2020 Ghana Elections – Six Things to Watch before December 2020

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Ghana goes to the polls to elect a President and Members of Parliament in December 2020. It will be the country’s eighth successive general election since the resumption of multiparty democracy in 1992. How are things shaping up ahead of the polls? Check below for a heads up on six things Michael Gyekye suggests we keep an eye on.

  1. Old or New Voter’s Register?

The two major political parties – the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) are currently feuding over the Electoral Commission (EC)’s intention to compile a new voter’s register. The two parties have joined smaller parties in coalitions to back or oppose the EC’s move.

The NDC-led bloc rejects the idea mainly on grounds of improper timing and questionable financial prudence. In addition, it wonders what faults the NPP and its allies, backing the EC’s move, find with the current register to warrant a new one. The current register was used in the 2016 elections, which the NPP won with a historic margin.

The NDC-led coalition is also concerned with compiling a new voter’s register before the National Identification Authority (NIA) completes the national citizen (and resident) database. There are suggestions that the NIA database will replace the voter register in future elections.

Finally, the NDC-led coalition argues that, touch ups on the current register and improving security features is better than preparing a completely new register.

On the other hand, the NPP-led coalition contends that a new voter’s register is required because the current one (compiled in 2012) has insufficient and out-of-date security features. It contends that it is cost-effective to compile a new register than spend huge sums on merely improving the existing one.

A coalition of local civil society groups is unconvinced by the Commission’s justifications – hence its opposition to EC’s move. This dispute should be resolved hopefully by mid-year but until then, the coalition opposed to the move has vowed to sustain their protests through nationwide demonstrations.

  1. Who’ll be Mahama’s running mate?

Barely a year into winning his party’s mandate to run as President for the third consecutive time, former President John Dramani Mahama is yet to announce his running mate. He is faced with a difficult task to choose a candidate who can help his party to achieve regional (and perhaps religious) balance, who brings enormous votes, boasts macroeconomic management pedigree and has a realistic potential to become the NDC’s next Presidential candidate (given Mahama’s current eligibility for just a single four-year term). Some party bigwigs pointed as leading candidates – such as former minister and diplomat Kwesi Ahwoi and former Finance minister Kwesi Botchwey – have not ticked all these crucial boxes.

The longer this announcement is further delayed, the greater opportunity the rival NPP gets to market its current Presidential ticket – President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia (which is unlikely to change) – at the political and electoral expense of the NDC.

  1. Which elephants will fall in the NPP’s Parliamentary Primaries?

The ruling NPP’s parliamentary primaries is slated for April. Some close and acrimonious contests are expected, especially in the party’s main stronghold of the Ashanti region. This is probably the reason some party leaders have intimated that incumbent MPs in the region should contest unopposed in the primaries. In fact, this idea is scorned by many party faithful and has been met with a strong backlash from some party stalwarts. Expectedly, some of the party’s big-name MPs will be among the casualties in the primaries. The highly monetized nature of the primaries however renders any contest nearly unpredictable as any aspirant’s hope of victory must ultimately survive last-minute brinkmanship in voter-inducement on the day of voting.

  1. Ghana to get 300 MPs?

Possibly. Ghana’s Parliamentary constituencies are re-demarcated after every national population census, which is conducted once every decade. The country will hold a national population census this year and proceed to re-demarcate the Parliamentary constituencies. The last re-demarcation in 2012 inflated the Parliamentary seats from 230 to 275 and this year’s will likely follow the historical trend of increasing the Parliamentary seats.

The electoral repercussions of the re-demarcation and popular backlash against increased public expenditure on MPs guarantee that this issue won’t be short of controversies.

  1. Free SHS v Community Day Schools? Nana v Mahama?

The two parties are set to clash again when they finally release promises or policy proposals in their manifestos. The NDC’s proposal on the future of the flagship free senior high school (Free SHS) education programme of the incumbent administration is keenly anticipated. The main opposition party had previously preferred investing in new school buildings (including the construction of community day senior high schools) ahead of introducing the Free SHS programme. The two parties’ proposals on governance reforms, job creation, infrastructural development, economic management and critical social interventions (public welfare programmes) are also eagerly awaited.

Another big-ticket political event is a potential debate between President Akufo-Addo and former President Mahama. No incumbent President since 1992 has participated in such a debate except former President John Mahama, who bucked the trend in 2012 by debating then opposition leader, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo. Currently in reverse positions, the former President might only hope his successor will return the favour.

  1. No voter left behind.

Ghanaians in the diaspora may finally get the chance to vote in this election as the Electoral Commission works out modalities to ensure they exercise their franchise as required by the Representation of the People’s Amendment Act (ROPAA). The diaspora vote will be keenly contested by parties to help boost their vote margins. This development will also mark the start of effective diaspora influence of Ghanaian public policies and laws. Among others, it will give fillip to calls from the diaspora for full political rights (particularly the right to hold high public offices in Ghana) for dual citizens, and improved services at the country’s foreign diplomatic missions.

As the clock ticks towards voting day on December 7, these issues and events will set the tone for the next memorable general election in Ghana.

Michael Gyekye is a Policy and Advocacy Committee member of the Commonwealth Youth Human Rights and Democracy Network.

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