The Campaign for the 2016 Presidential and Parliamentary elections is almost entering a homestretch with less than 40 days to go.
Already the two major political parties, the ruling National Democratic Congress(NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party(NPP) have been busy crisscrossing the country campaigning vigorously for votes.
The fact that this year’s electioneering campaign has been relatively cleaner compared to previous ones is not in doubt. At least voters have over the past few months witnessed some level of intellectual campaign discourse with ‘it is feasible’ ‘it is not feasible’ mantra.
There is also the ‘The Bawumia Factor’. The NPP presidential running mate has been credited with elevating the campaign discussion a bit higher with some display of fantastic intellectually-driven analysis devoid of personal attacks and name-calling.
The ruling party on the other hand, has been forced to come out with a response through ‘The Setting Records Straight’ platform led by the Transport Minister, Fiifi Kwettey, Hon. Okudzeto Ablakwa, Felix Ofosu Kwakye and Dr. Omane Boamah.
There is no doubt that social media, particularly Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter have played lead role in this year’s electioneering campaign though mixed. From picture editing to representing half truths as total facts, loyalists of the two main political parties continue to play on the minds of discerning voters in their bids to win support and sympathy.
However, for residents in the Ashanti Region, the battle is expected to be keener than ever. The ruling party has launched an ambitious one million votes target, seeking to bolster its previous figure of 600,000 votes with additional 400,000.
The biggest opposition NPP, on the other hand, is targeting between 80%-90%(80% realistically) of the total votes expected to be cast.
Aside the one million votes, the NDC is looking at increasing its parliamentary tally in the region from four to five or six. Already, they have the Asawase, New Edubiase, Drobonso and the Ahafo Ano North seats in their kitty and they are looking realistically at maintaining all seats and gaining additional ones.
The ruling party, The Chronicle’s intelligence suggests, are looking at faking back the Ejura Sekyedumase seat, springing a surprise at Adansi Asokwa or manipulating the uneasy political relationship between the NPP Parliamentary Candidate in the Bosome Freho Constituency to their advantage.
But the ruling party will have to beat stiffer competition from the NPP ‘new kid on the block and darling boy’ Mr. Bernard Antwi Boasiako, aka Chairman Wontumi. The mere mention of his name strikes fear in some NDC executives in the Ashanti Region. (At least some have admitted in confidence).
The 40-year-old politician cum business magnate has brought new aura to the NPP in the Ashanti Region. No wonder he commands more support than even some national executives across the country.
Chairman Wontumi has openly declared his ambition to secure 90% of the total votes, recapture the Ahafo Ano North seat, snatch the Asawase seat from Hon. Muntaka Mubarak and attempt to deny the NDC the luxury of the New Edubiase seat.
In fact the NPP regional boss is on record to have declared that he would resign as the Regional Chairman if he fails to win the Asawase seat for the NPP.
But, however realistic these ambitions can only come through after December 7. Notwithstanding this, we can only project and make conjectures based on previous experiences, the current political atmosphere in the region as well as the nature of campaigning being undertaken by the two political parties.
NPP STARLETS AND NDC AMBITIOUS TARGET
The NPP in 2015 held its constituency elections which produced interesting outcomes with the emergence of fresh energetic limbs and exit of old ones. Mentions obviously can be made of the emergence of the youngest parliamentary candidate ever in the modern political history of the party and Ghana as a whole, Miss Francisca Oteng Mensah, who torpedoed experienced Hon. Kofi Frimpong to the Kwabre East constituency seat.
There were also major shockers in Bantama, Kwadaso, Agona, Mampong and Nhyiaeso with the emergence of young candidates.
There have been divergent views about the emergence of such young candidates and the exit of the big shots. Those in support of the en masse exit believe that the injection of fresh and energetic limbs will inure to the benefit of the party since they will bring on board youthful ideas and enthusiasm that will encourage the youth, who form the bulk of the voter population to actively participate in the affairs of the party moving forward.
Evidence that the change could yield positive results for the NPP became apparent during the last two visits of the Presidential Candidate of the party, Nana Addo Dankwah Akufo-Addo, to the region.
Apart from the Bosome Freho Constituency where the crowd and the enthusiasm was not too encouraging, the rest of the constituencies including Nhyiaeso, Kwadaso, Kwabre East, Afigya Sekyere East, Mampong and Bantama, where incumbent MPs lost their seats, the receptions accorded the party’s flagbearer were very massive.
Supporters laid awake deep into the night, waiting for the arrival of the party’s flagbearer and parliamentary candidates to address them.
In one such instance during the recent visit of Nana Akufo-Addo at the Kwadaso Constituency, supporters defied the sun and threatening and waited patiently for Nana Addo and his entourage until they arrived around 8 pm to address them.
Some political pundits believe the love and the enthusiasm being exhibited by supporters of the NPP is akin to the 2000 era where similarly the then candidate Mr. J. A Kufuor, was compelled to make whistle stops as late as 11 pm to address supporters.
Having covered electioneering campaign since 2004, I am inclined to agree with those who suggest that the 2016 is a repeat of 2000, though as a secondary school student at the time I did not see much except experiencing one late night address by former President Kufuor, then candidate.
Where ever the NPP Presidential Candidate, there was genuine love and commitment from supporters calling for change and this was demonstrated by supporters who willingly thronged rally grounds without being bused.
The Ashanti Regional NPP campaign has additionally been oiled by the exciting constituency launches and The People’s Forum being championed by a local radio station, ASHH FM with support from the Regional Chairman, Chairman Wontumi.
Week in and week out, MPs, former Ministers, and even the NPP flagbearer and his running mate, are invited to address supporters and to revive their hopes in the agenda for change.
However, the NPP is still short of reaching the 2000 feat with the change message and must do more to imbibe in young and new voters, the spirit of change. Their Achilles heels is the target of the ‘elitist’ as many think the party is yet to touch base with the grassroots voters, compared to their opponents.
But as explained by the National Campaign Coordinator, Mr. Peter Mac Manu, the party’s campaign strategy has changed drastically from ‘wholesale to retail’, emphasizing the fact that the party is now concentrating on localising the campaign to communities, villages and huts to interact with voters rather than organising large rallies.
BUT THE NDC REMAINS RESOLUTE
But of course the NDC appears unperturbed. They remain resolute in their ambition. After all historical record is on their side, having consistently seen increases in their electoral fortunes since 2004 and are convinced that come 2016, they are likely to gain additional 400,000 votes an almost 70% increase in their previous figure of 600,000 which translates to about 27/8% percent of the total votes in the Ashanti Region.
The ruling party recently revived the one million figure upward to 1.5 million but later reverted to the original figure of One Million. Why they backtracked on that ambition remains to be seen but for the fact that they recently had to bus people from far and near to the Jubilee Park for their regional campaign launch speaks volume.
The party hijacked more than 120 Metro Mass Transit Buses to cart their ‘rented supporters’ to the rally grounds but yet failed to catch required number (according to their political opponents) must be a source of worry to the party.
With a party known to command lots of support from the Zongo and northern communities, the recent defection of some Zongo bigwigs, including one of its leading communicators and Deputy National Coordinator for Zongo Caucus, Mohammed Awal, has dealt hefty blow to the party’s 2016 election ambition.
Additionally, their Regional Communication Team, the mouthpiece for selling ‘The Changing Lives, Transforming Ghana’ has been complaining bitterly over the unfair treatment being meted out to its officers, with some of them accusing party leadership of extravagantly spending cash on women and expensive drinks instead of channelling it towards campaign.
Both the visits of the President and his vice to the region in the past months, failed to add shine to the party’s campaign plate. Perhaps it is because they chose to concentrate on their peripheries, visiting constituencies outside the regional capital.
In fact ever since that ‘Yen tie Obiaa’ experience in 2015 when the President and the NDC taunted residents in the region with that hit track from Daddy Lumba, as well as reportedly labelling the region as ‘ungrateful’ the President has not had it easy visiting the region, particularly touring the city of Kumasi without receiving hostile reception from the people.
But one thing which was very clear and undisputed was the fact that in any of the constituencies visited, deliberate efforts were made to bus supporters to meet them.
Source: The Chronicle
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