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Ghana goes to the polls

The world’s focus is once again on Ghana as nearly 14 million registered voters are expected to elect the next President of the Republic.
Also at stake, is the race for 275 seats in Parliament being contested by 1,300 candidates.
After nerve-wrecking and grueling months of campaigning, criss-crossing the length and breath of the country, the presidential and parliamentary candidates have done all they could to win the hearts and minds of the electorate in this year’s polls, the sixth to be conducted under the Fourth Republican Constitution.
Under the Constitution, only two out of the 23 political parties so far registered by the Electoral Commission (EC) have won elections in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008. They are the National Democratic Congress (NDC), which won in 1992, 1996, and 2008 while the New Patriotic Party (NPP) won in 2000 and 2004.
With five free and fair elections, Ghana proudly boasts a healthy and enviable track record of successfully organising polls that have won global acclaim.
On Friday, the presidency is up for grabs once again. Although all the presidential candidates have campaigned vigorously, the contest does not appear to be different from what it had been in the past as it will be a two-horse race between President John Dramani Mahama of the NDC and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the NPP.
The other presidential contestants are Dr Henry Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Mr Akwasi Addae of the United Front Party (UFP), Mr Hassan Ayariga of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and Mr Jacob Osei Yeboah, an independent candidate.
Some researchers, opinion polls, media, political analysts and statisticians have all come up with divergent opinion polls favouring one candidate or the other. But what seems to be the trend is that the polls favour either the NDC candidate, President Mahama, or Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP. Dr Nduom appears a distant third while Dr Sakara, Mr Ayariga, Mr Osei Yeboah and Mr Addae are all confident of making some impact and for that matter causing an upset.
From the voting pattern in previous elections, the Northern, Upper West, Upper East and Volta regions are likely to vote for the NDC, while the Ashanti and Eastern regions are likely to go for the NPP.
The Western, Brong Ahafo, Central and the Greater Accra regions could be the swing areas in the election where there appears to be a dead heat.
In the Central, Western and Greater Accra regions, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom could cause a stir, since his campaign on the platform of incorruptible leadership and transparency appear to have caught on well with some electorate in those areas.
The impressive performance of Dr Abu Sakara at the Institute of Economic Affairs debates could also serve as an attraction to some voters.
Indeed, the PPP and CPP have separately maintained that both the NDC and the NPP have done their best for Ghana under their 30 or so years in government, but their best is not good enough for the nation.
The CPP, in particular, argues that Ghana is not working and under a CPP administration, Ghana will work again, while the PPP is focusing on youth development, job creation among others to woo votes.
From all indications, the 2012 general and presidential elections will be a close fight, and many political experts predict it will be as close as the 2008 cliff-hanger that saw the presidential elections going into a third round.
In the 2008 Election, Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP led the pack obtaining 4,159,439 votes (49.13 per cent) in the first round of votes while Prof. J.E.A. Mills of the NDC got 4,056,634 (47.92 per cent). The CPP, which had Dr Nduom as flag bearer, polled 111,494 (1.34 per cent), Dr Edward Mahama of the PNC got 73,494 (0.87 per cent, DFP got 27,889 (0.33 per cent), Mr Kwasi Amoafo Yeboah, an independent presidential candidate, got 19,342 (0.23 per cent) while the Reformed Patriotic Democratic Party got 6,889 votes (0.08 per cent).
However, in the final results, Prof. Mills garnered 4,521,032 votes (50.23 per cent) to win the polls while Nana Akufo-Addo got 4,480,446 (49.77 per cent). Total votes cast in that elections were 9,001,478 (72.91 per cent) and total registered voters for that election was 12,472,758.
For this year’s election, however, it is the general opinion that the elections will travel first round but some people are also expecting it to go for a second round.
The general election to select a President and Members of Parliament will be held tomorrow December 7 with a run-off on December 28, 2012 if no candidate receives an absolute majority of 50 per cent plus one vote. A parliamentary candidate will win by a simple majority.
This year’s electioneering saw many innovations apart from the traditional ways of campaigning. All the political parties adopted various campaign strategies to sell their candidates and campaign messages. The NDC, NPP and the PPP also used very captivating and easy-to-sing-along songs to sell their campaign messages.
The NDC, having elected their flag bearer only four months to the December 7 polls after the demise of former President J.E.A. Mills, resorted more to outdoor campaigns in order to sell their new candidate, President Mahama.
Unlike in 2008, when the NPP engaged in mega rallies, the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo this time round, adopted a fierce retail campaign including door-to-door, house-to-house and market-to-market campaigns to woo voters. Many of the other parties including the PPP, CPP, and the PNC did same.
On the other hand, it looks as if President Mahama did not have much time to effectively undertake retail campaigning but was extremely effective with his whistle-stop campaigns to all the nooks and cranny of the country.
The PPP was very innovative using the social media more effectively, focusing on the youth vote and job creation agenda message. According to the party, the youth can easily identify with new ideas and suggestions and through the social media the PPP may have made a lot of inroads into the youth vote.
Since Ghana got back on to the path of democratic governance in 1992, the country’s electoral process has evolved over the years from the use of opaque ballot boxes and thumb-printed photo identity cards in 1996, to the use of transparent ballot boxes and photo ID cards.
Today, a biometric voters’ register with an electronic system of verification is in use. It is, therefore, the expectation of many Ghanaians that this year’s elections will be the most transparent, credible and peaceful.
Source: Daily Graphic

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