By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
There is no doubt that the 2012 Election Petition will remain engraved on the minds of Ghanaians for a long time to come and probable influence the voting decisions of some of the electorate in the next presidential and parliamentary elections in December 2016. For example, who would forget the court room drama on cross examinations on the election document “The Statement of Poll and Declaration of Results” popularly known as “pink sheet” and the infamous answers, “you and I were not there”. It is true to say that the elementary mistakes by electoral officials that came to light during the hearing will ensure that future elections avoid such elementary errors to the benefit Ghana’s democracy. I am also of the view that the Election Petition and its aftermath have the potential to benefit or harm the electoral fortunes of the two leading political parties (NPP and NDC) and their presidential candidates in the 2016 elections, particularly if the candidates are Nana Akufo-Addo and President Mahama respectively. In this article, I want to discuss the potential impact of the petition on NPP and Akufo-Addo’s presidential ambitions.
In my last article on the chances of Akufo-Addo in 2016, I discussed a number of factors that could be to his advantage in 2016, with all things being equal (see, “Will Akufo-Addo be Third Time Lucky?”, Ghanaweb, March 21, 2014). I now want to discuss two factors from the election petition that could potentially enhance or hinder his third consecutive attempt at winning the elusive presidency in 2016.
Top of the two is the potential impact of the reliefs sought by the petitioners. To be precise, the remedy sought from the Supreme Court to nullify a total of over 1.3 million votes from some constituencies, mostly in the strongholds of the ruling NDC for reasons of alleged over voting, voting without biometric verification, absence of presiding officers’ signature, etc. There are two possible consequences that could emanate from these reliefs.
It could either make the voters in those constituencies to either vote massively for or against Akufo-Addo in 2016. Akufo-Addo and NPP could tell the electorate in those constituencies that NDC colluded with the Electoral Commission to steal their votes for NDC in 2012, so they should punish NDC by voting massively for NPP in 2016. The electorate may agree or disagree with such assertion and act accordingly in the polling booths on election day. Alternatively, and being aware of the capability of the NDC electoral machinery, they will go to the same electorate and remind them that Akufo-Addo and NPP wanted to disenfranchise them by asking the SC to throw away their votes in 2012, so they should vote for massively NDC. Whose argument will the voters buy? It depends on which of the two makes the most compelling case to the voters. The jury is still out.
Whatever happens from now until December 2016 will influence how the voters in the affected constituencies will decide which presidential candidate and party they vote for. What I am also certain of is that the attempt to disenfranchise over 1.3 million voters and what was revealed during the petition hearing could have repercussions for either candidate. For example, prior to the 2012 US Presidential Election, some Republican Governors attempted to disenfranchise minority voters (who normally vote for the Democratic Party) by making it difficult for them to register to vote. What appeared to have been an orchestrated effort by some governors actually had the opposite effect because it energised minority voters to register in their numbers to exercise their civil and political rights. As a result, there were reports that in those states the minority or black votes for Obama were higher in 2012 than in 2008. This type of ripple effect could happen in those constituencies in Ghana 2016. However, at this stage, it is not clear who will benefit and who will pay the price for the unsuccessful attempt to disenfranchise voters or steal votes.
The second potential impact is an after effect of the petition but not the petition itself. Soon after the SC declaration, there were rumours in Ghana that the government or President Mahama bribed some of the nine Supreme Courts Justices to rule in his favour. Subsequently, it was alleged sadly that, the President used the Asantehene as a conduit or his emissary to bribe those Justices. Accusing figures were pointed at the NPP as the source of such diabolical accusation against the Eminent King. In fact, articles appeared on Ghanaian media websites, including Ghanaweb regarding this unfortunate but very damaging allegation. For example, some pro NPP contributors on Ghanaweb including Rockson Adofo did subscribe to this allegation and still believe the allegation to be true (see “Is Asantehene Once Again Influencing Judges to Twist Justice” by Rockson Adofo, Ghanaweb, March 18, 2014).
There were indications that the allegation did hurt the Asantehene and rightly so. Though the Asantehene is seen as being above party politics and therefore does not tell his subjects who to vote for, considering how his subjects and beyond revere him, this allegation could hurt the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo in 2016. I also suspect that the NDC could use it as a campaign toll against NPP in its strongholds to remind voters that NPP accused the Asantehene of bribing the SC Justices in order to bring shame unto the respected occupant of the Golden Stool. Again, bearing in mind the extent of the Asantehene’s fiefdom which spans across five regions in Ghana, that is, the number of paramount chiefs who pay allegiance to the Golden Stool in Ghana (in addition to all in Asante region, paramount chiefs from parts of Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Central and even Volta regions also do so), if such negative political strategy by NDC works it could be disastrous for NPP and Akufo-Addo.
On the other hand, NPP could counteract the suggestion that the party was behind the allegation and indeed contrary to the rumours, claim that it was NDC that fabricated the allegation for political expediency and just to point accusing figures at NPP in order to strain the cordial relationship between the Asantehene and the party as well as to create doubts in the minds of voters in their strongholds, especially, in Asante and Eastern regions. That could also be to the advantage of NPP and Akufo-Addo.
The Asantehene was the first VIP Akufo-Addo sought audience with on his return from his six months holiday in London and he might have reassured the King that both he himself and the party had nothing to do with the allegations. That is fine but why did the NPP leadership not come out earlier to deny any connection with the allegation when it first broke out and gained currency among some of the diehard supporters? Perhaps, silence was the right approach because an official deny could have been misconstrued. Or was the failure to deny any connection publicly, a political misjudgement? Only time will tell.
December 7, 2016 the potential general elections date in Ghana is too far from now in ordinary life let alone in politics. Anything could happen from now until that day, including the fact that Akufo-Addo may not even on the ballot paper either because he could not secure the NPP Flagbearship or he decided not contest after listening to the other voices he did not hear when he consulted his God in London. Who knows? These are food for thought issues for discussion and analysis. Let’s the debate continue.
Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK