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Opinions of Thursday, 10 November 2016

Columnist: Statesman Opinion

Americans vote for change: The lessons are clear for Ghanaians

The electorate in the United States of America on Tuesday, November 8, 2016, voted for change by electing Donald Trump of the Republican Party as the 45th President of the most powerful nation in the world.

At the time of writing this piece, the available records showed that Trump had won 278 electoral votes so far - he needed 270 out of 538 for victory. He defied pre-election polling to claim swing states, winning the key battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Coming against the Democratic Party's Hillary Clinton, who was widely tipped to win, many across the world, with Ghana not being an exception, appeared to be fully convinced that Donald Trump's personality was more than enough to make the Americans extent the mandate of the incumbent party for another term, which would mean a third consecutive term in the White House.

But the American electorate said NO! It has been the consistent trend in American democracy since former Vice President George H W Bush failed to secure a second term in 1992.

President John Dramani Mahama may care to know that only two American former vice presidents, Martin Van Buren in 1837 and George H W Bush in 1989, succeeded in being elected as President. But, they both failed to win a second term.

It is a shame that President Mahama, his Vice, Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, and General Secretary of the governing National Democratic Congress, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, were too quick to attack Donald Trump and the Republican Party.

We wonder how Ghana will respond now. Can the President now congratulate the Republicans and the President-elect, after taking the unwise decision to take sides and attack them?

The opposition New Patriotic Party, led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, a former Foreign Affairs Minister with exceptional experience in international diplomacy, chose to stay out of the American elections because to them the focus is on Ghanaians and their concerns. And diplomacy teaches us better.
Now, it is instructive to bring to the fore that the similarities between Ghana and US are very interesting. We hold our elections in the same year, usually one month apart. Anytime the Republicans win, NPP wins. Anytime the Democrats lose, NDC loses.
Again, it has been 8 years for each party in each country. The Democrats in 1992 won two straight terms; the Republicans came in 2001 and also ruled for 8 years before losing in 2008 to the Democrats again, who also ruled for 8 years before losing this Tuesday to the Republicans. It is the same story in Ghana between NPP and NDC since 1992.
One may not be wrong to argue that it was therefore not the candidature of Donald Trump that has seen the return of the Republicans to the White House, but it was simply because Americans did not consider it a wise decision to give the Democrats a third term mandate.

It is also important to draw attention to the fact that the 70-year-old Donald Trump's victory brought the Republican Elephant back from the bush after 8 years in opposition. American voters have explained why they voted the way they did. The results show that the majority of Americans were disillusioned. Exit polls recorded the simmering discontent of the American electorate. They were angry with the ruling government and voted for a candidate, even if he was controversial and did not excite the electorate, who offered the prospect of change.

Nearly 7 in 10 voters said they were unhappy with the way the government was working, including a quarter who said they were outright angry, according to results of exit polls conducted for the Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research. Six in 10 voters said the country was on the wrong track.
The Democrats are shocked because they expected Obama's record in turning the economy around, giving the country the fastest economic growth in over a decade, slashing the deficit by two-thirds, doubled the stock market and created jobs, would push them for 12 years in office.
We at the Daily Statesman are sure the NPP can understand how the feelings of the Democrats, because in 2008, members of the NPP also knew they had turned things around in Ghana, but after 8 years it appeared Ghanaians were ready for change.
Yes, the Republicans are a sister party of the NPP, just as the Democrats are a sister party of the NDC. President John Mahama, Vice President Amissah Arthur and NDC General Secretary Johnson Aseidu Nketia were busily going around saying the NPP would lose like the Republicans. What they failed to see was that the American people were ready to vote for change.

Ghanaians are also ready for change and have even more reasons to vote out the governing NDC, led by President Mahama. The economy is bad; there are no jobs and the corruption, hardships and debts are killing the people.

Ghanaians also see in Nana Akufo-Addo, a serious political leader who has the character and political will to tackle corruption which remains the major bane of the nation's development, as well as the ability and opportunity to assemble a competent team of appointees to rescue the nation from the current economic mess.
Finally, we wish President-elect Donald Trump well. At the same time, we will say that he has a big task to heal his country and create a genuine sense of inclusiveness behind his goal to make America great again. The world needs a compassionate America with a vibrant economy offering responsible leadership. We wish America well.