18.07.2020 Feature Article

Ghana’s Long Battle For Democratic Emancipation, Swing Voters And Historic Re-Election Bids of Two Former Presidents

Ghanas Long Battle For Democratic  Emancipation, Swing Voters And Historic Re-Election Bids of Two Former Presidents
18.07.2020 LISTEN

The democratic dispensation of Ghana is not as old as the western democracies, but it has its struggles and a long terrace of history. Ghana has a story to tell in her democratic journey.

The democracy of Ghana has produced eight democratically elected Presidents in four Republics, five of the Presidents were from the fourth Republic, while one each was produced by the first, second and third Republics respectively. Elections 2020 is the first in which two former Presidents are pitched against each other for reelection.

Ghanaians’ love for democracy cannot be overemphasized. The people of Ghana had fought colonialism, one party state in the days after independence and had resisted military regimes over the years.

In the days of colonialism, one party state and military rules, Ghanaians fought, resisted and braved themselves through forceful and fearless marches in the streets of the country in demands for freedom to choose who to govern them. These battles were not without the cost of their lives.

Three ex-servicemen, Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, all members of the Gold Coast Regiment of the Royal West African Frontier Force, that fought alongside the allied forces during the Second World War, were killed on 28th February 1948 by the colonial police, while marching to the Osu Castle to present a petition to the then British Colonial Governor, Sir Gerald Creasy.

The colonialists had demobilized them promising to resettle them but had reneged on the promise. They marched from the center of Accra to the Christiansburg Castle to present a petition to the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief, Sir Gerald Creasy, when they were intercepted at the Christiansburg Crossroad by a contingent of armed policemen, led by a British Superintendent, Colin Imray.

Superintendent Imray ordered the ex-servicemen to disperse, but they did not. He then gave orders to the police to open fire on the ex-service men, but that too did not deter them, so Superintendent Imray himself fired at the Ex-servicemen, killing Sergeant Adjetey, Corporal Attipoe and Private Odartey Lamptey, instantly in cold blood. These killings inflamed the demand for independence from colonialism.

After colonialism came another hurdle, this time an oppressive rule that forced one party state on the people. The apparent spirit of national unity that seemed to have developed after colonialism in the Nkrumah years turned out to have resulted in part from his coercive powers as well as from his charisma. Freedom of speech was quashed. There were persecutions and imprisonments of opponents.

After Ghana attained its independence on 6 March 1957, the Parliament of Ghana passed the Avoidance of Discrimination Act, 1957 (C.A. 38), which banned all parties and organizations that were confined to or identifiable to any racial, ethnic or religious groups with effect from 31 December 1957. The title of the Act was:

An Act to prohibit organizations using or engaging in tribal, regional,racial and religious propaganda to the detriment of any community, or securing the election of persons on account of their tribal, regional or religious affiliations and for other purpose connected therewith.

This law meant that all the existing political parties would become illegal. These parties included the Northern People's Party (NPP), Muslim Association Party (MAP), National Liberation Movement (NLM), Anlo Youth Organization (AYO), Togoland Congress and the Ga Shifimokpee. They therefore merged under the leadership of Kofi Abrefa Busia as the United Party (UP). They chose to vote in freedom over restrictive laws.

The people of Ghana were prepared to die than to be disallowed to speak or decide who to rule over them. The overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah was received with mixed feelings. One side were happy that authoritarian regime had come to an end, but the other side were unhappy of the overthrow of elected government. The return to democratic elections in 1969 was a great relief to the people.

The major contenders in the 1969 elections were the Progress Party (PP), headed by Kofi Abrefa Busia, and the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL), led by Komla Agbeli Gbedemah. Critics associated these two leading parties with the political divisions of the early Nkrumah years. The PP found much of its support among the old opponents of Nkrumah's CPP- -the educated middle class and traditionalists of Ashanti Region and the North.

This link was strengthened by the fact that Busia had headed the National Liberation Movement (NLM) formed in 1954 by disaffected Ashanti members of the Convention People's Party. Busia was also the head of NLM’s successor, the United Party (UP). The UP was the main opposition party in the First Republic of Ghana. It was the only opposition party throughout its existence from 1957 until 1964 when Ghana became a one party state. Busia then flee the country to oppose Nkrumah from exile.

NAL was seen as the successor of the CPP's right wing, which Gbedemah had headed until he was ousted by Nkrumah in 1961. The 1969 elections between PP and NAL demonstrated an interesting voting pattern. For example, the PP carried all the seats among the Asante and the Brong. All seats in the northern regions of the country were closely contested. In the Volta Region, the PP won some Ewe seats, while the NAL won all seats in the non-Ewe northern section.

Overall, the PP gained 59 percent of the popular vote and 74 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. The PP's victories were demonstration of the feelings of Ghanaians for freedom of expression across the spectrum of the people; they demonstrated support among nearly all the ethnic groups. An estimated 60 percent of the electorate voted.

A military coup in 1972 toppled the Ghana’s second Republic. The military leaders wanted to replace democracy with a system called Union Government (UNIGOV). Ghanaians protested against UniGov in which the military and the Police were to join the civilian population to fashion out a concept of government in which political parties were to be kicked out of participating governance forever. Its origin was mired in the military's unwillingness to cede power to civilians after Ignatius Kutu Acheampong had seized power on January 13, 1972.

From 1976, when the idea was first mooted until the actual vote on March 30, 1979, the political scene witnessed many associations masquerading around the concept and siphoning state resources for their operations.

The idea of Union Government, according to the originators was to address 'the need for a constitutional third way for a representative democracy based neither on Westminster style party system nor military rule, but on traditional values and practices of Ghanaians.

At the University of Ghana, which was the bedrock of anti-UNIGOV, students followed the unfolding drama on the political scene with disdain. Every word of the Chairman of the Supreme Military Council was followed and interpretations given.

In spite of the fact that the military in government became authoritarian and sent armoured cars to run after the students on the least provocation, the various campuses were lively with students especially mimicking every word of the then Chairman of the Supreme Military Council.

With the Electoral Commissioner out of the way, the Minister of Interior had a field day falsifying the figures. According to the official figures released, a total number of 4,497,8703 people were registered to vote. Out of this figure, 2, 282,813 actually cast their votes. According to official figures released, 1,372,427 voted Yes. This figure represented 60.11 percent of the total vote. ‘No’ registered a total of 910,386 or 30.89 percent of those who actually voted.

The release of the figures rather increased agitation in society. The Professional bodies down their tools while students of the three universities abandoned the classroom. On July, 1, 1978, Lieutenant General Frederick William "Fred" Kwasi Akuffo, then Vice-Chairman of the Supreme Military Council and Chief of Defence Staff, announced the Palace coup that toppled Acheampong.

Akuffo's SMC abandoned Unigov and tinkered with the idea of forming a Transitional Interim National Government (TINAGOV). But that failed to placate agitators for a return to civilian rule. In the end, the military regime caved in and announced the time-table for the return to Constitutional rule. A Constituent Assembly was composed to draw a new constitution for a return to Constitutional rule. But the agitation continued in its various forms until Flt. Lt Jerry John Rawlings led an eight man mutiny on May 15, 1979.

The mutineers were promptly crushed. But a military Captain Kwadwo Boakye Djan led a group to storm the Special Branch guardroom and released Flt Lt. Rawlings to lead a mutiny that became known as the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council on June 4, 1979. The AFRC executed eight leading officers in the armed forces including three ex-Heads of State and unleashed some of the most terrible human rights abuses on the people of Ghana.

Ghanaians do not see civil war as a national solution either. This has been demonstrated by the major tribes in the country. On 26 June 1979, a retired military hero from the largest tribe in Ghana was unreasonably murdered by the military leader of AFRC, who was from a lesser tribe, but tribal war was averted. The military general, who had retired and was a farmer, traditional ruler and politician, was murdered on tribal grounds.

The murdered general, Lieutenant General Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa was the head of state of Ghana and leader of the military government in 1969 and then Chairman of the Presidential Commission between 1969 and 1970. He retired and was a farmer and political activist and an elected Member of Parliament in 1979 for Mampong-Ashanti constituency.

The General, who was from the Ashanti tribe, the largest and recognized kingdom in the country, was executed before he could take his seat. He was executed on 26 June 1979 at a tender age of 43 by the military ruler Jerry Rawlings, who was from a minority tribe of the Ewes. The kingdom of the murdered military hero’s tribe, who has a history as warriors, chose to remain silent, instead of retaliatory war in a form that were witnessed in Ruanda and Ivory Coast.

The AFRC sent the unambiguous message that "people dealing with the public, in whatever capacity, subject to popular supervision, must abide by fundamental notions of probity, and have an obligation to put the good of the community above personal objective." The AFRC position was that the nation's political leaders, at least those from within the military, had not been accountable to the people.

The pressure of the masses to proceed with the SMC’s time-table for the return to Constitutional rule forced AFRC to organize an election in September 1979 which was won by Hilla Limann of the People’s National Party (PNP). The administration of Hilla Limann was inaugurated on September 24, 1979.

Limann's People's National Party (PNP) began the Third Republic with control of only seventy-one of the 140 legislative seats. The opposition Popular Front Party (PFP) won forty-two seats, while twenty-six elective positions were distributed among three lesser parties. The percentage of the electorate that voted had fallen to 40 percent.

Unlike the country's previous elected leaders, Limann was a former diplomat and a noncharismatic figure with no personal following. As Limann himself observed, the ruling PNP included people of conflicting ideological orientations. They sometimes disagreed strongly among themselves on national policies. Many observers, therefore, wondered whether the new government was equal to the task confronting the state.

The first Limann budget, for fiscal year 1981, estimated the Ghanaian inflation rate at 70 percent for that year, with a budget deficit equal to 30 percent of the gross national product ( GNP). The Trade Union Congress claimed that its workers were no longer earning enough to pay for food, let alone anything else.

A rash of strikes, many considered illegal by the government, resulted, each one lowering productivity and therefore national income. In September the government announced that all striking public workers would be dismissed. These factors rapidly eroded the limited support the Limann government enjoyed among civilians and soldiers.

The most immediate threat to the Limann administration, however, was the AFRC, especially those officers who organized themselves into the "June 4 Movement" to monitor the civilian administration.

In an effort to keep the AFRC from looking over its shoulder, the Hilla Limann government ordered Rawlings and several other army and police officers associated with the AFRC into retirement; nevertheless, Rawlings and his associates remained a latent threat, particularly as the economy continued its decline.

Limann’s government was expected to measure up to the new standard advocated by the AFRC. But civilian administration under Limann quickly ran into difficulties, of its own making.

In 1981, after a strike wave paralysed the country, the government declared that in the event of further action all strikers would be arrested. The strike movement helped precipitate the collapse of the Limann administration. It was clear that the new democratic government was unable to fulfil its promises of real change across Ghanaian society.

The government fell on December 31, 1981, in another Rawlings-led coup.

The new government that took power on December 31, 1981, was the eighth in the fifteen years since the fall of Nkrumah. Calling itself the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), its membership included Rawlings as chairman, Brigadier Joseph Nunoo-Mensah (whom Limann had dismissed as army commander), two other officers, and three civilians.

The PNDC was set-up with Rawlings as Chairman. Despite its military connections, the PNDC made it clear that it was unlike other soldier-led governments. This was immediately proved by the appointment of fifteen civilians to cabinet positions.

Before long the possibility of radical change in Ghana gave way to repression of his left-wing allies, and a gradual retreat from the promises of pro-poor transformation. After several years, left-wing opponents were imprisoned and at the same time the regime became a test case for structural adjustment. Rawlings oversaw the introduction of the Economic Recovery Programme and called for ‘austerity and sacrifice’. By 1987 Rawlings the revolutionary became the darling of the IMF and the World Bank.

Opposition to the PNDC administration developed nonetheless in different sectors of the political spectrum. The most obvious groups opposing the government were former PNP and PFP members. They argued that the Third Republic had not been given time to prove itself and that the PNDC administration was unconstitutional.

Further opposition came from the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), which criticized the government's use of people's tribunals in the administration of justice. Members of the Trade Union Congress were also angered when the PNDC ordered them to withdraw demands for increased wages. The National Union of Ghanaian Students (NUGS) went even farther, calling on the government to hand over power to the attorney general, who would supervise the elections.

There was no doubt that PNDC was a military dictatorship that induced civilians to participate in governance. It was SMC’s abandoned UniGov in disguise. Most of its members were civilians. Its policies reflected a revolutionary government that was pragmatic in its approach.

The economic objectives of the PNDC were to halt Ghana's economic decay, stabilize the economy, and stimulate economic growth. The PNDC also brought a change in the people’s attitude from a 'government will provide' position to participating in nation-building.

A referendum on a new constitution was held in Ghana on 28 April 1992. The main issues were the reintroduction of multi-party politics and the division of powers between the president and parliament. There were 8,255,690 registered voters for the referendum.

In contrast to the 31 January 1964 constitutional referendum that proposed amendments to the constitution to turn the country into a one-party state and increase the powers of President Kwame Nkrumah, the 28 April 1992 constitutional referendum proposed amendments to turn the country into a militia-party state.

On 6 March 1992, Head of State Jerry Rawlings, who had been in power for the past 11 years, announced plans for a return to civilian rule by 7 January 1993. The process included the referendum on 28 April to adopt a new Constitution drafted by the Consultative Assembly, as well as a presidential election on 3 November and parliamentary polling on 8 December.

President Rawlings changed his Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) to National Democratic Congress (NDC) on 28 July 1992, the provisional council became National Democratic Congress. Rawlings had announced that the ban on party politics would be lifted on 18 May 1992. This programme was criticised by the opposition, which called for an immediate lifting of the ban so that they could openly and lawfully engage in party political activities. Its demand was rejected by President Rawlings.

The resistance to lift the ban on party politics meant that only Rawlings and his party the NDC could use government visits to the regions and state broadcasts to the nation to somehow appeal to the masses for election consideration. Rawlings became the referee, who determined the rules, and at the same time a prayer, who was on the field pitched against the opponents. At the same time, he ensured that the opponents were kept away from presenting their programs to the masses.

Rawlings also made it that the presidential and parliamentary election were held on separate dates for no apparent reason, even though that would mean double expenditure to the state. But it was obvious that he wanted to see if the election would go his way. Rawlings’ elections in 1992 was not on level grounds.

The parliamentary elections, the first in 13 years, were postponed first to 22 December and then by another week with the excuse to allow more time for the nomination of candidates following the decision by four major opposition parties to boycott the poll. The elections were held at a time when the Ghanaian economy was picking up as a result of structural adjustment reforms implemented by the Rawlings régime.

Financial stability had been achieved and fresh cash from external sources had been pumped into the economy, allowing for the renovation of roads and the introduction of water and electricity in the countryside. President Raylings’ policies had earned him accolades from the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

On the political front, there was considerable unrest following the 3 November presidential election, which President Rawlings won with 59.3% of the votes in the first round. His main rival accused him of widespread rigging and irregularities and called for investigations into these alleged malpractices. International election monitors, however, held that the election had been largely free and fair, in spite of a number of administrative problems.

A few small bombings occurred in Accra and Tema and these were attributed to the opposition parties. The four parties that had contested the presidential election, the People’s National Convention (PNC), National Independence Party (NIP), People’s Heritage Party (PHP) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) decided to boycott the legislative polling despite attempts by the Commonwealth observer group to persuade them otherwise. They alleged acts of intimidation and harassment of their members and supporters by the Government and complained of its refusal to revise voters’ registers.

The National Democratic Congress (NDC – President Rawlings’ party), three pro-Rawlings parties and a dozen independents vied for the 200 seats to be filled. There were altogether some 440 candidates. Prior to the poll, President Rawlings formed an electoral alliance (the Progressive Alliance) with the National Convention Party (NCP) and the Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere (EGLE) group although each party fielded separate candidates in the various constituencies.

Polling was low as a result of the boycott by the opposition coalition led by Mr. Adu Boahen of NPP, who also contested the presidency. Official figures put turnout at 28% of the electorate. The NDC won an overwhelming majority of the seats (189) while eight went to the NCP and one to the EGLE. The two other seats were won by independent candidates.

Following the poll, the four main political parties that had boycotted it announced that they recognised the various democratic institutions created under the new Constitution and were willing to take part in the political process outside Parliament.

On 7 January 1993, President Rawlings was sworn into office, thereby inaugurating the Fourth Republic. Following parliamentary approval, President Rawlings’ new 35-member Cabinet (more that half of them members of parliament) was also sworn into office on 22 March.

Rawlings, who took power forcefully through military coup, had now managed to become the first President of the fourth Republic, his military body, the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC) had now became National Democratic Congress (NDC). The NDC introduced taxes, one of them was the Value Added Tax (VAT).

The people defiled the military-turned civilian regime’s tax policy and protested in the streets, the “Kumi Preko” protest march. “Kumi Preko”, which translates as “better kill me”, was an anti-government demonstration that occurred in Ghana in 1995, led by now incumbent President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo. The protest took place in opposition to the Value Added Tax (VAT) initiative which was introduced under the Jerry John Rawlings administration.

From 7 January 1993, when the fourth Republic was inaugurated, after the overthrow of three elected Republics under Presidents of Kwame Nkrumah of Conventions People’s Party (CPP), Kofi Abrefa Busia of ‎Progress Party (PP) and Hilla Limann of People's National Party (PNP), there has been a peaceful democratic transitions. There had been seven elections and five Presidents in the fourth Republic.

For the first time in Ghanaian history, two former Presidents are standing for re-election in 2020. Which of the two men to vote for would not be difficult for those who can read and reason certainly well, and have the country, and not personal or party interests at heart.

In politics everywhere, there are three main categories of voters; voters who vote by reasoning, voters of party affiliations and voters who follow developments in their localities. The reasoning voters and voters who seek local developments are often swing voters; their decisions are formed based on the national interest and local developments respectively.

A swing voter is someone who does not always vote for the same political party and who might be persuaded to vote for one of several parties in an election. The term swing refers to the extent of change in voter support, typically from one election or opinion poll to another, expressed as a positive or negative percentage point.

Swing voters may from a small percentage of voters, but they often determine the outcome of elections, especially in elections dominated by two dominant political parties. Their votes are usually sought after in election campaigns, since they can play a big role in determining the outcome.

In an election, there are "certain" or "lock" votes, voters who are solidly behind a certain political party or partisan to a particular candidate and will not consider changing their minds whatever the incumbent or opposition says. Swing voters, on the other hand, are undecided about how they will vote. They are sometimes referred to as undecideds, undecided voters, or floating voters.

A swing voter or floating voter may not be affiliated with a particular political party, often they are Independent or vote across party lines. In American politics, for example, many centrists, liberal Republicans, and conservative Democrats are considered "swing voters" since their voting patterns cannot be predicted with certainty.

They may be dissatisfied party members who are open to the idea of voting for other parties, or they could be officially registered as "independents" or simply people who have never had a strong affiliation with any political party and will vote depending on certain things that influence them: economy, healthcare, benefits, election, promises, other social policies of the political parties, campaign, etc.

Some might be people who have never exercised their right to vote before, such as those just reaching voting age. Some, but not all, swing voters are considered to be "low-information voters." They follow or change their minds at any current information.

Because the votes of swing voters are considered to be "up for grabs," candidates direct a fair proportion of campaign effort towards them, but they must also be concerned with voter turnout among their political base. There is a perception that swing voters are primarily motivated by self-interest rather than values or ideology and so are particularly susceptible to pork barreling. If a constituency contains a large proportion of swing voters it is often called a marginal seat and extensive campaign resources are poured into it.

Any political party, which intends to win or maintain power, should first build a solid party base and campaign vehemently among the swing voters. These two strategies are pillars that support political parties in elections in every country, either developed or underdeveloped.

Most of the campaign messages are not in words, but in accomplishments. Ghana has the opportunity to choose the next president by examining the accomplishment of two men, who had been presidents for four years, incumbent Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo of New Patriotic Party (NPP) and candidate former president John Dramani Mahama of National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Both Presidents can be compared. They have done something for the country, accomplished infrastructures and social interventions; they have built schools, hospitals, roads and the economy. But what is more important is how they have protected th public purse. How much money they spent on projects and interventions should be one of the main areas to concern swing voters.

For example, the cost for the construction of flyovers or interchanges in the Accra Metropolis sparked heated debate over which administration ensured value-for-money for projects.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) insisted that it had been able to cut the cost that will be involved in the construction of the Obetsebi Lamptey Interchange, unlike the then Mahama-led National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration, which built the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, popularly called Dubai, in Accra, at an exorbitant cost.

Available Records
Available records show that phase one of the Nkrumah Circle Interchange — which involved two bridges on the second tier of length 170 metres and a total width of 17 metres as well as a total ramp length of 240 metres — was done at the cost of €74 million.

In the same phase one, the NPP government, led by President Akufo-Addo, is constructing a total flyover length (bridge and ramps) of 340 metres with a width of 18.5 metres at the cost of US$35 million at Obetsebi Lamptey at Kaneshie, Accra.

Second Phase
In the Nkrumah Circle second phase project, the Mahama administration used a whopping US$170 million to build the Ring Road flyover with a total bridge and ramp length of 1.2km and a width of 24 metres, with three bridges over the Odaw River, two terminals, a water park and road works.

For the Obetsebi Lamptey second phase, the Akufo-Addo government is using €87 million to construct a total bridge and a ramp length of about 700 metres with a width of 18.5 metres as well as about a kilometre of storm drainage expansion works and road works on the ground level.

The total cost for the Nkrumah Circle projects under the NDC was US$270 million while under President Akufo-Addo, it will cost $135 million.

One flyover, which has stunned money politics is the $84-million a three-tier to a four-tier stack Pokuase Interchange project in the Ga West Municipality in the Greater Accra Region.

The groundbreaking ceremony was performed in July last year for commencement of the Pokuase Interchange. The project, which is jointly funded by the African Development and Government of Ghana, is expected to be completed in two years and would ease traffic congestion and improve urban mobility along the Accra-Nsawam road.

The construction which is being undertaken by Messrs China Zhongmei Engineering Company Limited forms part of the Accra Urban Transport Projects.

The completion of the Pokuase interchange would boost economic growth and activities between Accra and the neighbouring regions as well as Ghana and the neighbouring countries.

7 December 2020 election is therefore not a matter of a political party, it is the destiny of the country. The voters, especially the swing voters, should vote for a President, whose policies, vision for the country and value-for-money will help the country develop beyond third world economy.