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Opinions of Sunday, 13 June 2010

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Gabby Asare

Ghana Is Ready For A Female Presidential Candidate

REACTIONS TO the news that former first lady, Nana Konadu
Agyemang-Rawlings, who turns 62 on November 17 and is preparing to contest
for the flag-bearership of the ruling NDC in 2012, have been extreme.
Majority of the vociferous voices say it would be a disaster. But, how true
is this?

She is arguably the most politically exposed and politically experienced
Ghanaian female around. She was an active First Lady for 19 years, whose
mobilisation prowess is legendary.

This is a woman who runs a women's movement (31st December Women's
Movement), which at one time boasted of a two-million membership
She has described it as a “broad based development oriented
Non-Governmental Organisation that aspires to achieve [its] objectives
through the effective mobilisation of women.”

In her, the NDC has a woman who has a solid three-decade record of mass
mobilization; A woman who has the confidence to mix with the shakers and
movers of the world; A woman who will die for the party; A woman with a
handbag filled with iron balls and who is not afraid to swing it.
So if Ghana is ready for a female presidential candidate, then Mrs.
Rawlings is a credible candidate. She more than qualifies.
But, would it be wise for her to stand against a sitting president, in a
presidential primary? The fact that it didn't happen to Messrs Rawlings and
Kufuor does not mean the prospect of her candidacy should be dismissed

President Rawlings faced no opposition in 1996 because it was his
‘personal’ party and his popularity was never in doubt.
After all, he single-handedly decided for the party who his successor
should be. President Kufuor did not face any challenge in 2004 because he
had run the country credibly well, and his popularity was not in doubt.
Can the same be said of President Mills today? Certainly not. Don't forget
Mills is in a position quite similar to what the Democrats faced in the
Nixon had earlier lost to JFK by a margin of 0.2%. Nixon sought for
re-nomination as the Republican presidential candidate and won.
With his nationwide popularity assured, he came back and won the
presidency. It is not cast in stone that incumbent presidents should not be
challenged by their party members.
That decision is a calculated one based on prevailing pros and cons -
chances of the party being re-elected or defeated by sticking to the
incumbent leader. The NDC cannot leave anything to chance.
They should allow those positioning themselves to challenge Mills to do
so, or risk being stuck with a losing candidate in 2012. The prospect of a
challenge may even challenge President Mills to make a more serious attempt
towards delivering a better Ghana than he is so far managing to do.
Also, in spite of all his threats of seeking a second term, it is far from
certain that Mills will be in contention in 2012. That decision may not be
entirely his to make.
But, with some 2,000 delegates to decide who leads the NDC in 2012 (in the
event of a contest), any serious challenge against Mills will call for a
significant expansion of the party's electoral college.
The NDC has next year's annual national conference to effect any such
constitutional reforms. It should not be seen as an anti-Mills expansion,
but rather an expansion for the sake of the party.
In 2007, it was the small size of the electoral college of the NPP that
encouraged 17 people with some loose change (money to spare) to throw their
hat into the NPP ring.
In the end, that orgy of ego trip cost the party dearly, in portraying it
as corrupt, and in dividing the front. It prevented the eventual winner
from going into the 2008 election with a clear mandate from his own party.
A bigger electoral college will be a better test of the popularity of
whoever emerges as the 2012 NDC candidate.
If Mills believes he is popular within his party, then let him sponsor
such an exercise and take away probable allegations of vote-buying.
Ghanaians should not find it politically profane the fact that the wife of
a former president may be thinking of contesting to be president. Exactly
two years ago, Americans were preparing themselves for a possible President
Hillary Clinton.
The world's longest serving female leader, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of
India, was born into the politically influential Nehru family. Her
grandfather, Motilal Nehru, was a prominent Indian nationalist leader. Her
father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was the first Prime Minister of Independent
The late Benazir Bhutto, twice prime minister of Pakistan, was the first
woman elected to lead a Muslim state. She was the eldest child of former
Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and was the wife of current
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari.
In Mongolia, Suhbaataryn Yanjmaa, who became Head of State between 1953
and 1954, was the widow of national hero Sühbaatar, and arguably the
absolute first woman political ruler in contemporary history.
Between 1968-1972, Song Qingling, the widow of doctor Sun Yat-sen, the
founder of the Chinese Republic, and the sister-in-law of Marshall Chiang
Kai-shek, his successor as president of the Republic of China (then
Taiwan), was co-president of the People's Republic of China.
Indeed, from 31 Oct 1968, to 24 Feb 1972, no Head of State was mentioned
in the communist state, but Dong Biwu and Song Qingling were Vice
Presidents by then (she was elected to the post in 1954, after being deputy
premier since 1949), so, de facto (and in theory), both leaders shared the
presidential duties in 1968-1972.
Furthermore, when in 1976, Zhu De, who was then the head of state and
chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (the
presidency of the Republic was officially abolished the previous year),
passed away, a vacancy period was inaugurated and not filled until 1978,
with the appointment of Ye Jianying.
In these months were the 21 vice-chairmen, among them four women: Song
Qingling, Cai Chang, Li Suwen, and (from 2 Dec 1976) Deng Yingchao, the
widow of just deceased premier Zhou Enlai. Shortly before Song's death, she
was elected “Honorary President” of the People's Republic of China.
In Argentina, Maria Estela ‘Isabel’ Martinez de Peron, served as president
from 1 Jul 1974 to 24 Mar 1976.
She replaced her husband Juan Domingo Perón as president, immediately
after his death, since she held the Vice-Presidency of the Republic and the
presidency of the Senate since the 1973 electoral victory of the
'Perón-Perón' formula. In fact, Perón's incapacitation forced her to act as
president since Jun 29.
She was the first woman who became president, both in America and in the
world. And also was the first one ousted in a military coup.
Cory Aquino of the Philippines is another example of a widow who succeeded
her husband as president. After Benigno Aquino's assassination in 1983, she
became Asia's first woman president.
The widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, assassinated in 1978, also became the
president of Nicaragua from 1990 to 1997.
Chandrika Kumaratunga, the daughter of the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike,
three times prime minister of Sri Lanka, served both as prime minister and
president, and both through democratic elections.
Upon her election as president in 1994, the daughter appointed her mother
as prime minister.
Chandrika's father and Sirimavo's husband, Solomon, was assassinated while
being prime minister in 1959. The same thing happened to Chandrika's
husband, Vijaya Kumaratunga, who also assassinated in 1988.
Until 2009, Janet Jagan was the President of Guyana. She was also prime
minister in 1997. She succeeded her husband, Cheddi Jagan, in the
presidency, some months after his passing.
The sixth woman occupying the presidential office in America, and the
second one with an additional premiership experience in the world (the
first one was Sri Lanka's Chandrika Kumaratunga), Mireya Elisa Moscoso de
Arias, the first woman president of Panama, also took advantage of her
status as widow of former president Arnulfo Arias Madrid.
Maria Arroyo, the current president of the Philipines, is the daughter of
late president Diosdado Macapagal, and the country's second woman
Certainly, Mrs. Rawlings has plenty of international precedent to support
her bid. Her challenge is finding enough party support to finally make good
this two-decade long ambition of hers.
For people like Nii Lamptey Vanderpuye, the presidential aide who
dismisses her bid with contempt, they should be reminded that she was even
more responsible for the formation of the party they belong to today than
even her husband.
In 1992, Kojo Tsikata and co, the CPP elements within the PNDC, were happy
to piggy back an Nkrumaist vehicle, like Kweku Boateng's NCCP.
It was Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings, who managed to convince Obed Asamoah to
support the project of going alone to set up a new party.
The others were very sceptical, but she was not. I guess the same forces
are today sceptical about her chances as presidential candidate. They
should know by now that the lady is not for writing-off.

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