doing a lot of damage to them (NDC), they've been forced to change their tone, the Parliamentary Correspondent of The Chronicle added.

The ruling NDC party however pledges to continue to improve access and quality of education until 2016 before they will introduce the free fee-paying SHS education policy. 

Meanwhile, all other political parties that have been cleared to contest the general polls are saying that “a free fee-paying SHS education policy is possible in 2013.”

Silly path

There is civility in the kind of message the politicians put across. However, the conflict within the NDC is still rife as there is a cold war between the NDC and its founder, former President John Rawlings, observed Mr. Odoi-Labri, who is also the publisher of MyCommunityPortal.

Gambian journalist Lamin Jahateh said this is the election that will determine the future of Ghana: the elections that will determine who will preside over enormous oil revenue of the country, the  elections where a leader will be elected who will face a challenge of meeting the heightened expectations of Ghanaian citizens for material improvements to their daily lives.

“The policies of the next president will determine whether the country's petro-dollars will be used for the common good or disappear as in other oil-rich countries,” said Jahateh, who is also the publisher of Gambia News Online. “The president will have to translate the wealth from the oil fields into something the people could feel, a work that the late president, John Atta Mills has started.”

Nonetheless, some members of the electorate are displeased because the oil boom that started a few years ago has failed so far to create many jobs. Eventhough the economy grew by more than 14 percent in 2011 and is projected to surpass 10 percent in 2012, people dislike the speeding pace of inflation, which is now pegged at 9 percent.

Following the demise of president John Atta Mills from cancer on July 24, 2012 it was feared that a power struggle could erupt in Ghana, however, the State of the “Gold Coast” proved to the whole world that Ghana has graduated from such “silly path” synonymous to African power and politics.

Within hours the country’s vice president John Dramani Mahama was sworn in to replace the late Mills. Such shows the political reliability and maturity of the West African nation.

Ghana’s democracy has been hailed by President Barack Obama as a “model for Africa.” 

Written by Modou S. Joof

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