The Economist Intelligence Unit has this week issued its May report on Ghana and it makes interesting reading on the political fortunes of the two leading parties of Ghana.
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For the New Patriotic Party, the latest report on Ghana warns, "There is a danger that the open campaigning by so many NPP figures will appear as an undignified scramble for power and may alienate the electorate.”
While, acknowledging that the “main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress, has had an easier time in selecting its candidate, John Atta Mills, for the 2008 presidential election,” the EIU report is markedly gloomy about Prof Mills' chances:
“The apparent unity within the NDC is a relatively new development and indicates an awareness of the importance of public perceptions of the party that may presage a more media-savvy campaign than has previously been the case,” it begins.
“However, it is unclear if the 62-year-old [Prof] Mills will be able to unseat the NPP. In particular, Mr Mills does not represent the break with the past and the fresh start for the NDC that many argue is needed to increase the party's appeal outside its traditional core of voters.”
The Economist goes on to explain its dingy audit of the NDC: “As a former vice-president of an NDC government, Mr Mills is tainted with links to an administration that has been accused of human rights abuses and economic mismanagement.”
Not only does the report consider the NDC as a vehicle of liability, it is equally damning of the man ostensibly in the driving seat as well: “Mr Mills' record is further blotted by two previous presidential election defeats, in 2000 and 2004. Such criticisms, as well as doubts surrounding his health, were used against him during the nomination process and are expected to be raised during the election campaign.”
But, it is not all funereal for the party founded for and by Jerry John Rawlings.
According to the EIU report, "In a bid to counter this, the NDC will continue to challenge the NPP on a number of issues, particularly corruption and governance."
An almost entrenched but seemingly dangerous augury in the NPP is that for the next general elections, the actual contest is in who wins the NPP flagbearership, with the presidential race somewhat complacently considered as a foregone conclusion. But not so, says the prognosis of the Economist Intelligence Unit:
"Overall, we expect the 2008 vote to be reasonably close."
In 2004, though President Kufuor won 'one touch,' many within his party were somewhat miffed by the victory margin. Mr Kufuor won 52.75% of the vote. Prof Mills gained 44.32% of the vote, which attracted a turnout of 83.2%. The Economist believes that "The NDC's popularity is expected to remain strong, particularly in the north and east, and it will seek to extend this voting base by appealing to the poor 'whom it believes to be excluded by NPP policies' with social welfare schemes".
On the other hand the report says the NPP has declared that it wants the leading parties to be judged on the basis of a comparison between the NDC's record in government in 1992-2000 and its own record in 2000-08, focusing in particular on economic and business management.
The intelligence unit of the world's leading current affairs and economics magazine predicts political tensions in the country heightening. It cites the People's Representation (Amendment) Act (2005) as one such time bomb. "It is becoming increasingly clear that as the NDC seeks to discredit the NPP, Ghana's political atmosphere, which is already characterised by bickering and parliamentary boycotts, is set to become yet more bellicose.
"A particular area of contention will be recent legislation allowing Ghanaians who are not living in the country to vote in the elections. The NDC is wary of the potential advantage that this gives the NPP, as well as the likely administrative problems in identifying and registering overseas voters, and believes that the legislation could be used as an opportunity for the NPP to manipulate the electoral outcome."
Meanwhile, with the NDC strengthening its official presence in Togo, there is a fast-growing worry in the NPP that while the NDC may be diverting attention to Ghanaians domiciled in Europe and North America, the biggest votes from ROPAA may be far closer to home than previously anticipated.
After the 2000 general elections, the NDC claimed that around 2 million of its voters were prevented from crossing over from Ghana's eastern border to vote due to the decision by the Togolese government to close its borders during the Ghanaian polls.
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