Ghana - On the Ground: Outlook For Elections Following President's Death
Written by danquahinstitute.org Thursday, 16 August 2012 16:52
BMI View: BMI's on-the-ground research has revealed key insight into Ghana's upcoming December 2012 elections. The ruling NDC party is likely to get some sympathy votes following the recent death of President John Atta Mills, but the new President John Mahama has got his work cut out in garnering support, with only a few months to campaign. A high proportion of voters are unsure who they will vote for, so the race remains wide open. However, the newly-formed NDP is unlikely to gain much traction.
The surprise death of President John Atta Mills on July 24 has changed the outlook for Ghana's presidential and parliamentary elections which will be held on December 7 and 12, respectively. Accordingly, BMI's Accra-based analyst interviewed a range of our contacts on the ground in order to get a sense of what we can expect in December. Here, we present our findings.
Atmosphere After The Death
All local contacts expressed shock and sadness following the passing of the former president. Although most people knew that he was unwell, they did not expect him to pass away. Furthermore, the former president had been pronounced dead at least on two previous occasions and so some people did not believe that he had actually died. One of the people we interviewed said he felt disappointed because he believed the presidency had not been entirely truthful about the former president's state of health.
Following the death, most cars in Ghana were covered with red cloths, symbolising the upcoming funeral. There was also very high demand for pictures, clothes and other memorabilia of the former president. One popular cloth known as 'Se Asa' meaning 'it is finished' was used to taunt the opposition and former President Jerry John Rawlings. The opposition also wore a cloth known as 'Se abua bi be ka wu ah na efri wu tuma mu' meaning that 'the enemy is within'. However, at the state funeral no party colours or clothes were allowed.
Vice President John Dramani Mahama was sworn into office as caretaker president just hours after the announcement of the death. There was a unanimous feeling that this process was fast, smooth, peaceful, and well organised. Moreover, our interviewees believed that this demonstrated that Ghana's democracy and political institutions have matured since the constitution and rule of law prevailed.
What Do People Think Of President Mahama?
President Mahama is admired for his charisma and cool and collected personality. He is also believed to be more of a politician than his predecessor. Most people believe that Mr. Mahama was an active Vice President and performed credibly in this role. A majority of interviewees (55%) believe that it is too early to judge the performance of President Mahama. The remaining interviewees (45%) believe that so far the President has performed commendably. However, they believe that his performance over the last four months of former President Mills' term is likely to affect his chances of becoming the next President.
Is the Choice of Vice President Amissah-Arthur A Faux Pas?
President Mahama's choice of Kwesi Amissah Arthur as Vice President is widely viewed to be a good decision. This is because Amissah Arthur is a respected economist who was a former Deputy Finance Minister and Governor of the Bank of Ghana at the time of his appointment. He is likeable and is believed to have performed well during his parliamentary vetting. The dominant sentiment is that his choice will provide more competition to the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) and signals that the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) takes economic issues seriously. Since the Central region and the Greater Accra region are likely to be swing regions in the upcoming elections, some interviewees believe this is a strategic choice since Amissah Arthur hails from the Central region.
However, many voiced misgivings about Amissah Arthur, viewing him as a potential liability for President Mahama as running mate. Concerns include: him not being 'a dyed in the wool politician'; him having no constituency within the NDC; him having been out of active politics for a considerable time; the fact that he has not been marketed; likely opposition from the NDC itself (such as from its youth wing and Ambassador Victor Smith); and some perceptions that he did not handle the depreciation of the Ghanaian cedi adequately during his time at the Bank of Ghana.
Akufo-Addo: Image Issues?
The opposition NPP's candidate Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo is believed to be an astute politician, learned, a fine gentleman, persevering, knows the political terrain, and has been well marketed. However, there are perceptions that he is too eager to come to power and at any cost. Further, he is perceived by some to be arrogant (possibly the way he speaks); an autocrat; surrounded by too many stories, questions and controversies; and is in a race against time given his age. Some of the people we spoke to viewed him as unfriendly and unapproachable by the ordinary Ghanaian.
Akufo-Addo's running mate, Dr Muhamadu Bawumia, on the other hand does not have these issues but like Vice President Amissah-Arthur is seen as a technocrat. There are perceptions that he is still relatively unknown though he partnered Akufo-Addo in the 2008 elections. One strong point for Dr Bawumia is that he comes from the Northern part of the country and therefore provides a balance to the NPP candidature.
Second Term For The NDC?
Of the people interviewed, 45.0% believed that based on the performance of the NDC the ruling party deserved a second term. Another 27.5% were not sure. Finally, another 27.5% believed that the NDC did not deserve a second term based on its performance. The dominant sentiment is that the NDC may well benefit from some sympathy votes but this to a large extent depends on how they play their cards. In Ghana, it is culturally unacceptable to speak ill of the dead and therefore some believe that some of the many praises that were showered on former President Mills may have been insincere. Be that as it may, it was agreed that the late president was a humble, honest and 'God-fearing' person and that these traits likely won him the 2008 elections.
New Political Party: Much Ado About Nothing
Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, wife of former President Rawlings, is rumoured to be the main brain behind the formation of a new political party known as the National Democratic Party (NDP). As at now, the party is still awaiting final clearance from the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana. It is believed that she made this decision because she could not secure the flag bearership of the ruling NDC. Almost all of our local contacts (82%) believe that the NDP is unlikely to significantly affect the fortunes of the NDC. Some of the reasons given are that people are tired of the antics of Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings; the influential former President Rawlings is unlikely to throw his legacy away and back the NDP (he signed the NDC constitution with his blood and has not come out publicly to say he has resigned from the NDC); and finally, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings won less that 6% of the votes when she competed against former President Atta Mills for the flag bearership of the NDC.
The death of the late President Atta Mills certainly united the nation be it for a brief moment. A few days after the late President had been buried, however, the usual politicking had already begun in earnest. Nevertheless the general expectation among our local contacts is that the elections are likely to be more peaceful because of the death of the good old Professor.