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If you don't vote, you lose bigly

Fri, 4 Dec 2020 Source: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako

Ghanaians go to the polls on December 7, 2020 to elect a President and 275 Members of Parliament. I have heard a few people who have said they will not vote, for one reason or the other. I have a simple for message for all such people: If you don’t vote, you lose bigly! I want to focus this short piece on the presidential election.

In a Ghanaian presidential election, every single vote counts. The 1992 Constitution provides in Article 63(3) that, “A person shall not be elected as President of Ghana unless at the presidential election the number of votes cast in his favour is more than fifty per cent of the total number of valid votes cast at the election.” Voting in Ghana is not compulsory, unlike in countries such as Australia. On the other hand, the validity of our presidential elections is not based on voter turnout.

In Ghana, even if 3 people show up to vote, there will be a President, so long as one candidate secures “more than fifty per cent of the total number of valid votes cast at the election”. If you decide not to vote on December 7, that is your right. However, the rest of us will go and choose a President for you and the rest of the country.

Why does your vote count?

In the 2008 runoff presidential election, late President John Atta Mills beat current President Akufo-Addo by 40,586 votes! If the 2020 presidential election happens to be very close, your vote could be very significant for the winning candidate. Whoever is your preferred candidate, your decision to not join the queue and vote could mean a win or loss for that candidate.

You may think you are just a single voter, but what if 41,000 other voters think just like you and also decide not to vote?

In the 2016 elections, four million seven hundred and eighty-one thousand four hundred and twenty-eight (4,781,428) registered voters did not vote. You may have been one of them. The difference between winner Akufo-Addo and loser John Mahama was 959,847 votes.

We don’t know who the over four million registered voters who did not vote would have voted for, whether Akufo-Addo or Mahama. What we know is that those who did not vote were almost 5 times the difference between the winner and the loser. Using a non-scientific, linear analysis, given that Mahama got 44.67% of total valid votes cast, possibly over 2 million of those who did not vote could have voted for Mahama and that could have made him President instead of Nana Akufo-Addo.

Are you one of those who sat out the 2016 election instead of joining the queue to vote for Mahama? If so, then you let him down and you also lost bigly!

Big win, big mandate

What if you don’t vote but your candidate still wins? You still lose, because you would be denying your candidate an opportunity to win big and get a big mandate to execute his or her Manifesto promises. Winning big gives any President the confidence that they have a big mandate from the people to execute their promises.

That confidence is critical in any multi-party democracy, especially where you have strong opposition and civil society that are willing to engage and challenge the government every step of the way. And more especially when the government needs to take difficult but necessary decisions. Your vote and the votes of others who support your candidate could give your candidate that big win with a big mandate!

Lose in a strong negotiating position

Even if your candidate loses the election but secures a significant number of votes, the losing candidate will be in a strong negotiating position to force the next government to compromise on certain policies and programmes that may directly or indirectly affect you. In the recent US elections, the fact that President Trump secured over 74 million votes has changed the narrative in post-election media discussions.

Most analysts would now insert a caveat that President-elect Biden cannot ignore the interests of the over 74 million Americans who voted for Trump. You never hear such talk whenever the winner wins by a landslide. So, it is important for you to go out there and vote on Monday, 7 December 2020, even if your candidate will lose.

Columnist: Kwaku Antwi-Boasiako
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