Last week, National Women Organiser of the governing New Patriotic Party, Kate Gyamfua, passionately talked about a worrying trend of independent parliamentary candidates from the ruling party posturing all over, particularly in the party’s two strong regions, Eastern and Ashanti.
Not only that, she is also visibly worried about the threat of voting ‘skirt and blouse’, a Ghanaian election terminology where people vote for the presidential candidate of one party and the parliamentary candidate of another.
Ms Gyamfua contends that whenever a member of the party has contested as an independent candidate, it has directly affected the percentage and nominal votes of the presidential candidate. She has therefore pleaded with party members who are seeking to run as independent candidates to reconsider their decisions. She has further called on all party supporters advocating ‘skirt and blouse’ to desist from doing that.
Independent candidates and party’s chances
The phenomenon of people leaving their pollical parties to run as independent parliamentary candidates has always affected the political party in diverse ways.
The NPP was a major casualty in the 2008 election when this phenomenon led to the party losing its majority in Parliament. But for three of the many independent candidates, Bosome Freho, Nkawkaw and Bekwai, who won their seats and later joined the NPP minority in Parliament, the party lost in areas where the vote difference between it and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) was close.
The loss in parliamentary seats also directly affected the presidential votes where the NPP’s flagbearer then, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, could not garner the needed 50 per cent ‘plus one’ vote to be elected the President.
In the run-off, one of the key messages used against the party was its minority in parliament. It is believed that many Ghanaians felt our democracy was too young and fragile to have a party with minority in parliament occupying the presidency.
The message was even more pronounced based on the Ghanaian 1992 Fourth Republican Constitution which literally forces the executive government to appoint majority of its ministers from Parliament.
“Ministers of State shall be appointed by the President with the prior approval of Parliament from among members of Parliament or persons qualified to be elected as members of Parliament, except that the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament”, Article 78(1) of the constitution states.
To many Ghanaians, this was not a journey the country was ready to travel.
By the time, some of the people who left the party to contest as independent, such as current MP for Hemang Lower Denkyira and Deputy Minister of Employment and Labour relations, Bright Wireko-Brobbey, saw the harm caused the party and started organising rallies for candidate Nana Akufo-Addo ahead of the second round, it was too late to gather the spilt milk.
The situation is not only an issue for the NPP. The NDC has suffered similar fate, especially in 2012 and 2016, resulting in the party losing critical seats such as Elmina, Talensi, Upper Manya Krobo, among others, to the NPP.
Ahead of the 2020 general election, the phenomenon of independent candidates has started springing up all over again. Some cases include the swing Akwatia seat where incumbent MP, Ama Sey, is threatening to run as an independent, Tarkwa Nsuem, Bekwai, Asante Akyem Central, among a host of other areas.
According to the party’s national women organiser, travelling across the length and breadth of the country canvassing for votes, she sees this phenomenon as widespread.
The present, they say, is guided by the past and influences the future. Many would have thought that, guided by history, members of the party would have been a bit careful in taking such decisions, unless maybe the leadership of the party may not have worked well in patching up the differences in the party, post the June 20, 2020 parliamentary primaries.
In my June 23 edition of ‘Let’s Say It Right’, titled ‘Let the patching up begin pronto’, I enumerated some issues which I felt, if not handled well, could lead the party into the doldrums.
I hate to say “I told you so”, but when I said “all of these issues have the potential of bringing back the unfortunate 2008 bad-old-days experiences, which ‘led the Elephant into the Bush’, back into play”, I was making a clarion call on the party to act swiftly.
At the time, there was an indication that the party had moved to address the fallouts from the primaries and had set up a Conflict Resolution Committee, headed by the Chief of Staff, Mrs Akosua Frema Opare, to address concerns to be raised by anyone aggrieved.
I may be wrong, but the committee needs to up its game. If they have been working, then as my basic school teacher will always write in my terminal report card, ‘more room for improvement’.
Additions and subtraction
No vote is useless in politics. There are some people who feel some additions are negative; and, so, when some people threaten to leave the party, such people must be allowed to go.
I disagree, much as I agree to some extent. Some additions may be negative, but negatives, when multiplied, become positive.
The 1992 Constitution says in Article 63 (3) that “a person shall not be elected as President of Ghana unless at the presidential election the number of votes cast in his favour is more than fifty per cent of the total number of valid votes cast at the election.” This suggests that a person needs at least 50 per cent of the total votes cast and an additional single vote to win the election.
It is the reason why every single vote must count.
If members of the NPP really want to stay in power to enjoy what President Kufour says, literally, as a cleaner in a governing party is worth more than a General Secretary in an opposition party, then every person must be guided by the 2008 history and come on board for a successful election.
2020 cannot be toyed with.