Anticipating a tight race in December, the National Democratic Congress (NDC)’s President John Mahama and the New Patriotic Party (NPP)’s Nana Akufo-Addo’s are trying to weaken each other’s appeal among floating voters.
Mahama has sought to portray Akufo-Addo as a dictator who has imposed his will on his party and instigated internal strife that has divided the party. He has issued a stark warning to voters that voting for the NPP leader would be a mistake.
“We are looking for a leader who can unite Ghana and not a leader who will divide Ghana. If you cannot unite your own party, how do you unite a nation," he said at a campaign event in Bimbilla.
For his part, Akufo-Addo has sought to portray Mahama as a corrupt leader who cannot be trusted to carry out the needed anti-corruption reforms that would help accelerate the country’s development.
He has stated in the past that his wife, Rebecca, will not be in charge of contracts if he wins office - an apparent jab of the president based on rumours that first lady Lordina Mahama was presiding over huge state contracts.
Akufo-Addo has also stated that he would not accept Ford SUV gifts in exchange for contracts, in apparent reference to reports that Mahama received a Ford Expedition vehicle from a Burkinabe businessmen, who went on to win two government contracts.
“We are going to find the contractor by a process of competitive bidding. We are not going to go into a room and sit down with one person and say yes (you have the contract). I have no interest in Cadillacs or Fords or whatever. We want to do a job for Ghana, a good job for that matter,” he said.
For both candidates, the stakes are incalculable. Mahama desperately needs a second term, as he dreads being the first president to exit in his first term. A loss will also validate assertions that he has been a failure in office.
Akufo-Addo, on the hand, is perhaps more desperate, having lost two previous elections. What makes the December polls more crucial for the former foreign minister is the fact this will be his last opportunity to win the presidency and make history.
Primenewsghana.com examines the key strengths of each each candidate ahead of the polls.
1. Financial resources/ incumbency advantage
As president, Mahama has unlimited financial resources at his disposal with which he can prosecute the elections. He can outspend Akufo-Addo on every front, including in campaigning and buying influence.
His incumbency advantage also enables him to employ the human and logistical resources of state institutions such as the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) to aid his campaign.
He is younger and appears more presidential that his opponent. He is also more charming, making him more appealing to floating voters.
3. Massive infrastructure development
The infrastructural projects such as construction of roads and hospitals carried out the Mahama administration will enable gain or at least retain votes in the areas where those developments took place.
4. Good communicator
Mahama’s ability to speak about five local languages makes him more appealing to a diverse audience.
5. Free SHS threat neutralized
A very crucial strategic advantage is the introduction of Community Day Senior High Schools by the Mahama administration. It could be recalled the NPP main campaign promise in the run up to election 2012 was Akufo-Addo’s Free SHS promise which nearly cost president Mahama the 2012 elections.
6. NPP infighting
The bitter feud within the NPP, although largely contained, plays to Mahama’s advantage.
Akufo-Addo has built an image as an incorruptible public servant. Unlike many of his NPP colleagues, he has never been indicted for any corrupt act. He is more appealing to voters who want someone who can fight corruption, which is believed to be one of the main factors hindering development in the country.
The editor-in-chief of the New Crusading Guide, Abdul Malik Kweku Baako Jnr., said of Akufo-Addo’s integrity:
“I don’t know why people have refused to see that in terms of integrity, Nana Addo is indestructible. You may not like him for one or two reasons and that is natural. He himself does not expect everybody to like him. But like him or not, in terms of his political and professional career, his integrity is indestructible. "
Also, his campaign is boosted by the numerous corruption scandals that have plagued the Mahama administration, including the Smarrty’s bus branding scandal and the GYEEDA and SADA sccandals.
The Ghanaian economy has been so deeply challenged that Ghana has had to sign up to an IMF programme.
Businesses are reeling under the effect of huge taxes and an erratic power supply while unemployment still remains a huge problem.
Akufo-Addo's message of industrial transformation and consequent job creation is likely to resonate with many who believe that the state of the economy is the single most important issue in this election.
4. Incumbency disadvantage
No party has won more two consecutive elections in the fourth Republic. The trend shows that each of the two main parties does eight years and relinquishes power to the other. With the NDC's 8th year due in December, it's natural that voter apathy towards the party would have set in. Many voters will crave an air of change.
It is also possible that many supporters of the NDC's who are disappointed at the party's performance in the last eight years will not go to the poll to vote at all. All these will work in Akufo-Addo's favour.
5. Sympathy votes
Being the older of the two candidates and having lost two previous elections, Akufo-Addo is more likely to attract sympathy votes. There is something magical about the number three. The late Prof. John Evans Atta Mills, for instance, won on his third attempt. Unconfirmed reports that Akufo-Addo is not in the best physical shape will also help garner sympathy votes.
6. Bawumia factor
In Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Nana has a candidate who is deemed to be highly qualified and trustworthy where issues of economics and finance are concerned. Bawumia also appeals to the middle class and is appealing to floating voters who find his expertise valuable for a struggling economy like ours.
Ghanaians should brace for a very tight race in December, which may lead to a run-off.
The campaigns of both candidates are going as planned, but Mahama is in precarious situation in view of the power challenges confronting the country.
If ‘dumsor’ resurfaces just ahead of the polls, it could cause the president to lose crucial votes in the Greater Accra region, especially, and swing the election in favour of Akufo-Addo.