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Opinions of Sunday, 10 February 2008

Columnist: Amoyaw, Sandy

The wild goose chase for a running mate: You make the call

Following the selection of their respective Presidential candidates, the Vice-Presidential candidates of the major political parties are currently formally being sought by each party’s select committee. The official process is not as easy as it seems. In practice, the Presidential nominee has considerable influence on the decision. Invariably, it becomes customary for the presidential candidate to select a preferred running mate, who is then nominated and accepted by the party officials. Often, the presidential nominee will name a running mate who will bring geographic or ideological balance to the ticket or appeal to a particular constituency. The running mate might also be chosen on the basis of traits the presidential candidate is perceived to lack, or on the basis of name recognition. Popular runners-up in the presidential nomination process are commonly considered, to foster party unity. It is against this backdrop that Alan Kyeremanteng is rumored to be in contention for the NPP running mate position. But choosing a vice presidential candidate demands a lot of caution because history is full of selections that did not turn out the way the top of the ticket intended.

During the NDC presidential primary, delegates wound up choosing Prof Atta-Mills as the best prepared to be president. John Mahama, albeit he did not run, was seen as the most appealing candidate and a possible running mate for the NDC flagbearer. The three main parties’ delegates by electing Prof Atta-Mills, Nana Akuffo-Addo and Dr Kwesi Nduom opted for experience and depth. The result, prior to the primaries, was pretty predictable: extremely well-qualified presumptive nominees capable of running a winning campaign. Once upon a time, the euphoria of some NDC members over Mr. John Mahama’s possible choice as running mate and addition to the ticket came from their hope that he can juice up things but that expectation was shattered when it was made public that he was no more interested in the position. Numerous “cow manure” reasons were given for his decline. Needless to say, it has been rumored recently that John Mahama’s choice as the running mate for Prof. Mills would become a reality. It is one thing to choose a running mate for geographic balance or special expertise, it is another to admit that you are short on charm or you need change. John Mahama, a likeable individual with a Kofi Annan type of empathy, may make any other choice look even more wooden by comparison. The question then is ‘Will he accept the offer? Should Betty Mould Iddrissu get the nod that would also be a great choice because of her credentials and gender. The reason is because I believe Prof. Atta-Mills has the confidence, and the good sense, to share the spotlight with someone who can make his campaign better and ready for primetime and change. If chosen it is likely that Betty Mould will be dispatched to critical regions like Ashanti, and the North to talk about her Ashanti heritage and her default connection to the Northern regions, as people know little about her. Undoubtedly, the campaign and public debate would be better served by more candors from whoever is selected as running mate. Within the NDC, John Mahama is the leading candidate for the running mate slot He is an exciting political force and seems fresh, somewhat innocent and inspiring. But behind the affective spontaneity exists a cautious calculator. Everyone around him is expecting that he makes up his mind sooner than later despite the feverish speculation that he is not ready to accept the invitation. Atta-Mills and John Mahama would actually be a pretty impressive and a winnable ticket because it took a John Kuffour to take over from a Jerry John, consequently, if there is any logic in politics then it will take a John Atta-Mills to replace a John Kuffour and eventually a John Mahama to take over after Atta-Mills two terms.

With Alan Kyeremanteng as a household name, supporters of Nana Akuffo-Addo argue for his choosing his principal rival for vice president, but there are others in contention like Ibn Chambas (a red herring choice), Boniface Abubarkar Saddique and Hajia Alima Mahama and latest wildcard consideration is the maverick Ken Aygapong.. They maintain Alan will provide myriad of general election help for Nana Akuffo-Addo. As an Ashanti, their contention is that Alan appeals to the youth and also represents an ethnic group and a region already solidly in the NPP’s column but has been alienated because of the primaries’ smear campaign by some NPP presidential aspirants who are ethnically incompetence. This school of thought advocates for an Ashanti as Nana’s running mate because prominent NPP possible vice-Presidential candidates from the North are in short supply today. The leading prospects are the aforementioned names.The last time a presidential candidate won a general election without any regional or ethnic consideration was 1992 and 1996 by Rawlings.

After clinching the CPP presidential nomination, the party members are advocating for the choice Prof. Akosah. However, the selection can be a rubber stamp for Dr. Paa Kwesi Nduom’s handpicked candidate. Technically though, if the CPP party electors feel strongly enough about Paa Kwesi’s choice, they can still reject the presidential nominee's suggestion and elect someone else. Nonetheless, it is still the presidential nominee's choice, and how that choice is made depends on the goals of the nominee.

The elected president should not see the vice president as merely the nation's official representative at regional and state funerals because that is passé. I guess this caveat is noteworthy because of the manner NPP relegated Aliu Mahama to the background during his tenure as Vice-President. The president should make the Vice-President an important member of his policy team, and also delegate a central role of his administration to him or her. While voters still do not choose a president based on his running mate, they are well advised to pay some attention to some other intangibles like charisma and credentials. Aware of any bold move that could dramatically alter the playing field of the 2008 presidential race, the three presidential aspirants are being cautious in their choice of running mate.

The motivations have changed over the years since vice presidential picks have mainly been about balancing a ticket. However, in making the choice, both leadership and compatibility should be taken into consideration when picking a running mate. For instance, if you're going to use the vice president in a fundamental advisory capacity, it has to be someone whose advice you'll respect and be able to play important roles. If they are chosen for an ideological balance, then they will not be on the same wavelength, and then not be likely to play a central role. They won't be compatible with the president's advisers If the race is expected to be close, trends move toward running mates with similar ideologies or vice presidents that can be groomed for the presidency. Quite frankly, when an election is likely to be so close, there is a renewed pressure for bringing in a region or constituency. The conventional wisdom is that consideration is given to people who can bring something to the ticket as opposed to being a good, wise person. If the wrong decision is made, the vice presidential choice could hurt more.

With rumors becoming speculation, and then speculation becoming ever-closer to certainty, the possibility that any of the names mentioned in this article will be chosen as running mate by their party’s presidential candidate for the 2008 general elections becomes ever-closer to reality., a fact even the skeptics are now forced to admit. Until the presidential candidates formally make the announcement, one can not know for certain who will be chosen, but I do think that we can make the assumption that the odds daily increase that one of the aforementioned names will be selected.



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