The simple matter of a parliamentary by-election for a seat largely considered a safe one for the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) has become a complex issue as four candidates appear on the ballot sheet for today’s poll in Kumawu.
The Ashanti Region seat has been occupied by the NPP since 1996, but the strong showing of a former party faithful who went independent in 2020 has altered the dynamics in what has become an important contest for the NPP.
That candidate, Kwaku Duah, bears the same name as the other Independent candidate, a younger man who some political watchers have argued appears to be a mere strategic entry in the scheme of the challenge posed by his senior namesake.
Enjoying only the slimmest of advantages in numbers in the two-party Parliament, the NPP — whose member’s death occasioned the by-election — cannot afford to let the seat slip by, with each passing parliamentary debate set on a knife’s edge on account of the nearly even numbers of the NPP and the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Such have been the stakes that the police yesterday issued a statement that adequate police personnel had been deployed to Kumawu for today’s by-election.
“We wish to assure the people of the Kumawu Constituency to go about their normal activities freely, including going out to exercise their civic duty of casting their vote,” a statement issued and signed by Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Grace Ansah-Akrofi, Director of Public Affairs, said.
“We would like to urge the general public, especially the people of the Kumawu Constituency, to work with us to deliver a peaceful election and ensure the safety and security of all,” the statement added.
It said the police had already met with stakeholders, including the leadership of the NPP, the NDC and one of the Independent candidates, to enhance collaboration among all stakeholders and to ensure a peaceful election.
The other Independent candidate was unable to honour the invitation to the meeting.
The NPP appears more concerned with the candidature of the senior Duah, who has a bird as his symbol on the ballot paper.
He fell out with the party and went independent in the last parliamentary election in 2020, coming second as he polled 11,698 representing 39.96 per cent of the total valid votes cast. The NPP’s candidate then, the late Philip Basoah, polled 14,960 representing 51.11 per cent.
The then NDC candidate, Bernard Opoku Marfo, came third by polling 2,439 votes, representing 8.33 per cent, while Nana Amoako of the Ghana Union Movement (GUM) polled 174 votes, representing 0.59 per cent.
In the presidential race, President Akufo-Addo won with 23,502, representing 80.69 per cent of the valid votes cast, as against the NDC’s John
Mahama’s 5,325, representing 18.28 per cent of valid votes cast.
The NDC and the NPP over the weekend rounded up their campaigns for today’s poll, having toured, since last month, every nook and cranny of the constituency to woo voters.
All political campaign activities came to an end last Sunday, with the NPP holding what could be described as a mammoth rally that featured bigwigs, including President Akufo-Addo and Vice-President Dr Bawumia.
It followed last Saturday’s movement of big shots of both the NDC and the NPP as family and friends mourned the former MP, Basoah, at his funeral.
For the NDC, the removal of Assin South MP, James Gyakye Quayson, has become the motivation to snatch any seat in sight.
A must-win seat
Even though the voting patterns in the constituency have over the years favoured the NPP, the party is not leaving anything to chance.
Even before the primary to elect a candidate to contest the by-election, the NPP had practically moved its machinery to the constituency and set up a command post in the house of the constituency chairman.
Aside from ensuring that the party retains its slim majority in Parliament, a win for the NPP would be deemed as a vote of confidence in the administration of the government and would serve as a booster for the upcoming general election in December 2024.
Addressing the party faithful last Sunday, the Majority Leader in Parliament and MP for Suame, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, admitted that the slim majority that the party has in Parliament was affecting the progress of work, and as such there was the need for the electorate to ensure that the NPP won the seat.
Even though the NDC has not fared very well in the previous elections in the constituency, its candidate, Kwasi Amankwa, is full of confidence that he will pull a surprise.
He believes the divine forces are behind him, and that the party will come out victorious by the close of the polls today.
According to him, the party had put in a lot of work not just to increase its votes in the constituency, but to win the seat.
As a boost for his campaign, the presidential candidate of the NDC, former President John Dramani Mahama, was in the constituency last Friday where he and his entourage called on the family of the late MP to commiserate with them.
For some, today’s poll is a virtual referendum on the NPP’s stewardship in eight years.
The common name being used by the two Independent candidates in the by-election could be cause for worry for some voters.
Until last Sunday, both candidates were using the same symbols on the notice of their posters and wore virtually the same kente cloth aside from bearing the same name.
However, the Electoral Commission has changed the symbol of the second Kwaku Duah, who entered the race at the last minute, from the initial dove to a hoe.
According to the EC, even though the commission asked about the similarity of their symbols and asked him to change it, he refused, thus prompting the EC to do that for him since the law allowed the EC to do that.
Kwaku Duah, who first contested in the last parliamentary election, has accused the members of his former party for sponsoring his own family member, Kwaku Duah, to contest him just to confuse his supporters.
He has refused to align with any of the political parties and pledged to maintain his neutrality when he wins.
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