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13.10.2008 Politics

Presidential debate is on: It's 3 against 1

By The Statesman

The much anticipated Presidential Debate involving the flagbearers of the major political parties in the country is slated for October 29, 2008 at the Kofi Annan ICT Centre in Accra.

The Institute of Economic Affairs-sponsored debate, which had been stalled after one difficulty after the other cropped up, is expected to showcase the intellectual, managerial and most importantly, leadership abilities of the men gunning to occupy the still-being-constructed presidential complex at Flag Staff House, Accra.

The Statesman has been reliably informed that representatives of the New Patriotic Party, National Democratic Congress, Convention People's Party and the People's National Convention will ballot for who answers the first question to be asked by the moderators, Cyril Acolatse and Professor Kwame Karikari. The same questions will be asked of all the candidates.

In what has been described as a "tough, fairly unfair battle', the NPP candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will face a three-pronged attack from the NDC's John Evans Atta Mills, CPP's Paa Kwesi Nduom and PNC's Edward Mahama on how the development agenda and legacy of the Kufuor-led administration would be continued in a renewed, accelerated push to move Ghana forward under an Akufo-Addo presidency.

Simply put, every body, apart from the incumbent party's flagbearer, is free to shoot at the policies of the almost eight-year old Kufuor administration without being subject to the same kind of scrutiny as the man in the spotlight.

Even though a sort of compromise has been reached, involving the right to rebuttal, Nana Akufo-Addo may be reduced to refuting the charges laid against his party without having the chance to articulate his vision to move Ghana forward.

Paa Kwesi Nduom, former Minister for Energy, Regional Cooperation and Public Sector Reform, and sitting MP for Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem; John Evans Atta Mills, former Commissioner of the Value Added Tax Service, Vice President under Jerry John Rawlings, former law lecturer and perennial NDC presidential candidate since 2000; and Edward Nasigre Mahama, medical doctor and sole presidential candidate of the PNC since its formation in 1996, are all strong debaters.

This open season on the NPP has been met with mixed feelings within the party, The Statesman has learnt. While some members have expressed misgivings about the format of the debate, others see it as an opportunity to show up the rest of the flagbearers for what they really are, "men who can only attack the people who have made the bold decision to try and move Ghana forward, but offer no viable alternative to the policies being implemented now to make Ghana a better place,' Joseph Adarkwah, a political analyst told this paper.

The flagbearers will answer questions on the economy, especially on the costing of the various interventions outlined in their manifestos, as well as specifics on national development, this reporter has been reliably informed.

There are also indications that they will be quizzed on security issues in the run-up to, and after, December's elections, as well as Ghana's relations with the rest of the world, especially in this age of globalisation and increasing awareness that the world is a small village.

The first of the two-part presidential debates, for northern and southern Ghana, was originally slated for Tamale but was shifted to Accra after a careful consideration of the campaign schedules of the candidates. The northern sector debate, which is still slated for Tamale, is expected to take place on November 15, The Statesman has learnt.

The presidential debate in Ghana is an attempt to put all the presidential candidates on the same platform to answer a series of questions from a moderator, on their plans for the country if given the chance to govern, just as occurs in some countries.

In this year's US presidential elections, for instance, the two candidates, Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama have held two nationally televised debates, the latest on October 7.

Their running mates, Sarah Palin (R) and Joe Biden (D) have also held a public debate.

There are plans afoot, The Statesman understands, for a similar debate between the NPP's Mahamudu Bawumia and the NDC's John Mahama in the very near future.