The Economist Global Intelligence Report, produced by the world-respected Economist magazine, has identified seven "serious” candidates in the NPP presidential flagbearer race.
These are Nana Akufo-Addo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD; Yaw Osafo-Maafo, former Minister for Education, Science and Sports; Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Minister for Water, Works and Housing; Kwame Addo-Kufuor, Minister for Defence; Alan Kyermaten, Minister for Trade, Industry and PSI; Aliu Mahama, the Vice President, and Dan Botwe, former General Secretary of the NPP.
On Alhaji Aliu Mahama, the report says, “Although the Economist Intelligence Unit does not believe that he will gain the nomination, his solid level of support may make him an important figure in determining the ultimate winner of the process; alternatively, if the NPP is unable to thin down the field of potential contenders, the 5-10% of the delegates that Mr Mahama is said to command could mean that he figures prominently in any run-off.”
Though, according to the latest Economist report, President John Agyekum Kufuor may be now warming up to support the nomination bid of Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo, inner party analysts believe the President is still firmly behind Alan Kyerematen. Some even point to the President's recent trip to Tamale where according to some regional and constituency executives Mr Kufuor"s preference for Alan was made pretty obvious to them.
But, reflecting on the party's national conference held in January this year, the Economist report notes how Kufuor was “virtually forced” into addressing the question of his successor, urging candidates to “ensure that they chose a candidate with national appeal.
The comments, some analysts told the Intelligence team, "may have been a reference to Mr Kyeremanten, who had previously been thought to be Mr Kufour's preferred candidate."
The trade minister's Ashanti descent is cited in the report as one possible factor against his name, with reportedly fears from some corners of the party about a perceived Ashanti dominance. Mr Kyerematen's deliberate strategy to find a lineage with the Central Region, where it is said his mother's step father hailed from, has also inadvertently contributed to this negative perception.
In another perceived slight to the trade minister, the report went on, "Mr Kufuor argued that some of the presidential aspirants are not sufficiently groomed in the party's traditions and political leadership to vie for the presidency.
"The president said that, after his generation of leaders, the next in line are people like 'Nana Akufo-Addo, Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, Yaw Osafo-Maafo and Kwame Addo-Kufuor.' Mr Kufuor drew a clear distinction between his immediate succession group and the next generation of NPP leaders, which in his view, include 'Alan Kyeremanten and Dan Botwe'," the Economist noted.
The report also notes a theory that Mr Kufuor wants to keep Dan Botwe and Osafo-Maafo out of the nominations - a theory leant credence by his decision to re-shuffle both of them out of Cabinet last year. His preference may have little bearing on the youth wing of the party, however, if Economist intelligence on youth support for the young Dan Botwe hold true.
It also speculates about the President's relationship with his Vice, claiming Mr Kufuor has "snubbed" his VP:
"Mr Kufour's comment not only relegated the ambitious Mr Kyeremanten to part of the 'next generation of NPP leaders,'" according to the report, "but also omitted any mention of the vice-president, Mr Mahama, who has declared that he is interested in gaining the nomination.
"It is widely perceived within the NPP that Mr Mahama was selected as vice-president to gain votes for the party in the north of the country and from Muslims, who are under-represented in the NPP, rather than because he is a credible political heavyweight. Nevertheless, it was clear at the party congress that Mr Mahama had a considerable number of followers, with a lot of support from northern delegates."
On the main opposition National Democratic Congress, the report notes the nomination of John Evans Atta Mills as the party's presidential candidate, and the good shape of the party now the leadership contest is over.
"The most positive factor for the NDC that has arisen from the nomination process is that the party appears to have recovered a sense of unity and of purpose in a bid to secure victory in 2008.
"In contrast to previous party congresses, which have been rancorous and divisive, there was a clear effort on the part of the NDC to appear united. This was even indicated by the name of the congress, which was entitled 'Unity for Victory 2008'."
The report also points to a more "media savvy" campaign by the NDC, "amid fears that public perceptions of it as an intolerant, divided and often bellicose party have hampered it in the last two elections."
Published in March 2007, the next report also surveys Ghana's economic terrain and the still volatile situation in the North of the country. The excerpts are carried in the centre pages of this edition. The next Economist Global Intelligence Unit report is due to be released this month.