The Statesman newspaper says the New Patriotic Party Steering Committee, which met on Wednesday, has agreed on December 15 for the contest to elect its presidential candidate.
The party's General Secretary, Nana Ohene Ntow, who confirmed the date in an interview with the paper, said however that the date would be presented to the party's National Council, which has the supreme power to set the date and venue for the National Congress.
Consequently, the National Council meeting, initially scheduled for July was being brought forward to June.
But the paper reports that there is panic across Cabinet, with the presidency sending out conflicting signals on the contentious conundrum presented by the prospect of minister-aspirants resigning.
President Kufuor, according to the paper's Castle sources, sometimes appears set on clearing his Cabinet of minister-aspirants as early as July, shortly after the African Union summit. “The Statesman can report that some potential replacements have been sounded out and put on the alert.”
The party's peculiar constitutional provision demands a resignation only after a minister has filed to contest as presidential candidate. Nominations are set to open in mid-September.
“But calls for an early clear-out of the Cabinet are motivated by fear over the Kufuor administration being intimately caught up in a deadly crossfire, if candidates resort to slinging mud at each other. The damage to the government, it is opined, would be relatively reduced if the actors were stripped of their ministerial tags.”
Already there is evidence of incautious readiness being displayed by some campaign teams in blaming other camps when they receive bad press.
Again, an opposite impression is sometimes given by the President that he is willing to reach a compromise with the party that would allow 'performing' but 'ambitious' Ministers to simply take time off to campaign.
There are Ministers who have not applied for a vacation since 2001.
The prospect of nearly half of the cabinet being changed in one sweep has compelled the internationally authoritative intelligence unit of the Economist magazine to comment.
In its May 2007 report on Ghana, the Economist describes the mass resignation prospect as a potential recipe for chaos.
It foresees a difficult road ahead of Government in delivering on its programmes and predicts that a "number of reforms are likely to be subject to delays."
It also views the crowded race as too tricky on internal cohesion and likely to cause internal combustion.
The Statesman also said that the NPP's treasurer, Daavi Ama's push for ¢500m as filing fees for flagbearer seekers, has received virtually no support at the party's steering committee level and that the party was likely to settle on between ¢l00m and ¢200m.
While the Economist report expects the NPP government to continue to intensify its focus on development programmes aimed at improving the standard of living of ordinary Ghanaians, it, however, points out some vital shortcomings, as well.
The report accuses the government of failing to invest significantly in social and infrastructural development, despite registering record spending in those areas.
The report adamantly props the NPP to do much more or risk losing the 2008 general elections, a contest the Economist predicts may be close.
"With popular attention firmly fixed on the country's shortcomings in terms of development, and infrastructure development in particular," it reads, "such programmes will be needed if the party is to perform well in the presidential and legislative elections due in 2008."
The report on Ghana is concerned that electoral pressure may force the NPP to lose its fiscal and monetary discipline. "However, concerns have been raised that because of heightened political considerations in the run-up to the elections, government spending may be directed towards high-profile prestige projects or simply towards public-sector wage increases to boost electoral support."
Source: The Statesman