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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Columnist: Kwasi Frimpong, Contributor

Election 2020: The ‘battle line’ is drawn

Ghana has barely seven months to go to the polls for her presidential and parliamentary elections. Even in the face of the deadly world pandemic of the novel coronavirus, the discussion is not lost on many political actors on the need for the election.

While discussing the means to get out of the Covid-19 challenge, the discourse has been laced with conversation about the election.

Many schools of thought have been espoused on whether or not the country should go ahead with the general election, should the pandemic persist till a certain period of the year.

While civil society organisations and legal luminaries continue to have this discussion, politicians, especially from the two main political divide, keep insisting that the election must be held no matter what happens.

Some argue that the effect of not having election on December 7 could be direr than the pandemic itself. Others have cited countries that have gone ahead to have their elections even in the midst of pandemic as case studies to learn from.

Special election

This year’s election is ‘special’, no matter how one looks at it. For the first time, mainstream political activities with their attendant gatherings have been missing from the streets.

The youth health walks, the campaign tours, the traditional councils’ visitations, among others, are not seen and there is no sign of when they will be bouncing back, even if they will at all.

The election is also special, marking a third time and the last time of contest between the two main contenders, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and former President John Dramani Mahama. The duo has faced each other since 2012. Whatever the outcome will be this year, these two will not face off again in a general election in this country under this same 1992 constitution and the fourth republic. Each of them having won against the other ones, the score is at the tie and the December election means a make or break for both candidates.

It is also the first time in the history of the country’s election that a former President will be taking another shot at the Presidency. Mr Mahama, having lost over a million vote as a sitting president to Nana Akufo-Addo, then opposition leader, is trying his luck again and seeking to overturn the over one million votes’ difference.

Tension

All of these put together heighten the tension that is often associated with elections in the country.

Election in Ghana has always been characterised by tension and inflammatory statements. The country always seems to be at the brick of breaking whenever we are going into any election. Politicians from the various political divides have often been accused of heightening the tension. The media, the clergy, individuals and interested groups have always been condemning the creation of the unnecessary tension.

The country’s independent elections management body, the Electoral Commission (EC), has always been a punching bag for the opposition party, with the party in government always going to its defence.

In the 2012 elections, for example, insulting/offensive comments, unsubstantiated allegations and provocative remarks were the three most frequently types of indecent expressions against political opponents, of a list of 10 of such expressions. There was an average of four indecent expressions recorded on daily basis by the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) between April and December.

For the nine month monitoring period, 2,850 programmes were monitored on 31 radio stations. A total of 509 indecent expressions were coded on those programmes with as much as 404 indecent expressions by political party affiliates.

In 2016, according to a report released by the MFWA on indecent campaign language, a total of 14 incidents of indecent expressions were recorded from over 1,900 radio programmes monitored on 60 radio stations across the country within the month of September alone.

All of these account for the heightening of tension in the country.
To ensure peaceful election and transition of power, the eminent Asante Overlord, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, led various political parties to sign a peace accord ahead of the 2016 general election.

Violence

Violence is often associated with elections, though regrettably. This is not an African thing or a Ghanaian thing. In the US, the UK and other developed countries, there have always been pockets of violence associated with elections. While Ghanaian elections have been relatively peaceful, they have also had their own form of isolated reported cases of violence.

This year, the re-echoed accusations and counter-accusations have started, despite the pandemic in the country. Leaders of the two main political parties have started throwing allegations upon allegations at each other. Like expected, the EC has come under severe attacks, with its every move ‘rejected’ by the opposition party.

Threats of war, violence, among others, have reeled their heads back into the political discourse. Key party functionaries have threatened civil war and readiness to fight the EC with their ‘blood’.

While it is a known fact that the Ghanaian is noted to be peace-loving and that at the end of the day, the country will come out stronger, united peacefully, the many pockets of violence associated with elections have also come with some casualties.

However, the children of the politician never become casualties in times of electoral violence. Many people had fought and died for her father but until she decided to contest for parliamentary seat in Ghana, Dr Zanetor Agyemang-Rawlings had never voted in any election in this country.

While people were dying for her father, she was busily schooling to become a medical doctor.

From all indications, the battle line is drawn, and there may be pockets of casualties. Each Ghanaian has the opportunity to choose to become a part of the ‘few’ casualties or a part of the majority who will continue to move the country forward.

The choice is in our own hands.