Published on 16 Aug, 2020.
The dynamics of the 2020 elections was a novelty in many ways. The outcome of the elections broke a number of traditions but the question remains, will these changes remain and define our political landscape?. With 109 new entrants in the 8th parliament some level of uncertainty with which party will dominate parliament, the 2020 elections has been an interesting one. There were 21 electoral violence Incidents; of which 6 were gunshot related which resulted in 5 deaths. Considering all these incidents, international observers considered the 2020 election fairly peaceful, free and fair. The NDC has still not accepted both the presidential and parliamentary results and will have to commence legal processes before the 28th of December.
The 2020 election introduced a new dynamic with swing/ kingmaker regions. Due to the creation of new regions; Greater Accra, Central Region, Brong Ahafo and Western Region which were the four traditional swing regions have now been reduced to only Greater Accra and Central Region. This is because of the political nature of the demarcations and new regions. For the first time in the fourth republic, Greater Accra and Central Region voted differently in the presidential but gave majority of seats to the NDC. Prez. Nana Addo won Central region and John Mahama took back the Greater accra Region. In the Central Region, the president won with 52.7% and John Mahama followed with 45.9% and for Greater Accra, both candidates got 48.1% and 51.0% respectively. With the parliamentary outcome, NDC had 13 and 20 seats respectively in the Central and Greater Accra regions respectively, while NPP had 10 and 14 seats. This can be attributed to several reasons, one of which is corruption. Though the several corruption scandals of the incumbent did not have a bearing on the outcome of the elections on a national scale, their fortunes within the Greater Accra Region was affected by a significant number of middle class who understood the corruption related issues and scandals. Ashanti Region, though not a swing, remains the most reliable voter bank for the NPP with a voter population of 3,013,856. Though the NPP had an obvious win with a vote difference of 1,142,675 which cancels out NDCs lead in 9 regions, there was a reduction in votes from the 2016 election. Ashanti Region is clearly the kingmaker of the NPP and hence with the evolution of the Ghanaian voter, NPP cannot afford to remain complacent or they are likely to lose votes and maybe more parliamentary seats within the region. Volta region on the other hand saw a marginal gain of 3.3% for the NPP and a marginal loss of 2.9% for the NDC and though the vote difference in this NDC stronghold region was considerable, juxtaposed with voter turnout, the NPP doubled it in the Ashanti region. One thing that 2020 has sort to expose is, both parties a gradually losing holds in strong holds and the people are more focused on development and which candidate can deliver instead of merely voting on party lines.
Ticket-split voting, or what is usually referred in local parlance as ‘skirt and blouse’ voting, is deeply getting entrenched in the voting behaviour. The 2020 general election recorded the highest number of this voting trend. In the last three elections, there has been an increase from 26 in 2012, to 28 in 2016 and now 33 constituencies. This phenomenon indicate a sophistication of the Ghanaian voter which transcends party lines and hinges on the increase of political consciousness. Several reasons can be attributed to this occurrence especially in the 2020 elections but one thing remains clear, it was a protest against parliamentary candidates especially on the side of NPP and also a vote of no confidence in John Mahama. Out of the 33 split constituencies, Prez. Nana Addo won 21 constituencies while John Mahama won 12. In a similar vein, NDC clutched 20 parliamentary seats where Nana Addo won. Several polls conducted before the elections revealed Prez. Nana Addo as a candidate had higher approval ratings as compared to John Mahama and this was reflective in the outcome of the ticket-splitting constituencies. What is interesting in this revelation with regards to the parliamentary outcome is that, electorates did not care about which political party a parliamentary candidate contested for. Rather, electorates voted against MPs who have failed to bring development or improvement within the constituencies and in their lives. Aside this, constituents voted against candidates whose presence is not felt within the constituency and lacks a personal connection with them sometimes due to complacency in constituencies which are strongholds. Furthermore, internal disputes and disagreements between MPs and their metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) cannot be discounted, with the imposition of parliamentary candidates on constituents also being a drawback. This coupled with unsettled disputes that emerged from party primaries cost the NPP dearly. If there is anything to be learnt by members of parliament, it is the fact that their performance would translate to votes and the electorates have no problem punishing them with this phenomena of ‘skirt and blouse’ voting.
Political participation is essential to democratic growth and voting remains one of the very key means by which citizens engage in this regard. It is a means to check the pulse of government and the interests the citizenry still have in the political system. Some political pundits were of the view that the Covid -19 pandemic could influence voter turnout but on the contrary, figures were within the normal parameters. Voter turnout in the 2020 election was one of the few electoral trends in the 4th Republic that was maintained. As usual, the second term of any political party sees a relatively high voter turn out as compared to the elections at the end of the second term which always causes a change in governing party. According to the Electoral Commission, voter turnout for the 2020 elections was 79%. Anytime there has been a change in a governing political party, voter turnout has averaged 67% and when the government is given the nod for a second term, turnout averages at 81%.
Sadly, rejected ballots have been the real third force in elections in Ghana with the number of rejected ballots always higher than the votes gained by the party to emerge third in the race and the 2020 general election was no difference. In the 2020 election, rejected ballots stood at 2.33% while 10 candidates together pooled 1.35% of total valid votes. Though the EC modified ballot papers combined with voter education, we still could not escape the menace of rejected ballots.
Coastal communities are also a key determinant of a government’s popularity, especially relating to the fishery industry which is key in the Agric value chain. The 2020 election proved no different. The governing New Patriotic Party’s zero net gain in seats on the coast suggests vote of no confidence in the so-called intervention projects pursued by the Akufo-Addo administration. One of such is the subsidization of pre-mix fuel which fisherfolk use to fuel their outboard motor-powered canoes. Hijack of this intervention by pro NPP cartels (mostly constituency party executives) who then sell the pre-mix fuel at higher than intended prices to the fisherfolk caused disaffection. The value chain which includes dealers in fishing nets, market women and fishmongers who are usually breadwinners were affected by the activities of these cartels. The capture of subsidized outboard motors in like manner did not help matters. It is no surprise therefore that the NPP, after failing to gain seats, also lost 7 seats to the opposition NDC in coastal communities.
In the 47 border constituencies seats up for grabs, the NDC managed to cling 36, with only a net loss of 6 and a net gain of 11, to the NPP’s disadvantage. This is reflective in the fact that, all border Constituencies, save the ones located in the Western, Ahafo and Bono regions are all in NDC strongholds; most voters in these areas stuck to their traditional way of voting, both in the Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The Jomoro constituency, for instance which is one of the only ones won by Nana Akufo-Addo is a swing constituency, which non-surprisingly voted ‘skirt and blouse.’
Places like the Hohoe Constituency in the NDC stronghold of Volta Region is a unique occurrence as the NPP Parliamentary candidate John Peter Amewu, who is the Energy Minister won the seat. Amewu has contested the seat three times and lost to the NDC candidate Dr. Bernice Adiku Heloo. However, Dr. Heloo retired and the NDC’s ticket was taken over by Margaret Kweku whom, with less experience, failed to hold on to the seat for the NDC.
In key mining areas such Obuasi and Tarkwa, which are NPP strongholds, the unpopularity of the administration was felt. Despite the NPP keeping these areas, their numbers fell as compared to their 2016-win ratios. This reflects the controversies with ban on small scale mining and the seizure of equipment from miners in these areas. The enterprise which is the source of livelihood for many of the youth in these areas was threatened by the ban and fallouts from same. President Akufo-Addo, addressing the media during his first term, said he is ready to put his presidency on the line to deal with illegal mining and the casualties from his attempts at achieving that feat, registered their displeasure at the ballot box.
In strongholds across the country, an interesting trend emerged. While the NDC and the NPP maintained their hold on their key strongholds, the Akufo-Addo and the NPP saw reductions, in some cases, drastic reduction in their win percentage while the NDC recovered from its voter apathy in 2016 to garner more votes in their strongholds to solidify their win. This is despite the purposive voter suppression in the Volta Region which is the biggest stronghold of the NDC.
With the mystery of who controls the 8th Parliament of the Fourth Republic still unresolved, the NDC is determined to fight tooth and nail to claim what fairly sufficient evidence suggests is theirs. Should they succeed in their quest, it would be the first time in the Fourth Republic that the party which won the Presidential election fails to win a majority in Parliament.
Besides the disputed seats in the election, the NDC claims its Pink Sheets which are used to record polling station results do not support the declaration of Akufo-Addo as President. Already, the party and its flagbearer, former President John Mahama have rejected the declaration in a televised address on December 10, 2020 a day after the official declaration of results.
Mr. Mahama says there is no way his party would allow the will of the people to be subverted. Per Article 64 of the 1992 Constitution, any citizen of Ghana can petition the Supreme Court to challenge the declaration of Nana Akufo-Addo by the EC as President-elect. Mahama and his NDC have 21 days from December 9 –day of declaration—to pursue that option or the declaration stands.
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