General News Tue, 20 May 2003

Opposition can't win by-election in rural area

Two prominent figures in the opposition NDC party have conceded in honest that it is not easy for any opposition party to win a by-election, especially in the rural communities.

The two party comrades Alban Bagbin and Ken Dzirasah, both members of Parliament, contended that the rural community is always looking up to government in power for development, consequently, there is no way any message of the opposing party could convince them to win their vote.

In a separate interview with the Chronicle in Accra, the two leading members of the NDC stated that the victory of the ruling NPP in all the by-elections so far is not surprising, especially to the NDC who have been in that position before. They added that the NPP's victory is due to incumbency advantage.

Mr. Bagbin, who is the minority leader in Parliament told the Chronicle that so long as they remain in opposition, they cannot win by-election outside the urban communities and that it is crucial for them to contest.

"If you recall, when we were in power, there was no by-election that we couldn't win with the exception of the one held in the city." Alban Bagbin said.

According to him, it is however easier to win elections as opposition party in the urban centres rather than in the villages. This according to him is because, with the city dwellers, the politician would have to ensure that their pocket is fully loaded, a statement he could not explain further.

Asked why the NDC keeps participating in by-elections and losing even though their are aware of the tricks involved, Mr. Bagbin said no party would hesitate to contest for fear of criticism by their opponents.

"No, no, we have to, other than that your competitors might think your party is dead or financially incapacitated." he said. This statement was however confirmed by the second deputy speaker of Parliament, Ken Dzirasah .

He noted that there are certain trappings at election time, which people who are financially handicapped take advantage of.

He stated that victory at by-elections may not necessarily be good signals for popularity.

He emphasized that the opposition parties go in for by-elections because they believe there are people out there who must not be left orphans, adding that the tendency is that if the opposition withdraws from such contests, it is going to create a hole in the process of litigations, where people are likely to question your standing.

He added that for this reason, you must go and test whether you are still popular on the ground.

Mr. Ken Dzirasah assured the public that all evidence of vote buying and rigging by the NPP government is being catelogued and at the appropriate time will be made public.

The NDC leadership has accused the ruling government of vote buying, intimidation, harassment and abuse of incumbency in all six by-elections held recently, which they say have contributed to their defeat.

In one of their defeats, the NDC rejected the result of the elections even though the electoral commission and other electoral bodies have declared the results as free and fair.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle