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Politics of Friday, 22 April 2005

Source: GNA

The Battle For The Seat Under The Berry Tree

A GNA Feature by Boakye-Dankwa Boadi

Accra, April 22 GNA - The National Democratic Congress (NDC) has retained the Asawase Parliamentary seat with its candidate Alhaji Muntanka Mohammed Mubarak declared winner of the Constituency bye-election held on Thursday, the Ghana News Agency reported.

He polled 31,017 votes out of the total of 51,635 ballots cast to beat two other contestants Alhaji Shuaibu Musah Shariff of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), who had 19,875 votes with Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Issaka of People's National Convention (PNC) receiving 417 votes. Mr Yaw Akoteng-Asamoah, the Returning Officer, who declared the results, put the voter turnout at 64.29 per cent.

A total of 80,315 voters were expected to vote in 107 polling stations.

The NDC's victory, the first in six parliamentary bye-elections since going into political opposition sent its supporters pouring onto the streets of Aboabo, Sawaba and Akorem, all in Kumasi, for all-night celebration.

The battle for the seat under the Berry Tree (Asawase) has ended and the victor is elated while the vanquished is licking the wounds. The bye-election became necessary following the death of the NDC Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, Dr Mohammed Gibiril Adamu on Saturday, February 26.

The Parliamentary results of Election 2004 were: Thomas Tangwanse of People's National Convention (PNC), 1,598 votes; Patricia Appiagyei of New Patriotic Party (NPP), 29,067 votes; Dr Adamu of National Democratic Congress (NDC), 33,541 votes; King Hassan Abu-Bong of Convention People's Party (CPP), 570 votes; Adam Diywo Rahman of Democratic People's Party (DPP), 204 votes and Abdul Majeed Alhassan, an Independent Candidate, 2,505 votes.

A few lessons must be learnt from the outcome of the bye-election. The first is the fact that the Electoral Commission (EC) is a competent body capable of carrying out its mandate, the myriad of constraints, notwithstanding.

Politicians should accord the EC some level of respect and stop regarding that august body as being made up of small boys, who could be toyed with. "Who does he think we are? Does he think we are small boys, who could just be pushed around?" the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan fumed when one Politician made scathing remarks about the Commission.

It has now been established that in Ghana a sitting Government can lose in a bye-election. The sitting Government did not meddle with the election process or did not succeed in twisting the arms of the EC depending on which side of the political divide one belonged to.

The beauty of it all was that the Chairman of the NPP, Mr Haruna Esseku was heard accepting defeat on one of the radio stations.

The question, however, is, would it have been acceptable to Ghanaians had the results been otherwise? This question is pertinent because prior to the elections the NDC raised the alarm, alleging that EC was going to use a different electoral roll from the one used during Election 2004.

Fortunately the EC cleared the hurdle successfully by explaining the situation to the satisfaction of objective observers. One is using "objective observers" advisedly because when it comes to politics some people take entrenched positions and would not see reason no matter how one tried. The best thing to do under such circumstances is to leave the one in his or her obstinacy. This is because there is always a dawn and the truth shall always prevail.

The result of the bye-election is going to have varying impacts on the NDC and the NPP. While it would give hope to the NDC that all was not lost and that the Party was capable of coming back to power, NPP would wake up to the reality that it is assailable yet, as Lady Macbeth said.

The first reaction this writer got from a staunch supporter of NPP when the result was announced was: "Our people must be very careful. They should not take things for granted. This NDC people can spring a surprise in 2008."

This writer had had the rare opportunity to travel home to Kumasi the weekend preceding the bye-election and returned to Accra without a doubt that NDC was going to retain the seat.

This was because while travelling up and down in trotros from Akwatia Line to Aboabo Station the passengers often made very uncomplimentary comments about the Government and its economic policies. There was this middle-aged man, who said something to the effect, that: "These Politicians belong to the same father and the same mother. When they get into power they forget about the people, who voted for them.

"Look at them riding in fuel guzzling cross-country vehicles on asphalted roads regardless of the detrimental effect the practice has on the economy of the State."

The Government should now appreciate the fact that the people are disenchanted and it should do something to remedy the situation. The 9,000 plus voters, who refused to go to the polls to vote for NPP, are sending clear signals and these must be interpreted in the right context. The NPP obtained 29,067 votes in Election 2004 but made only 19,874 in the bye-election while the NDC had 33,541 votes in Election 2004 and 31,017 in the bye-election.

NPP lost 9,192 votes while the NDC lost 2,524 votes. The margin of defeat moved from 4,477 votes to 11,132 votes. This is not good enough for a sitting Government. There is something wrong. The Government must sit up.

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