This is a follow-up to a previous article I wrote ‘Why do you support your party?’ ( published 26/02/2012), in which I tried to identify the factors that will determine which party one votes for. But in an interaction with two colleagues over the article, one told me that he could care less about the party, and that he votes based on the candidate presented by the party. I thought it was an interesting perspective. My second colleague however pointed to voter results from certain regions and said that these results could not be based on candidates. That notwithstanding, the issue of voting based on candidates is one that can be discussed. For the purpose of this article and the previous one, I’m restricting the elections to only presidential elections. I’m also limiting it to the two major political parties because they are well-resourced to undertake extensive campaigns.

In 1992, Ghana held multiparty elections which H.E. Jerry John Rawlings won with 58.4% of the total vote; he also won with 57.4% in 1996. Since Rawlings was the head of the PNDC regime, it can be argued that it was more of a vote for the regime than for the NDC. And the NDC would have been better resourced and organised for the elections. But the fact that Rawlings won in 9 regions can attest to his popularity.

In 2000 the NPP’s candidate, John Agyekum Kuffour beat NDC’s John Evans Atta Mills with 56.9% after a run-off election. He also won with 52.45% in 2004. The 2000 election results have been explained by some as Ghanaians wanting a change. But we can argue that the NPP candidate had been marketed well during the 1996 election and was therefore more recognisable to Ghanaians.

I think the 2004 election was the first one in the fourth republic in which two well-known candidates contested. The victory of the NPP’s candidate could mean he was more popular than the NDC’s candidate or it could be that his incumbency was the deciding factor. Anyway, I believe the candidates played a role.

The 2008 election is a case in point. The NPP had the incumbency advantage, but were now fielding a new candidate, Nana Akufo Addo. The NDC once again fielded John Evans Atta Mills, who was a more recognisable candidate. The NPP run arguably the most flamboyant campaign our nation had ever witnessed and it paid off, as they led in the first round of voting but failed to reach the 50%+1 required. In the run-off election, the NDC’s John Evans Atta Mills won with 50.23%. It is important to note that in a poll organised by the NCCE in April 2008, John Evans Atta Mills led. It is my belief that he was the more popular candidate going into the election.

In speculating about the effect of the candidates in the previous elections I’ve been a bit Ben Ephsonic, but that’s just to try to put some things into perspective. The question remains whether people believe that candidates have control over their parties instead of just representing their party. Also after 20 years of multiparty democracy, many people are now affiliated to a political party, and they place party before candidate. Maybe Uncle Ben would be kind enough to take this up and help us out.

Jerome Wematu Kuseh
[email protected]


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