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Ghana’s presidential candidates make final push before election day

By Patrick Smith
Posted on Monday, 5 December 2016 14:44

Like rival premier league teams — the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), with its elephant symbol, and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), with its umbrella — the main two parties vying for power in Ghana are kept in business by tens of thousands of supporters, resplendent in partisan colours, turning up for the big events, singing and chanting with their loyalties never in doubt.

On Sunday, two giant elephants painted in the party colours of red, blue and white, stood guard over the NPP’s final rally as 5,000 supporters thronged the LA Trade Fair site in southern Accra.

It was the last big push by the NPP’s presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo and his running mate Mahamudu Bawumia making the call for Ghanaians to vote for change.

Flanked by other NPP leaders such as former President John Kufuor and former trade minister Alan Kyerematen, Akufo Addo promised: “We are going to build a new Ghana that will ensure prosperity for all.” After economic growth slowed to under 4% with thousands of people losing their jobs due to power cuts and the slowdown, the promises of an economic revival were met with loud cheers.

However, the NPP loyalists made their feelings clear. How far the rest of Ghana believes in Akufo Addo’s economic pledges is the key question. Franklin Cudjoe, chief executive officer of Imani Center think tank, told The Africa Report that it looked like the NPP had a commanding lead a month ago but had lost out in recent weeks as President John Mahama had unveiled a succession of multi-million dollar projects: bridges, multi-lane highways, flyovers and a gleaming new hospital in central Accra.

NPP supporters downplay the effects of these and argue that the ruling party’s business friends have benefited from massive commissions on these projects. They argue that the country’s education and health services remain woefully under-funded despite the new mega-projects.

Akufo Addo pulled out the stops at Trade Fair, doubling down on the corruption and jobs theme. “I am not seeking your mandate to come and amass personal wealth,” he said as the crowd yelled “Nana nie! [victory for Nana]. We’re coming to work for development […] by creating jobs and wealth for our people,” Akufo Addo said.

On Monday, President Mahama and the NDC leaders stage their last rally at Accra’s main football stadium next Independence Square, pushing their message that the economic turnaround is already underway and a change of leadership would jeopardise it. The stadium is festooned with umbrellas and banners in the part colours of red, green and white as loyalists flock to hear Mahama’s closing arguments.

Meanwhile loyalists from both the main parties have been arguing over problems with early voting — for the more than 125,000 who have to work on election day. Many of these journalists and election officials complained they could not find their names on the electoral register on 1 December and a second day was organised on 4 December.

Another partisan spat broke out over the discovery of thousands of fake ballot papers marked in favour of President Mahama in Kumasi. The NPP’s regional Chairman, Bernard Antwi Boasiako led police to a small hotel where bags containing the ballot papers were found.

Electoral Commission officials said the ballots were obvious fakes because they had no serial numbers and no official stamps. Police are going to investigate the incident. In this week’s febrile political climate, such incidents could touch off clashes between the bands of fierce party loyalists as the day of decision looms.

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