The notion that swing voters would be key to who becomes president of Ghana in the December 7, 2020 elections is not only wrong but absolute nonsense. Ben Ephson, who many in Ghana regard as “renowned pollster” (but this writer see him as an average pollster whose prediction are not always accurate) prediction that swing voters would decide the December 7 elections is ridiculous, if one goes by the previous elections, especially when NDC and the NPP both have VP picks on the ticket who are potential candidates on the ticket for 2024. Pundits who tout the notion of swing voters’ advantage (Bren Ephson) clearly believe in it, so do the journalists (Evans Mensah et al) who report on it. Many were clamouring for more colourful candidates than the more laid back and unsung VP pick of the NDC, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman. As a matter of fact, Joy News Political Editor Evans Mensah (who this writer greatly admires for his brilliant journalistic inquisition) has done a detailed analysis of the advantages and dis-advantages that Naana Jane brings to the NDC ticket and must be congratulated for his work. Evans in one of his programs acknowledge that John Mahama’s VP pick of Naana Jane is strategic, in part, to garner votes in Central and the two Western Regions, the core Fante and sub tribes, which can swing behind Naana Jane (tribe loyalty). The first thing Professor Naana Jane did after her nomination, as exactly predicted by Evans Mensah, is to take nomination as VP candidate home to Central Region and the 2 Western Regions to seek the blessings of the traditional rulers and her tribesmen and women. Naana Jane’s humility in front of her people was humbling.
The selection of Naana Jane as the VP pick for the opposition National Democratic Party has radically changed the electoral arithmetic. Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman PhD, brings to the ticket a coalition of groups. NPP VP Muhammudu Bawumia PhD, is also gradually building up his coalition among various segments of the population. One interesting issue that NPP would have to deal with for 2024 is who they would elect as their candidate, taking into consideration what was done to late Aliu Mahama after eight years as John Kufuor’s vice president. This would be analysed in the coming years by this writer and other commentators.
Unlike the New Patriotic Party, whose vote can always be predicted based on who is at the head of their ticket, National Democratic Convention electoral success have always been based on a coalition of voters who have delivered victories time and time again.
NPP’s path to victory on the other hand is not by racing to this “illusive centre” – (floating or swing voters) but by mobilising more voters based on the personality of their parliamentary candidates, hometown or area loyalty which largely is influence by money and vote buying and of the promise of access to loans etc. As evidence from elsewhere shows, mobilisation is important to winning elections including flipping few floating voters in some swing seats.
In the 2016 elections, despite being tagged as a party that had lost its way and was very corrupt, NDC would have narrowed the votes cast to had push the elections into the second round, which although they would have lost anyway; but not by the huge margin that they suffered . And the reason is simple to explain, example is when Victoria Hammer was recorded boasting of earning a million dollars before exiting from politics and other graft that were widely reported and were capitalised on craftly by the then opposition NPP under the leadership of the current POG Akuffu Addo.
NPP leadership and their planted CSOs including “Let My Vote Count”, a riffraff of NPP activists , including semi-literate serial callers, foot soldiers and vigilante groups, who pushed the party to the centre, thus by so doing, identifying popular progressive ideas such as “free SHS”, “one village one dam” and “one district one factory” to run on. These popular policies proved difficult for the NDC to counteract the attacks and thus NPP were able to galvanised their base and in the event, used the VP pick, Muhammadu Bawumia PhD, an academic cum banker, as someone who can restore the confidence of investors and creditors in the economy.
Then candidate Akufo Addo, the oldest man to stand as a presidential candidate in any election in Africa, was also projected as someone who is well marketed and a “defender” of Human Rights. He went on to win the elections based on the combination of factors described above and, including the marketing of Muhammadu Bawumia as a safe pair of economic hands. Those dynamics would not count or come into play in the December 7, 2020 elections, nor the “insults/tribal connotations” and swing voters’ hypothesis as is being projected by some pollsters is not only plain stupid but ludicrous and absurd.
Imani Africa, Joy News File, Alhaji & Alhaji and others analyses of the two parties manifestoes and the policies that they intend to pursue when voted into government (December 7, 2020) perhaps may influence a sizeable number of voters, especially the professional and middle class to vote.
This brings us to the groups that makes up the coalition of voters that may decide which of the two parties, NPP and NDC, form the next government in December 2020. The first group to openly come forward to support the selection of Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang are the professional classes. The University Lecturers Association of Ghana has called on other professional associations to support and vote for her as well as National Union of Ghana Students, also come out openly to pledge support for Naana Jane.
The second group of the coalition is the VP pick’s influence in bringing in other votes. In the 2016 elections, the NPP cleverly capitalised on Bawumia’s grasped of the economic indicators, Ken Ofori Atta’s prudent economic management, Allan Kyeremanten’s management of trade, in effect it’s the economy, “stupid” and the current President Akufu Addo’s popularity that won the New Patriotic Party the 2016 elections, and what a result! The margin of NDC’s defeat was huge.
Like the 2016 elections which NPP fought on the economic management and corruption, NDC is fighting the 2020 elections on corruption, infrastructure development and incompetence. Again, like in 2015 when Nana Akufu Addo had over 90% of the delegates vote to win the NPP nomination, NDC in 2019, John Mahama also had 90% of NDC delegates votes to win the NDC nomination, and this is what makes the December 7 2020 elections more competitive as both candidates, the former president and the current president have 4 years of ruling the country, to run on.
The group of the coalition, which most commentators haven’t commented on often in this cycle of campaign, is the voters in the vice-presidential home region. Unlike the first and second groups of the coalition where the VP pick’s influence cut across the country as a positive add on of the ticket, this 3rd group of voters, majority members of the party within their home region or state.
Few myths of politics in Ghana since 1979, starting with PFP and PNP, then fast forward to 2000 elections, remain deeply entrenched and blindly accepted (North/South joint ticket) as that of the electoral power of the vice-presidential nomination.
The assumption is vice presidential candidates add votes in their home region and among tribal group, thus the reactional behind Naana Jane’s nomination is in addition to her home and tribal group, her pick would also put uncompetitive regions into play (the three Bono Regions, the five Northern Regions and of course the Greater Accra Region), and the professional groups, which is the professional and middle class, including the various student groups many associate themselves to belong to professional group. How true this is would be tested in the December 7, 2020 elections.
Many commentators and analysts, including this writer, have applauded John Mahama of using the above key voting block strategy to nominate his vice-presidential candidate, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman, who many hopes in addition to her home region/professional-middle class group, would also play the gender card by brining in women voters. Many in the NPP have been coming Professor Naana Jane’s time as Education Minister to a far inferior Education Minister. The current education minister who can not show any tangible achievement has been bragging of an achievement that cannot be quantify by the educational professional group, including the University Lecturers Association, The Public University Group and of course the various associations.
Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyeman nomination as vice-presidential pick for the NDC has put the NPP on the back foot. They wrongly thought NPP would nominate someone who could not match up to their running mate Muhammudu Bawumia PhD, who would be tagged as corrupt etc, and thus NPP has been dazed by Naana Jane’s nomination which they have no match on their ticket. Instead they have turned to discredited and corrupt parliamentarians, community college lecturers with limited academic achievements, semi-literate fools, including illiterate serial callers and paid media personalities to rather insult Naana Jane and peddle false statements that have no merit in scholarship. Naana Jane’s nomination has indeed lightened up the December 7, 2020 elections campaign.
In conclusion, there is no strong thesis to support vice-presidential advantage in all the group coalition discussed above. Indeed, many analysts, including this writer have argued that in 2000, 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections were all won by the popularity of the presidential candidates and the clamour for change, which the candidates tapped into to their advantage.
Peter N Jeffrey