On December 7, 2020, Ghana will be holding its eighth general election under the Fourth Republic. The election will elect a President and 275 parliamentarians.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been in government since January 7, 2017 and is fielding its leader and the current president, Nana AddoDankwa Akufo-Addo, as its candidate, while the biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Party (NDC), is fielding Mr. John Dramani Mahama, who was President during 2013-2016.
There are nine other presidential candidates representing fringe parties and one independent candidate. This year’s
election is taking place amidst the Covid-19 pandemic that has ravaged the entire world, with Ghana not being an exception, though having less severe experience. The election campaign has been based largely on issues in the parties’ manifestoes, which, unsurprisingly, contain loads of promises intended to woe the electorate.
Despite a few skirmishes between party supporters, the campaign, so far, has been quite peaceful. History tells us that the contest is actually between the two key parties, NPP and NDC, as the small parties invariably fare poorly in elections. Unfortunately, polling is not normally conducted ahead of Ghanaian elections to provide more certainty about the outcomes. Moreover, we know that polls do not always get it right.
It is to assist in predicting the outcome of the 2020 election and to reduce the elements of uncertainty and speculation that I decided to put this piece together. I do this by analyzing results of the previous elections and factors that I consider to be key to determining Ghanaian election results.
I invite you to come along for me to equip you with the information for you to predict the
outcome of the election easily.
History and ideology
An important element in Ghanaian elections is the historical context. Historically, two main political traditions have dominated Ghanaian politics. These traditions were originally the CPP tradition with Kwame Nkrumah as its patriarch and the UP tradition with Danquah as its patriarch. The overthrow of Nkrumah in 1966 and its aftermath virtually led to the annihilation of the CPP and its tradition.
The UP tradition in turn was uprooted in 1972 when Busia was overthrown. The CPP regrouped and staged a brief comeback during 1979-81, but was again uprooted when the then President, Limann, was overthrown in 1981. In the following decade of military rule, Rawlings laid the foundations that essentially led to assimilation of the CPP into his parallel NDC tradition.
In 1992, when the country returned to constitutional rule, most of the former CPP adherents sought refuge under the NDC umbrella. Meanwhile, the UP tradition continued to largely hold sway and regrouped under a new party, the NPP.
Therefore, essentially, in 1992, the CPP-UP traditions metamorphosed into the NDC-NPP traditions. Other parties, whether they claim to take their origins from the former CPP or UP traditions, or represent some third force in Ghanaian politics, have remained fringe parties. Like the RepublicanDemocratic and Conservative-Labour traditions in the US and UK respectively, the two Ghanaian traditions differ in political ideology.
In the main, the CPP/NDC and UP/NPP traditions project respectively the “socialist” and “capitalist” ideologies of their founding fathers.
In terms of economic policies, however, there is probably not much to choose between the NDC and NPP. As is to be
expected, the two Ghanaian traditions have their core supporters based partly on ideology. On that basis, the CPP/NDC tradition draws its support predominantly from the “broad masses” of the population and
the rural areas. These are people who, ideologically, believe in social commonality and the responsibility of the state to cater for the welfare of the citizenry.
The UP/NPP tradition, on the other hand, draws its support mostly from professionals and urbanite sections of the population. These are people who, ideologically, believe in developing themselves freely with the state acting as a facilitator.
In practice, both parties involve the state extensively in providing wide-ranging social needs.
The two political traditions derive strong support ethnically or regionally. This support emanates from historical affiliations based on differences and rivalries between various ethnic groups and regions, some of which go back to colonial times.
The CPP/NDC tradition derives its support mostly from a conglomerate of smaller ethnic groups predominantly in the Northern Regions and Volta Region. The UP/NPP tradition, on the other hand, derives its support largely from the Ashanti and Eastern Regions.
The Greater Accra, Western, Central, and Brong-Ahafo regions tend to split their loyalties between the
If you put together support from history/ideology and ethnicity/regionality, you can derive core support
for the two leading political parties.
Table 1 shows presidential election results for the NDC and NPP for the period, 1992-2016. In analysing the background data, it was realised that voter turnout for the 1992 and 1996 results were extremely low.
Further, these two elections marked the beginning of the return to constitutional rule during which Rawlings, who had ruled Ghana as a military leader for ten years and contested as a civilian candidate, loomed large over the elections. For these reasons, we will set aside those two elections for being “outliers.”
For the rest of the elections, consistently, each of the two parties has won at least 43% of the votes. As a result, we can safely conclude that each of the parties commands core support of at least 43% based on history/ideology and ethnicity/regionality. The total core support for the parties then amounts to at least 86%.
This implies that floating or independent voters, who actually determine the
results of elections, account for about 14% of the votes. These are the voters who are influenced by other
factors that may be defined broadly as “issues.”
Floating/independent voters are influenced by issues that include: the economy, infrastructure, corruption, health, education, security, sanitation, etc. The 2020 election is unique in the sense that it is the first time a previous President is contesting the incumbent. As such, the election has been dubbed “election of the records” of the two candidates and their respective parties.
For this election, I am prepared to surmise that the three overwhelming issues, in no particular order of importance, are: education, infrastructure and corruption. Whichever of the candidates is judged to have the better record with these issues stands a better chance of winning the election. Here, I leave the decision to the judgement of the reader.
Also, Covid-19 is a new element in this year’s election and its management will be a referendum on the incumbent party and its candidate.
Eight-year political cycle
The data in Table 1 above reveals that the NDC and NPP have maintained eight-year election cycles.
Each of them has been able to secure a second four-year term each time they are in power, including even the 1992 and 1996 elections. NDC kept two terms during 1993-2000; NPP (2001-2008); and NDC (2009-2016). The logical conclusion from these trends is that NPP would also be able to maintain two consecutive terms spanning 2017-2024. However, we cannot completely preclude the possibility of this cycle being broken for the first.
In elections all over the world, incumbency plays a big role in the outcomes—and Ghana is not an exception. Incumbency has enormous power to influence an election. This power is exercised through the control of state funds, state institutions and the media, among others. As is said, he who pays the piper calls the tune. Because the incumbent government controls state resources, it can use its control to gain influence and visibility that the opposition cannot avail itself of.
For the 2020 election, both NPP and NDC can count on core support of at least 43%. This means even that the losing party will gain at least 43% of the total vote. This support is based on historical/ideological and ethnic/regional ties. Floating voters who account for about 14% of the electorate will judge the candidates based on issues of which the key ones for this election are education, infrastructure and corruption. Whoever comes on top based on these issues would gain more votes from the independent/floating voters. Covid-19 is a new element of this election and its management will be a referendum on the incumbent government. The incumbent government has the advantage of having control over state resources and assets that it can leverage to its advantage.
I invite readers to try and judge the relative strengths of the factors adduced above in order to easily predict the outcome of the 2020 election. Good luck!
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