Feature Article of Fri, 21 Apr 20173
Early Elections, Theresa May’s bold step and lessons for Ghana
The dictates of the UK’s Parliament’s Fixed Term Act require that following the 2015 Elections, the next Elections were to be held in 2020. However, the Act also allows for early Elections with the support of two-thirds of MPs in the House of Commons. And on Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered the latter provision, in order to increase her majority in Parliament.
The Prime Minister is sure an election will result in an increment in the Conservatives current majority of 17 and offer her and Britain the needed impetus going into delicate Brexit negotiations within the next two years. She has asked the people of Britain to give her “the mandate to speak for Britain and deliver for Britain”.
509 votes were required, but with 522 votes to 13, the House of Common agreed with Theresa May on Wednesday and an early election, slated for June 8th, is now upon the United Kingdom. The EU looks on with keen interest and so will be the rest of the world. Campaign has started but what are the permutations ahead and can Ghana take any lessons, if at all from the UK’s experience?
Elections are unpredictable. Electorates are becoming more sophisticated than ever before. Recent elections in the United States, Ghana and other places around the world have all defied logic and made mince-meat of the loud opinion polls. Two years ago, nobody gave Donald Trump a chance of becoming the President of America. In Ghana, no objective pollster saw the magnitude of the defeat that befell the then ruling John Mahama government.
There is the likelihood of the Conservatives losing some seats, especially in the Constituencies that believed in Britain remaining in the EU during the last referendum. In Constituencies where the Conservatives won by slim margins, the possibility of the votes slipping through their hands are real.
In December, I witnessed an approximately 11,000 margin of victory wiped away in my beloved Constituency, Ledzokuku. So why is Theresa May so sure to embark on this bold adventure?
History! History favors the Conservatives. Snap Elections have always resulted in victories for the incumbents. In 1966 for example, Labour’s Prime Minister, Harold Wilson called for an early election and it resulted in a majority of nearly 100, from a slim of just 4 for him. Earlier in 1955, Anthony Eden had also managed to increase his majority in Parliament from 17 to 60. A Prime Minister losing in an early election is unheard of in Britain’s political history.
The opinion polls so far have favoured the Conservatives. Recent ratings have all given Theresa May strong showings. The UK’s Polling Report on Tuesday and Wednesday show that the Conservatives will amass twice as the Labour will in the June elections. Such figures will always evoke confidence and it is perhaps understandable why Theresa May would want an early elections, just 14 months after another.
So why then will the opposition, who without their support, the needed votes would not have been secured for an early election voted in favour of Mrs May’s call? Nationalism before politics? The people of the UK have voted to leave the European Union. The new Prime Minister assuming the seat as the result of the referendum believes that a “fully controlled” Parliament will help her and her government greatly to execute that Brexit mandate. Both sides of Parliament, save their opinions on the “hard or softness” on the issue, agree to go to the Polls. Or is the opposition’s stand the case of the blind knowing what he is about before threatening to pelt stones at an intruder? June 8th will give the answer.
Ghana, my loved country has something to learn from the UK, our colonial masters. Except for the later modifications, our Parliament was established on that of Westminster. It is about time our MPs looked beyond the extreme partisan politics that is doing more harm to us than good. It is about time our Parliament built consensus on issues of National interests beyond their allowances, per diems and ex-gratia.
And beyond that, is it possible for Ghana to adopt the “Early Elections” bit of the UK? Will an early election in Ghana increase the current strong support of the NPP in Parliament or reduce it? Will swings seats like Ledzokuku change hands again to the NDC in an early election? Please share your opinion with me and let us enrich the debate.
For now, Theresa May has taken a bold step. It is another elections and it can turn out to be a bag of rotten eggs on her face. But from all indications, it looks like yet a jolly-cruise to victory for the Conservatives. And barring any miraculous occurrence, Theresa May, from June 8th, will be the queen of all she surveys.
God bless our homeland Ghana.