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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Columnist: Nico van Staalduinen

Election time in Ghana, who votes for who and why?

By Nico van Staalduinen

Its Election time in Ghana and the question is not only who will win but who votes for whom?

Although I am a business man, I started my career as a politician and at a “respectable” age of 21 as secretary to the liberal party (VVD) of the city council of Almere, the 7th largest city in the Netherlands and twin city of Kumasi.

During that time I was involved in writing the party program for the VVD to run our city elections and we paid a lot of attention on the writing of our Program for the city council elections of 1980. We knew that the majority of voters would make a choice upon what our policies and decisions would be if we would become the largest party in Almere.

As Almere was the largest city in our province (region) we were also actively promoting our party during the General elections and campaigning on behalf of our party 1 year later.

In the Netherlands, people mostly vote along ideological lines like: socialism, liberalism, communism, social democrats, and parties with a religious background.

The latest trend in the world: “voting against”, has not jumped the Netherlands like in the UK, US France and Germany, but there are people that are not voting in favor or not voting because, but voting against something.

Examples are: Against EU, against foreigners, against refugee's, against asylum seekers, against Muslims, against the establishment etc.

Now let’s jump to our national Ghanaian elections and what I consider “different”, as you can see I also try to be politically correct this time avoiding words like weird and strange.

Ghanaians vote in general along tribal lines!

Yes, although NPP will deny they are an Ashanti, or a little bit wider an Akan party, they are.

In the same way NDC is a Ewe party, although they have managed to reach out more to the Gas and people from the North.

I haven’t figured out yet if that makes them less “tribal” or if they just realize that without the northern and Ga votes they can’t win the elections?

Fact is that the Akan’s are the absolute majority (estimated 52%) of Ghanaians and when people vote along tribal lines that should almost certain make NPP the winner of elections. If NPP secures enough votes in either the Ga area or the North they will win this year’s elections.

NDC needs to win the Ga and the North, because they will win the Volta area as usual, but one of these two areas isn’t enough for a victory when this trend of tribal voting continues.

During the elections of 2000 and 2004, I heard several people say, they will vote for John Agyekum Kufour because he is tall and handsome. I agree on the tall part but won’t go into the second part of the reason, but let’s be fair, does that matter in making a choice in Ghanaian politics?

Others voted NPP because they hated President Jerry john Rawlings and because they were fed up with Ewe’s running the country, because NDC was corrupt etc.

In 2008 I heard exactly the same arguments against NPP, only the names had changed.

Surprisingly I never heard anybody say: “I am a Liberal because NPP is a liberal conservative party, or I vote NDC because I am a socialist”.

I also never heard anybody say: “I read all the party programs and I think this party comes closest to my ideas so I vote for CPP, PPP, NDC, NPP, GCPP”.

People who are voting sometimes have strange ways to define who they are voting for. My own father’s idea’s (now 87 years of age) mentioned to me 30 years ago what he would do when president: taxes would go down, longer prison terms for criminals, return of the dead penalty, more roads, more parking space for cars etc. But he voted each election for the party that was actually against all that was important to him, because he considered himself working class and thus voted for the party of the majority of the working being PVDA the socialist party.

Back to our wonderful democracy Ghana, a country where elections rhetoric’s have always been more violent than the elections itself (lucky us). Elections where every party is always blaming the other party for being corrupt, being tribal and incapable of running the economy.

The truth is, we have some very capable politicians on both sides of the political and tribal arena, but unless we start to organize political parties along programmatic and ideological lines our parties will remain mainly tribal and resulting in one tribe dictating the other side of the tribal/political side what to do for the next four years.

The main reason that up until today the winner can dictate to the opponent what to do is that we are still ruled under the 1992 constitution, which was constituted that way for obvious reasons of reigning and the period thereafter by a former president who started his presidency by setting aside democracy.

It has always been a surprise for me that the party losing the elections complains only about our current “winner takes all system” and when they get into power refuses to change the constitution and create an election system where voters can make choices along ideological lines. Funny enough Mr. Trump blamed the rigged system, but I think now he won the elections through that rigged system he should either step down, because Hillary Clinton won the majority, or popular vote by 1 million votes, or he should at least try to change the system during his into a one man one vote system to live up to his campaign promises.

Back to Ghana again. A socialist, democratic, communist or liberal party could and would cut through all tribal lines and create a true democracy in Ghana and take all of us away from tribal discussions like: “should Twi become our local language?” or “do we need to shift our capital to the Central Region?” or " do we really need an eastern corridor"

Democracies are not born but created, but just like a creature that is born, they need to grow to become adults, Ghana’s democracy is still young, and I trust it will grow up to, one day, become a fine democracy away from voting along tribal lines because that can, in a worst case scenario lead to tribal violence and worst than tribal wars or tribal cleansing, and we have seen enough examples of that on our continent.