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23.11.2004 Politics

IS RUN-OFF LIKELY?

By Bismark Bebli for Chronicle
IS RUN-OFF LIKELY?

NPP says one touch, NDC says first round Chronicle -- THE TWO major political parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are predicting a first round victory in the December 7 elections.

As the NPP predicts what it termed, “one touch”, the NDC is also predicting 60% and above in the forthcoming elections.

Dr. Josiah Nii Armah Aryeh, the general secretary of the NDC told The Chronicle that if the previous elections were repeated, then “our own survey suggests that Prof. Mills may well be able to win anything up to 60% and beyond in the NDC strongholds.”

This, he said, depended on whether they could manage to close up in the strongholds of the government and also how the uncommitted voters behaved.

Dr. Aryeh stated that from all the empirical evidence available to the NDC of the past presidential elections that had been closely fought between the major contenders, said he would not be surprised if the Prof. Mills-led NDC pulled a first round victory.

According to him, in 1996, the former President J.J. Rawlings factor appeared to have held sway.

When asked as to what it took for a party to win a first round, the NDC chief scribe had this to say: “You have to prevent the floating votes from going to the minority parties and better still, you probably have to reach understanding with those parties.

Such understandings are difficult because it means minority parties would have to literally pull out in the electoral competition erasing the raison d'etre for their existence.”

Should that fail, Dr. Aryeh indicated that it meant the votes of the minority parties would go to the dominant party.

The national organizer of the ruling NPP, Mr. Lord Commey, stated that there was no doubt that the NPP would win the election by only one touch, adding that the party's first round win was due to the fulfilled promises of the government and drastic strategies of the party, unlike their predecessors.

According to him, the NPP was a well-structured party that had combed all the constituencies across the country with equitable distribution of development and added that the party was absolutely confident of winning the elections hands down.

Mr. Commey who said the NPP was a grass root party, said the party started putting its structures together immediately after the 2000 elections. “Since 2000, we managed to draw the distinction between the government and the party and it is working very well for the party as a well organized political party.”

Predicting percentage win, the national organizer said, “Personally, I will not be surprised if we win 80% of the votes. But for the reality, the party is winning between 60 to 70% but I would not be surprised for 80% because we are satisfied with what we have done,” he emphasized.

When he querried on what it took a political party to win first round or better still as he puts it, 'One touch”, Mr. Commey said, it all depended on the organizational structure of the party, coupled with its manifesto.

“Because we are the incumbent government, it takes trust for the people to vote for us vis-a-vis our commitment to the contents of the manifesto. The discerning people would compare it with the previous governments and vote. But surely, people are not prepared to go back to the NDC. This is because we have ensured that our democracy grows and “we have freedom of speech,” he submitted.

When the paper contacted the associate executive director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) Ghana, Dr. Baffour Agyeman Duah, he was hesitant to give his opinion on the upcoming elections. According to him, it was too early for him to speak on the matter now since he had not studied all the indicators.

Political analyst, Mr. Ben Ephson, who doubles as the Editor of the Daily Dispatch was of the view that the electorate would decide with their thumbs on the voting day, adding that he would be publishing his findings too.

Mr. John Boadu, the national treasurer of the NPP complemented the views of Mr. Lord Commey on having a landslide victory, adding that the masses had now seen a new president who did not insult and carried himself above reproach.

“Ghanaians have seen a president who does not insult, a president who managed to sustain the growth from 3.7 % to 5.2%, a president who has drastically brought down the inflation of 40.5% to 12.4% and also increased the income of cocoa farmers from ¢3.3m to ¢9million.”

According to him, the NPP's first round win was not only warranted by President Kufuor's vision of providing jobs to the people in the rural areas through the PSI but also how most of the NDC sympathizers decamped to the NPP.

Mr. Joshua Alabi, the Greater Accra Regional chairman of the NDC, predicted a first round victory with at least 55% votes. He cited Greater Accra, Volta, Western, Upper West, Upper East, Central and Northern Regions as targeted to by the NDC.

Responding to the NPP's one-touch prediction, he noted that he believed in statistics, not in words. “Prof. Mills is winning the election hands down, no two ways about that,” he boasted.

Mike Hammer, the NDC MP for the Winneba Constituency, also said the NDC was winning the elections first round, based on the high cost of living, astronomical fuel price hikes and others.

According him, the electorate was disillusioned with the NPP government as the vulnerable had been left unattended to.

SKIRT AND BLOUSE

Independently, Chronicle's findings indicate that, some of the factors that led to the attrition suffered by the NDC appeared to be plaguing the NPP, culminating in the widespread Skirt and Blouse phenomenon that had eaten deep into the fabric of the NPP, traditionally a democratic party, compared to the NDC.

Some of the regarded analysts of the NPP appeared to be ignorant of the extent to which the skirt and blouse phenomenon was wreaking havoc in the NPP, specifically in the Western and Central Regions.

Victor Newman, a noted analyst and commentator shrieked with surprise and anguish when told that it was not just Cape Coast and a handful of constituencies that were raging.

He said the big stick approach should not be adopted, but rather, a soft soft strategy should be the preferred option; else the party would risk voters' outrage with disastrous consequences. President Kufour, realizing the danger, has rather implored than engaged in hectoring.

With the exception of Sekondi where Papa Owusu Ankomah is a bit of a demi-god, and the newly carved out Essikado constituency which borders the Effia-Kwesimintsim constituency on the southern tip and Sekondi on the South west, (Lawyer Joe Ghartey set to win overwhelmingly), almost every constituency from Effia-Kwesimintsim to Takoradi to Prestea Huni Valley was in disarray, with the MP battling violently with his fellow MP independent colleague.

Technically, the NPP Presidential candidate is expected to benefit from the skirt and blouse phenomenon since the candidates all ask that their supporters should vote Kufour for President.

Only in the worst case scenario – Cape Coast, where the incumbent had ordered the crashing of the campaign vehicle of his challenger, 30-year old local champion, Buckman, had the deeply hurt party entertained the idea of letting NDC's Odro and Mills 'take it' if Christie persists in her ways.

To win the first round is not easy, as the candidate has to win 50 % of the popular votes plus one.

GREAT ALLIANCE

In 2000, there were five parties. Today, there are four parties, including the Great Alliance.

The Great Alliance exists by the grace of the PNC, which is substantially stronger. The CPP, which is showing incipient strength, is hopelessly split. They may make a surprising showing this time and take votes from the NPP.

In 2000, there was a universal cry for change, but the NDC pulled a run off with 48.17 % with Mills managing 44.5 %.

To win the first round, Presidential Kufuor would have to win the Central and Western region as well as the traditional strongholds of Ashanti, Eastern, Brong Ahafo and substantially, Greater Accra.

The Western and Central Regions may yet be the Achilles heel that pundits overlook at their peril and which the NDC is now counting as their stronghold.

It is not being helped by the Skirt and Blouse phenomenon that is raging under Isaac Edumadze's Ajumako constituency. In Effutu, the NPP is so splintered that Samuel Owusu Adjei, the new candidate who was imposed, is making things easier for Mike Hammer, the incumbent NDC Parliamentary candidate, and former Deputy Minister for Transport. One Touch, or First Round, is quite easier said than achieved.

The prospect of a run off cannot be dismissed casually. But as they say, a day is a long time in politics. The dynamics could change dramatically overnight.

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