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30.10.2007 NPP News

Ethnic tensions in NPP heat up - EIU

By The Daily Dispatch
Ethnic tensions in NPP heat up - EIU

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) "government's popularity has started to wane as widespread power cuts have raised concerns over the effectiveness of the government's investment agenda and corruption allegations have tainted the reputation of the ruling party.

The opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) appears unified and focused on regaining the presidency at the 2008 elections. Positively for the government, real GDP growth is forecast to remain strong, at 6.3% in 2008."

The above is a quote from the political and economic summary of the September 2007 Country Report on Ghana by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) The EIU is a specialist publisher, which for the past 60 years, has been a source of information on business developments, economic and political trends.

Below is unedited, the EIU's political outlook on Ghana for 2008-2009:

"Ghana's domestic political scene will continue to be dominated by the forthcoming presidential and legislative elections. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) government, led by the president, John Agyekum Kufuor, went through its most radical turnover of personnel to date in July.

This followed the resignations of nine members of the cabinet who hope to contest the December 2008 presidential election. Eight of them are seeking the NPP presidential candidacy, the poll for which is to be held in December 2008; the ninth intends to contest the presidential nomination of an opposition party.

The change was brought about because of the NPP constitution, which states that party members must resign from their positions in government if they wish to campaign for the presidential nomination.

The resignations have brought the elections further to the forefront of Ghanaian politics. Of the NPP candidates, the Economist Intelligence Unit believes that the frontrunners are Nana Akufo-Addo, a former Foreign Minister and Mr. Kufuor's rival for the 2000 election, and Alan Kyeremanten, a former Trade and Industry Minister and allegedly the favoured candidate of Mr. Kufuor.

Apparently slightly behind these two contenders are Dan Botwe, who lost his cabinet position in a 2006 reshuffle, and the Vice-President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama.

If, as appears likely, the vote goes to a second round, this may give the other major candidates the role 0f kingmaker; we believe that Mr. Akufo-Addo is most likely to benefit from the transferral of their support.

However, there is a danger that the competition between the candidates will engender serious, and possibly even permanent splits within the NPP. Already, tensions between tribal-backed elements of the party represented by Mr. Akufo-Addo and Mr. Kyeremanten have increased in recent months.

The main opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), has had an easier time in selecting its candidate, John Atta Mills, for the presidential election.

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.

However, it is unclear whether the 62-year-old Mr. Mills will be able to unseat the NPP candidate in 2008. Although undoubtedly a capable candidate, 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.

As a former Vice¬ President of an NDC government, he is linked to an administration that has been accused of human rights abuses and economic mismanagement. Mr. Mills' record is further blemished by two previous presidential election defeats, in 2000 and 2004.

In a bid to counter these difficulties, the NDC will continue to challenge the NPP on a number of issues, particularly over the ongoing power shortages, as well as over corruption and governance. Ghana's political atmosphere, which is already characterized by bickering and parliamentary boycotts, is hence set to become even more bellicose.

The NDC has been combative with the government in recent months, and it is likely to become more so as the elections approach. 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, are excluded by the NPP's policies - with social welfare schemes.

The NPP, on the other hand, 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.

Overall, we expect the 2008 vote to be reasonably close, testing Ghana's young democratic institutions. Although Ghana has a relatively good recent record with regard to political stability, several factors may raise the possibility of civil disobedience in 2008 following the election.

These factors include: the NDC's determination to gain power after eight years in opposition and its deep-seated distrust of the NPP; overlapping tribal, regional and party divisions; the likely closeness of the final result; and inter-party sensitiveness over electoral legislation such as the Representation of the Peoples Amendment Act.

The civil unrest would be likely to take the form of marches such as the Wahala campaign of 2005, although strike action and violence are possible."

Source: The Daily Dispatch