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Politics of Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Source: Crystal Clear Lens

Dec. 7 Polls: Mahama Leads Akufo-Addo

…Africa Confidential Report reveals

By Cletus Abaare

President John Mahama, the Presidential
Candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is currently leading Akufo-Addo,
the Presidential Candidate of the main opposition party, New Patriotic Party
(NPP), a new poll conducted by the Africa confidential Report has revealed.
Read below the full poll
published on the www.africa-confidential.com
It
has been Ghana’s longest-ever campaign and electors are being offered a real
choice of policies and people but still the two major parties are running
neck-and-neck ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections on 7 December.
The centre-left National Democratic Congress
under President John Dramani Mahama has maintained a slight
lead, according to local and international pollsters. Yet the NDC is fighting
off criticism that it has not maximised the economic potential of new oil and
gas production and that it remains hamstrung by corruption and chronically
inefficient public services.
Unfortunately
for the governing party, two symbols of those complaints have dominated the
all-important FM radio talk shows in recent weeks. Firstly, the frequent power
cuts, caused partly by shortages of spares and a crisis at the Tema Oil
Refinery, are a constant reminder of the shortcomings of state companies and
services, especially since bills have risen sharply over the past four years.
Secondly, the claim that the much-delayed gas processing plant being built at
Atuabo by China’s Sinopec is grossly over-priced raises more
doubts about the NDC’s record in the oil and gas sector (Africa-Asia
Confidential, Vol 6 No 1, November 2012, Political storm over Chinese gas contracts).
The
claims, detailed by the Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas and based on
information gleaned from the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, target the
Managing Director of the Ghana National Gas Company, former NDC minister George
Sipa-Adjah Yankey. They accuse him of incompetence or worse. The GNGC
Chairman, former Finance Minister Kwesi
Botchwey, sprang to Yankey’s defence, insisting the Board had
fully investigated the claims and dismissed them. Civil society lobbyists such
as Steve Manteaw are now trying to get full disclosure of the
contracts between Sinopec and the GNGC. Put together with opposition claims
that China’s Huawei secured tax exemptions in return for political
contributions, Chinese companies are having a bad election in Ghana. Such is
the country’s raucous but pluralist politics.
No
slouches in the counter-attack, the NDC accuses the opposition New Patriotic
Party and its presidential candidate, Nana
Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of being puppets of multinationals such as
the United States’ agricultural company Monsanto. NDC critics
claim the NPP’s agricultural expansion policies are based on imposing
Monsanto’s genetically modified seed varieties on local farmers. More widely,
they paint the centre-right NPP as the party of ‘bosses in suits’ who have
little understanding of or interest in the lives of the urban or rural poor.
Anti-corruption
attack
Akufo-Addo’s oratorical style was developed in the Inns of Court at London’s
Middle Temple and he has honed an effective anti-corruption attack on Mahama
and party. ‘Which is more important,’ he asks, ‘free limousines for the
ministers or free secondary education for your children?’ His pledge to provide
universal free education has come under attack for the lack of credible costing
but many are persuaded by the argument: if smaller economies such as Kenya and
Uganda can afford to offer free secondary
education, why not Ghana?
Beyond
the serious national debate about policies, there is also the vital matter of
local political patronage. The tone has become venomous at the grassroots
level, with party foot soldiers fighting constituency-by-constituency. After
four particularly violent by-elections over the past three years, partisan
loyalties could yet spin out of control, especially if the results look close.
President Mahama told Africa Confidential, just after his inauguration
in August, that the main election issues were not financial and strategic:
‘It’s about Ghana and Ghanaians. Ghanaians think beyond bricks and mortar… What
kind of leader they have is just as important. Issues like corruption, rule of
law and justice are just as important.’
Akufo-Addo
insists that the new oil wealth is raising the temperature. ‘If we in Ghana are
able to have an election that is free and fair, and devoid of incident, it will
be a huge statement about our future.’ In a paper on the effects of oil revenue
on Ghana’s democracy, Professors Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi and Kwasi
Prempeh deplore how arguments are ‘turned into an occasion for
political grandstanding and gamesmanship’. They argue that the receipt and
centralised management of billions of dollars in oil and gas receipts will
reinforce the ‘winner takes all’ nature of the political system.
The
party that emerges victorious, assuming it both wins the presidency and
controls Parliament, will take almost absolute control of the state. The victors
can allocate tens of thousands of jobs, consultancies, directorships, civil
service posts and building contracts. This distribution of spoils is how both
parties recruit campaign workers and raise finance. Loyalty and campaign muscle
come in return for payments and access to patronage. That has skewed the
parties’ focus towards short-term issues which bring lucrative contracts to
party supporters.
A fraying
consensus
The
cross-party consensus of the five multi-party elections since 1992 is fraying,
following
the Electoral Commission’s decision to disqualify three presidential aspirants,
including the former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings.
Her fledgling National Democratic Party was likely to take votes from the NDC.
Both she and her husband, ex-President Jerry
John Rawlings, distrust the current leadership of the party he
founded, the NDC.
Still
wildly popular in his Volta Region redoubt and in the cities, Flight Lieutenant
(Retired) Rawlings and his wife no longer carry sway in the NDC hierarchy.
After intense negotiations he, but so far not she, has been persuaded back into
the NDC fold to campaign for Mahama. He will carry less political weight than
in 2008, when his energetic appearances may have given the NDC victory over the
NPP, by just 40,000 votes. Since he took over from the late John
Evans Atta Mills in July, the diplomatic Mahama has brought a
measure of unity back into NDC affairs.
As
in 2000 and 2008, votes in four swing regions may decide the outcome: Greater
Accra, Brong-Ahafo, Central and Western. In Western Region, massive amounts are
being spent on infrastructure development, particularly in oil and gas. The
NPP’s share of the Western vote has dropped steadily: 61% in 2000, 57% in 2004,
52% in 2008. NPP strategists hope their promises to allow the oil-producing
Region a special share of new export revenue (as in Nigeria’s
Niger Delta) may help the party to win back its support.
The
NDC’s Vice Presidential candidate and former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Paa
Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, is a Fante from Cape Coast, the Central
regional capital; his wife, Matilda Amissah-Arthur, is an
Nzema from Western Region. Mahama’s wife, Lordina Mahama, is
from Brong-Ahafo. Akufo-Addo may be helped by the fact that his wife Rebecca
Akufo-Addo is from Greater Accra; his running mate, a former central
bank Deputy Governor, Mahamudu Bawumia, is from the north, as
is Mahama. Both have worked hard in the three northern regions and have made
ethnic appeals, as has NDC General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia (aka
General Mosquito).
Despite
doubts about quality and funding, Akufo-Addo’s promise of free secondary
education is helping his campaign. The NDC has failed to keep its promise of a
one-time premium for membership of the national health insurance scheme, which
some think in danger of collapse, especially in the NPP’s Ashanti regional
stronghold. The opposition has promised to make health insurance free for all
under-18s.
The
Electoral Commission Chairman, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, is
supervising his last election before retirement, having guided the process
through five polls. In a worrying sign three weeks before voting, opposition
activists claim the Commission is biased towards the NDC and argue that the
2010 local elections were badly botched. Opposition officials complain that the
new biometric electoral register is not available for verification. Electronic
voting machines will be used for the first time and any technical glitches are
likely to bring cries of foul play from the losers. Having forced through
legislation creating 45 new constituencies just three months before polling,
the NDC has a public relations battle to win over allegations of electoral
skulduggery.
Copyright
© Africa Confidential 2012
http://www.africa-confidential.com

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