The collapse of the ‘Peoples Party’ vote in the Ghanaian elections. Do they really represent the people? – by Ade Sawyerr
Nearly 72 hours after the close in the polls at the Ghanaian general elections on 7th December 2012, the Electoral Commissioner has called the results in what was billed as a hotly contested election. The speed with which the results have been declared must be the envy of other countries in Africa and the turnout rate of nearly 80% would be appreciated by most matured democracies as a sign of our deepening civic responsibility.
Almost 11 million people voted in 26,002 polling stations across the 275 constituencies in the 10 regions of Ghana. The winning candidate got about 5.57 million votes, the losing candidate got about 5.24 million votes and the third candidate got, not 1 million votes, not half a million votes, not 100,000 votes but merely 64,362 votes or roughly translated, 234 votes per constituency or 2 votes per polling station!
The losing candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party – NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo is yet to concede defeat and though his party may yet challenge the results at the Supreme Court I doubt very much whether this will make a difference to the results. The fact of the matter for most people in Ghana is that, with or without the malfunctioning of sophisticated election machines, the election results must not be decided by the courts; elections are political activities and must be decided only by the people. No one will condone stealing of elections by incumbent governments but the opposition party does not have the moral authority to have the wishes of the people of Ghana set aside by judges. NPP should learn that conceding defeat is as much a characteristic of an election as their aborted victory celebration.
I am yet to take a more detailed look at results and to carry out my own analysis of the trends and patterns of voting but this was another election that I called wrong. I predicted a second round, but I was wrong. President John Mahama of the ruling National Democratic Congress – NDC who had taken over as president after the death of President John Evans Atta Mills in July this year is now the president-elect to start his first full term in office. He has won what Ghanaians call a ‘one touch’ election, winning with more than 50% of the national votes and thus dispensing with the need for a run-off that would have taken place on 28th December ahead of the swearing in on 7 January 2013.
I am sure that the detailed results will show that the winning candidate won in 8 of the ten regions of Ghana, an indication that his party has a much broader national appeal than the opposition party and that ethnic voting patterns and false tribal mathematics may have accounted for the defeat of the opposition party yet again.
The major casualty of these elections is the total collapse of the vote of the “third parties” or the “Peoples Parties”. I refer to them as such because they all have Peoples in their names: the Peoples National Convention – PNC, the Grand Consolidated Peoples Party – GPCC, the Convention Peoples Party – CPP and the Progressive Peoples Party – PPP. These four centre of left parties all claim to have Nkrumaist leanings and also claim to represent the people of Ghana and yet together with another party and an independent candidate could only account for 1.56% of the votes, not enough to trigger a much predicted second round of voting and in Britain, they would certainly have ‘lost their election deposit’ for wasting the time of the electoral commission in counting non existent votes.. If I was wrong in calling the election, they must have been very very wrong in the estimation of their appeal to the people of Ghana!
In the 1992 flawed presidential elections, 3 ‘Peoples Party’ candidates, Limann, Erskine and Darko gained 11.02% of the votes. In 1996, Edward Mahama of the PNC, the only ‘Peoples Party’ candidate won 3% of the vote. The 2000 elections went to a run-off; the number of ‘Peoples Party’ candidates increased as did their share of the votes, 5 candidates shared 5.8% of the votes and in 2004 the 2 ‘Peoples Party’ candidates shared 2.9% of the votes. In 2008, the ‘Peoples Party’ votes of 3.05% forced a second round of votes; there were 6 ‘Peoples Party’ candidates and Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, then of the CPP, emerged as their leading candidate with 1.34% of the total votes in the first round. In 2012, the ‘Peoples Party’ proportion of the votes collapsed to 1.56% shared amongst 6 candidates and again he led the pack of ‘also runs’ with just about 0.59% of the national vote.
The absence of a credible third party is a worrying thing for most democracies since there is a polarisation of the people and a divergence of identity that is not too good for an evolving democracy. Our craving for a functioning democracy in turfing out the military regime was for a true multiparty country and not just a two-party democracy. We need to define some space for a third party in Ghana and I am not saying this because my own party the CPP came in a distant 6th in the election.
I applauded the campaign of Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom in 2008 when he led the CPP as the flagbearer, I admired his energy though the hard work was not translated into votes at the ballot box. I did not think he should have left the CPP last year and therefore did not follow him into the PPP but I still believe that he has a vision of an alternative to the development of Ghana and Africa that is the most refreshing.
After emerging to breathe new life into the CPP, he decamped to form his own party when he knew that he should have stayed to continue with the fight to resurrect the party. Was his leaving really worth the 0.59% of the total vote he gained at this election?
Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom deserves to be blamed for the collapse of the ‘‘Peoples Party’ and their disastrous performance. This is not about what he has done wrong; it is about what he has failed to do right. If he is to leave a legacy as a successful politician who made a real impact on the politics in Ghana, rather than as a failed politician, then he must start working with others now to create that third space for a true centre party that we need for the accelerated growth and development of our country. That would be a worthier task than his ambition of becoming president of Ghana to implement his plan to rid our country of poverty and misery. I have not said it would be easy, it is going to be difficulty but I suspect that he, more that most in the country, would have the stature to work on the project of building this ‘Peoples Movement or Front’
He is aware of the need for a third party that would free our country from neo-colonialism and the orthodoxy of the multilateral agencies that only serve to stabilise our economies but that does not provide us with adequate space for growth and development within a globalised economy. Nduom should start thinking about the issues that would help rally both right and left thinking people in Ghana behind his vision for the social, economic and political transformation of our country and Africa.
The only way of doing this is to call for unity between all the ‘Peoples Party’ members that should lead directly to a merger. A merger of these parties will not immediately translate into victory at the next elections but will set the agenda for the discussions that would transform our politics away from the traditional identity politics to issue based politics. The reconstruction process will involve the integration of the vision into the structures of the new ‘Peoples Party’ and will follow the reconciliation stage of healing amongst the different parties. They need to say sorry to each other for past antagonism and to be real about the politics of our country, that they have failed our people by allowing the fractious and fragmented nature of relationships to result in the collapse of their vote and make their parties irrelevant to the people of Ghana who they claim to represent. These leadership of these broken parties also need to apologise to the people of Ghana before they can hope for proper reconstruction of their fortunes. But this merger in itself may not be enough and my thinking that it could be a start may be because I am still wedded to the politics of the old days, but the merger may just be the platform on which a third party may be built. The 1.56% may be too low a base on which to build, the approach may be less radical than the root and branch surgery needed but perhaps this more gradualist approach will give a third party a better chance and a hope for survival.
The revival will only come when the ‘Peoples Party’ have been able to articulate how they will be different to the two dominant parties and how they will work for Ghana and Africa. I trust that Nduom knows how a third party can hold a ruling party to account and influence their policies; he did this when representing the CPP he was able to operate in an NPP government and emerge as one of their best performing ministers.
Some would say that I am being unduly harsh on Nduom and he might just want to do something else, but he is the only one I see on the horizon now with the passion for a third party. Perhaps the facts may just have changed for him and there may be a need for a fresh face to champion this cause for a third party. I hope for the sake of our country that there are like-minded people who may just yet save our country from the stranglehold of the two dominant parties who are two sides of the same coin.
There are lessons to be learnt for the other parties as well.
The winning NDC must recognise that though they may seeem to have become a national party and have finally succeeded in making their founder Jerry John Rawlings irrelevant in their affairs, the closeness of the result and the fact that the rejected ballot papers are roughly equivalent to their margin of victory suggests that there is still a lot for them to do to become the majority party in Ghana.
The losing NPP has a lot more hard work to do. Elections are about people and they must ensure that they appeal to all Ghanaians and not just a small section of Twi speaking voters. Nana Akuffo-Addo would certainly have made an excellent president for Ghana; his outlook is more cosmopolitan and he is not wedded to ideology of any sort but in this election he became hostage to his party and made a lot of silly impolitic statements that turned off a large number of voters who detest and do not trust the NDC. His erroneous gaffe before the elections that he had been endorsed by Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings was the most bizarre. His inability to make, the record of the NDC in this past four years, an issue in this election was a mistake and having stolen the ‘free education’ promise from the CPP, he did not do enough to justify it to the people of Ghana.
I ‘feel for him’ more than for his party. He probably knows that his party, the NPP, needs to be seriously decontaminated before it can have any chance of winning another election in Ghana. I was grateful that they mounted a credible challenge against Rawlings in 1992 at a time when the CPP splintered and some members even joined forces with the NDC, but I am disappointed that they have not been able to shake themselves of their ethnic origins. Their ethnic base has contracted into an Akan rump of the NLM and the Ghana Congress Party. Their Gashifimo Kpee phalange has disappeared as has the Northern Peoples Party, the Anlo Youth Movement, the Ewe Unification Alliance and the Muslim Association Party aspects of the original United Party. Their party has sadly become an Akan Party that communicates to people in the Twi language even at major rallies; it did that at Mantse Agbonaa in the heartlands of the old Tokyo Joe boys, however the party is not doing too well to persuade the Akan in the Western, Central and Brong Ahafo region to embrace them. I trust that they would someday come to accept what some of us have been telling them for so many years – Ghana is not Akanland as JB Danquah first proposed it to be.
They need to be reminded that elections are fought at the ballot box and not in the courts, they continue to do themselves damage by continuing to call a verdict by the people of Ghana a stolen verdict.
To Nduom, Lartey, Ayariga and Sakara, an election is not like the Olympic Games where taking part is more important than winning. The main purpose of taking part in an election is to win and you have failed not only your loyal party members but have failed the people of Ghana and Africa for your poor performance. There is work to be done to create a third party in Ghana and i just hope that they are all up to the task.
Ade Sawyerr is a partner in the diversity focused management consultancy Equinox Consulting that works on issues relating to economic development of disadvantaged communities and social cultural and political issues of African heritage people in the Diaspora.
Follow him at @adesawyerr or at https://adesawyerr.wordpress.com