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Young positivist writes: Second term in Ghanaian politics

Tue, 3 Mar 2020 Source: Sampson Boamah

Democracy seems to have gained roots in Ghanaian society as measures are put in place to ensure there are peaceful elections. On 7 December 2020, Ghanaian electorates will march to the polls to elect Members of Parliament (MPs) and a president who will steer the affairs of the country for the next four years.

This will be the eighth election since our return to constitutional rule in 1992. I have therefore decided to write about an important issue in Ghana's democracy under the Fourth Republic, dubbed "The Second Term in Ghanaian Politics" and how relevant it is to the incumbent government.

Article 66, clause 2 of the 1992 constitution states, "A person shall not be elected to hold office as president of Ghana for more than two terms." This constitutional provision forces presidents, who have served two terms successfully, to vacate their position at the end of their tenure. In the Ghanaian context, a term is four years. Therefore, one can become president for only eight years if one wins a second term.

After a successful transition from military rule to a civilian regime in 1992, Jerry John Rawlings won the 1992 election beating University of Ghana's history professor, Adu Boahene. One cannot forget the immense role Prof. Boahene played in the country's return to multiparty democracy as he spoke eloquently about the "culture of silence" in Ghanaian society. At the end of the election, Rawlings obtained 58.3% while Prof. Boahene had 30.4%.

The opposition parties criticized the outcome of the election as they alleged it was riddled with irregularities. Because of this, the main opposition party (New Patriotic Party) and other "minor parties" boycotted the parliamentary election which took place a month later, about which the NPP wrote "The Stolen Verdict."

Others also alleged that procedures put in place favoured the National Democratic Congress (NDC). State properties were allegedly used to facilitate the NDC campaign. Also, there was a limited time for the opposition parties to promote their policies and candidates to the public as the referendum took place on 28 April 1992 while the presidential election also took place on 3 November 1992. The presidential candidate of the NDC was someone who had ruled the country for more than a decade and did not need any additional time to campaign.

Prior to the 1996 general election, the NDC were in a dilemma as there were some internal issues within their top hierarchy. It must be noted that in 1992, the NDC went into an alliance with the National Convention Party (NCP) and Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere (EGLE). In the alliance movement, a lot of negotiations were made. Amongst them was that the NCP will have the slot of the vice president.

The situation worsened to the extent that it was rumoured the president was not on "good terms" with the vice president. One of the claims which was widely disputed by the NDC is that Rawlings slapped his vice, Kow Nkensen Arkaah in a cabinet meeting. In other developments, the NPP had elected John Agyekum Kufuor as their flagbearer.

There was an interesting twist going into the 1996 election as the vice president at the time had fallen out with the government and had crossed over to the NPP to become a vice presidential candidate to John Agyekum Kufuor. This was a big blow to the NDC, as if this sudden change would necessarily have any repercussions on the outcome of the election on the incumbent government. In the 1996 election, the NDC partnered with Progressive Alliance (PA) and got John Evans Atta Mills to be their vice-presidential candidate. The NPP, on the other hand, partnered with the Great Alliance (GA) and had as their vice-presidential candidate, former vice president Kow Nkesen Arkaah.

The NDC had a bigger battle in the 1996 election when the NPP made some improvement to the previous election. This time around, they participated in the parliamentary election and as such, gave the NDC a serious competition, unlike in 1992.

But before the 1996 election, the NDC had performed so well that most of the electorates decided to reward them with another term. The improvement in rural electrification received a massive boost for the first time since Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia's time. Coupled with these developments, Ghanaians had the fear that if Rawlings lost the election, “what would be the fate of Ghana's democracy?” When the election results were declared, Jerry John Rawlings and the NDC/PA had 57.4% while John Agyekum Kufuor and the NPP/GA had 39.6%.

The NPP/GA had improved significantly in the 1996 election results as compared with the 1992 and the NDC/PA had also decreased slightly in 1996. What was important for the NDC was that they had retained power at least for the next four years and could do the necessary corrections which needed to be done.

Talking briefly about the 2000 general election, a lot of things had changed in the democratic arena of Ghana going into that election. For the first time, Jerry John Rawlings was not going to lead the NDC, and the NPP had elected John Agyekum Kufuor again as he beat Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in the NPP's primaries in 1998. On the part of the NDC, they had chosen John Evans Atta Mills as their presidential candidate which was confirmed in Agona Sweduru. Some senior members of the party were not happy with the appointment as they said John Mills has been imposed on them and had to break away from the party (i.e. Goosie Tanoh).

After an unsuccessful outcome, the two leading candidates in the election had to go for a runoff which took place on the 28 December 2000. The opposition candidate, John Agyekum Kufuor obtained 56.9%, and the ruling party got 43.1%. This was an interesting outcome because, for the first time in the country's history, power shifted from one political party to the other in a very competitive election and this was also the first time in a very long period that power has slipped off the hands of PNDC/NDC.

On 7 January 2001, Jerry John Rawlings handed political power over to John Agyekum Kufuor and the NPP. It must be noted that in the 2000 election, both NPP and NDC did not go into any alliance as both parties had learned from their previous experience.

In the run-up to the 2000 election, one of the main campaign messages of the opposition NPP was the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) as they proposed to replace the "Cash and Carry system" under the NDC government. Upon assuming office, the NPP were able to fulfil this promise which gave them the nerve to campaign massively for a second term. Both parties brought familiar faces. John Evans Atta Mills for the NDC and John Agyekum Kufuor for the ruling party; NPP in the 2004 election.

In the build-up to the 2004 election, John Agyekum Kufuor's government brought about some developmental projects; that is the construction of roads, the Capitation Grants, School Feeding Program, and the already mentioned National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). With this massive achievement by the NPP government, they went into the 2004 election "with their heads raised high" as they touted their achievements in the shortest possible time amidst all the economic challenges they encountered.

Fortunately for electorates, the election did not go into a runoff as it did in 2000. The Electoral Commissioner Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan announced John Agyekum Kufuor as the winner, obtaining 52.5% while John Evans Atta Mills obtained 44.6%.

One important observation from this analysis is that during the second term of every government, their percentage decreases. For instance, Jerry John Rawlings and the NDC had 58.3%, while the main opposition NPP and Prof. Adu Boahene had 30.4%, but in the 1996 general election, Jerry John Rawlings and the NDC/PA had 57.4%, a slight reduction of about 0.9% while John Kufuor and NPP/GA had 39.6% an increment of 9.2%. Also, after the 2000 runoff, John Kufuor had 56.9% while John Mills had 43.1%. After the 2004 election, John Kufuor had 52.5% while the main opposition NDC candidate John Mills had 46.6%. We can see that Kufuor's performance was reduced by 4.4% while John Mill's performance increased by 3.5%. It is not surprising that the opposition party always wins the next election because they put maximum effort and due diligence to correct their mistakes.

It was a new face for the NPP as they presented Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as their presidential candidate while the NDC repeated John Mills as their candidate in the 2008 election. After a keenly contested battle which went to a runoff, John Evans Atta Mills had 50.2% while Nana Akufo-Addo had 49.8%.

Before the 2008 election, the NDC made so many promises, and when they assumed office, they started to implement a couple. One key promise amongst the lot was making the NHIS a "one-time premium" where a person will pay once and will not pay again. This policy was implemented, coupled with the fulfilment of their campaign promise of providing school uniforms within their first hundred days in office.

Unfortunately, John Evans Atta Mills died on 24th July 2012, a few months into the 2012 election. This was a big blow to Ghana and the NDC--the first sitting president to die. Per the provisions of the constitution, the vice president John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as President of the Republic of Ghana. A few days later, the NDC confirmed John Mahama as their presidential candidate after their emergency delegate congress.

After the 2012 general election, John Mahama and the NDC had 50.7% while Akufo-Addo and the NPP had 47.7%. The NPP were not satisfied with the results and took the matter to the Supreme Court. After eight months of deliberations, the Supreme Court ruled on 29 August 2013 that John Mahama had won the 2012 election as declared by the Electoral commissioner Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan.

The 2016 general election also presented itself with some unique trends as Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo contested for the third time, and John Dramani Mahama also sought a second term which would give the NDC power for twelve years. The atmosphere was highly heated as the incumbent wanted to cling to power, the opposition did their best to unseat the government. The NDC and John Mahama made numerous promises. John Mahama had promised to build two hundred secondary schools and ten teacher training colleges in the ten regions of Ghana, and he also vowed to curb unemployment.

At the end of his first term, he was not able to build all the secondary schools. In his last speech to parliament, he said that he "commissioned forty-seven of them." The building of ten training colleges was never realized. The construction of roads was part of his agenda as well as the building of hospitals and polyclinics.

He went into the 2016 election as a tried and tested candidate and given a second opportunity, he will accomplish his other promises. On the part of the opposition and Akufo-Addo, time was not on their side as they could not relent and lose the election for the third time. These and many other factors made the 2016 election one of the most competitive elections ever held in the country.

Readers may recall that in the run-up to the 2016 general election, the NPP brought some slogans about what they were going to do. Amongst the numerous promises were; "One District, One Factory," "One Village, One Dam," "One Constituency, One Million Dollars," the setting up of a Zongo Development Fund, and their famous campaign promise which had been with them since 2008; "Free Senior Secondary Education" for every Ghanaian.

There were a host of other promises, but we don’t have enough space to enumerate them all...

After what history has shown under this Fourth Republic, at least on two occasions, many people thought the 2016 general election was headed for a runoff, but some interesting results awaited.

The incumbent president who was seeking his second term, coupled with his party who were also seeking a third term in office were booted out as they got 44.4% while Akufo-Addo and the NPP had 53.9%. This result shows interesting dynamics in Ghanaian politics under the Fourth Republic.

For the first time, an incumbent president lost to the opposition party.

In addition, for the first time, the opposition party won the election without a runoff. Also, John Mahama became the first president to lose an election, unable to emulate the footsteps of Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor. Lastly, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo is the first person without the name "John" to have won elections as we have had "four Johns" under the Fourth Republic.

Now, discussing what is impending for the 2020 election in December is crucial to all political observers and analysts. We are going to see familiar faces between the NDC and the NPP. First, John Dramani Mahama who won the NDC primaries is leading them into the 2020 election.

The NPP, on the other hand, is yet to elect a flagbearer as the party prepares to hold a delegate conference next month. One does not need to be told that Nana Akufo-Addo will lead the NPP. As things stand now, he is the most marketable person in their party, and it will be difficult for him to lose. Already, there is this slogan "Four more for Nana, four more to do more," meaning he has received endorsement before the primaries.

Now, what will be the fate of Nana Akufo-Addo? What will be the fate of John Dramani Mahama and the NDC? Will Akufo-Addo repeat John Mahama's history, or will he follow the footprints of Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor? Will John Mahama bring something new into Ghanaian politics by staging a comeback? These questions can be best answered after 7 December 2020.

Why is it mostly the case that incumbent governments and parties win their second term except for John Mahama? There are many factors, but one of them is that the party in power mostly tries to achieve their task in the first term so they can win the next election. They become very focused on implementing these policies.

Again, the incumbent advantage is another tool used by the government. As the government and party in power, they have all the state resources at their disposal including the security operative system. Does that mean that John Mahama did not do well in terms of development? Or is it that he did not take advantage of his incumbency? Or were Ghanaian electorates fed up with his administration?

From the analyses so far, there are certain things which seem clear; one, no party has lost in their second term, and this time around, will the NPP also seal this political record? Also, in the second term of every government, their percentage reduces. This time around, will Akufo-Addo increase his scores or reduce it? Even though both parties are yet to launch their manifestos, both candidates and parties will tout their achievements.

John Mahama will talk much about the infrastructure he left behind while Akufo-Addo will talk about Free Senior High and other projects that his government has brought.

We know the tension that even internal party politics normally bring, this general election is not different from the previous ones as we see some of this tension here and there. We need to be circumspect about our utterances. Let the winning team jubilate wisely and those who will lose too should take heart. We have one Ghana. Election is not a do or die venture. What I know is that after the election, we will have one winner which will be Ghana. Long live our motherland.

Ghana must work again, Ghana will work again, YOUNG POSITIVIST, a concerned citizen of Ghana.

Author: SAMPSON BOAMAH (0548690091/ boamah.sampson34@gmail.com twitter @YPOSITIVIST)

Columnist: Sampson Boamah