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Opinions of Monday, 30 November 2020

Columnist: Kormi Norbert Goodsman

Why the 2020 presidential election may end up in a run-off

President Akufo-Addo and former President John Mahama are the frontrunners of years elections President Akufo-Addo and former President John Mahama are the frontrunners of years elections

The 2020 presidential election is likely to run into a heated run-off between the two biggest political parties – the NDC and the NPP –by the close of polls on December 7. This will be because none of the two will manage the 50%+1 of the total valid votes cast or more to be handed a first touch victory.

The 1992 constitution stipulates that a candidate could only be declared winner of a presidential poll in Ghana if he wins 50%+1 of the total valid votes cast. But in the 2020 election, my projections are that, both candidates, Nana Akuffo Addo and John Dramani Mahama will fall below that mark.
Specifically, the ruling NPP led by President Akuffo Addo will lead with 48.8 % of total valid votes cast, whiles John Dramani Mahama will manage 47.3% The remaining 3.9% votes will be shared among the rest of the smaller parties of which the Ghana Union Movement (GUM) may take the larger chunk. With this, there will not be a first-round winner hence a run-off election.

This projection is as a result of a serious assessment of the major policies and issues that are likely to influence this year's election and the number of votes each one is likely to sway. The projection equally took into account both candidates' performance in the 2016 election.

The issues that will impact this election include: Free SHS, teacher trainee allowance, teacher trainee licensure examination, effects of the banking financial sector clean-up, disgruntled Menzgold customers, galamsey, and a couple of manifesto promises like legalisation of commercial motorbikes “Okada". Note that these issues will only play out significantly on neutral electoral grounds and not in the parties' strongholds.

Also note that these issues are more likely to impact on the election than the cogent manifesto promises churned out by the two parties. This is because majority of the youthful voters believe that manifesto promises are unrealistic. Therefore, the projection focused more on those issues.

In the 2016 election, Nana Akuffo Addo won 53.7% of the total valid votes cast as against Mahama's 44.5%. What we are likely to see is that the President will lose almost 5% of his gains in 2016 not withstanding the numerical differences between the two electoral registers. The president will therefore mainly rely on the successes of the Free SHS which he targets to be one million votes.

However, the targeted one million votes and votes from teacher trainee allowance restoration will be neutralised by close to the same million of protest votes against the licensure examination policy by the NPP administration. No trainee would like to complete school and sit to write another examination for a license. Even the thousands of the Free SHS leavers who would want to enter the training colleges may reject the NPP at the polls for the NDC who has promised to scrap it.

Thus, the teacher trainee allowance votes have already been neutralised by votes against the licensure examinations. Some of the partakers of the licensure examination have failed. Those who passed have not yet been posted. Those Free SHS graduates who are interested in the training colleges themselves are aware of the danger ahead, so they may want to clear the path ahead of them.

Aside the neutralisation of the Free SHS and teacher trainee votes, the banking sector clean-up job losses will also eat away some thousands of votes from the 9.2% percentage difference votes the NPP had in 2016.

A total of 16 universal banks which once operated in the country have been collapsed within two years as part of measures taken by the Bank of Ghana to cleanse the banking sector to make it more robust. The Bank of Ghana (BoG) in 2017 embarked on a comprehensive reform agenda to strengthen the regulatory and supervisory framework for a more resilient banking sector.

While some banks had their licences revoked, others have been merged for their inability to raise the new 400 million-cedi minimum capital requirement as of December 31, 2018. For other banks, the central bank revealed they acquired their licences fraudulently and through the use of non-existent capital.

In the midst of the revocation of licenses and the collapse of these banks, the government established the Consolidated Bank of Ghana in which assets and liabilities of seven collapsed banks were transferred. BoG establishes Consolidated Bank for 5 distressed banks. In all, seven banks –UniBank, The Sovereign Bank, The Beige Bank, Premium Bank, The Royal Bank and Heritage Bank, have been consolidated.

At the end of the two-year reform, only 16 banks were able to recapitalised successfully while three merged with five banks receiving bailouts from the government. One bank exited the sector voluntarily. This has brought the total number of universal banks in the country to 23 from the previous 33. The 23 banks which survived Ghana’s banking sector clean-up.

On the face of the reduction, it may seem that only 10 banks have ceased to exist, but considering that there were mergers and acquisitions, as many as 16 banks ceased to exist.

There are also some 46,000 Menzgold customers whose funds got locked up. The thing about this banking sector clean-up is that, the effects are rippling. They multiply in number because all the staff of those institutions and customers have families. They have adults who depend on them, so if they take a decision to vote against the government for its “callousness", about two or three people in their immediate family will vote the same way as well.

So the fact is that the NPP will suffer some huge electoral casualties from there too thereby diminishing their 9.2% difference in 2016. The same applies to the several mining communities where the President has banned “galamsey". There are several villages where small scale mining is their livelihood, but due to the ban, they are left stranded with no alternative source of income. And there's no doubt that they have already fallen for John Mahama's promise to restore their trade. They'll definitely vote for him.

As for John Mahama's “Okada constituency ", not much will be salvaged from there because the protest votes from commercial drivers who feel threatened by the operations of the Okada will neutralise them. So, that's not a major determinant in this projection.

The NDC being in opposition will not lose any significant votes from that of 2016. The NPP as a party in government has rather to deal with the disadvantage of incumbency. There will also not be any new major rejection of the opposition leader based on his corruption tag at least from floating voters except from those who are already with the NPP. This is because of the fallouts from the several instances of allegations of corruption against the current government, an example is the Agyapa Royalty deal which forced the Special Prosecutor to quit his job.

It is however important to admit that the NDC failed to use the several instances of corruption against the government as the NPP did in 2016. That strategy has only started resonating after the SP resigned from office citing the President's interference in his duties as a reason.

The above issues with the number of votes they are likely to pull along is what may drag the December Presidential elections into a run-off with the NPP polling 48.8% and the NDC 47.3%. This projection can't say exactly how the run-off might pan out due to the difficulty to predict where GUM and the CPP might shift to.