Monday, August 25, 2008

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT IN KUMASI DEAD? (PAGE 17)

QUITE uncharacteristically, the political environment of Kumasi, considered the epicentre of politics, indeed in the Ashanti Region and Ghana as a whole, has been very quiet.
With less than four months into the general election, the terrific atmosphere associated with political campaigning in the Ashanti Region is virtually absent, and the region is virtually dead, with regard to campaigning.
From the development it looks like the political parties are not bent on concentrating a good part of their activities in the Ashanti Region.
Up till now, none of the presidential aspirants have undertaken any major political tour of the region, leaving some observers of the political terrain to read all sorts of meaning into the situation.
It was only on a few occasions that the Convention People’s Party (CPP), New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential aspirants paid courtesy calls on the owner of the land, Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, at the Manhyia Palace, and organised some form of political meetings in Kumasi. All these were one-day events, and the impact on the parties could be said to be minimal.
The best that any party did was the recent gospel rock show organised by the NPP at the Jubilee Park in Kumasi, which was attended by Nana Akufo-Addo, the presidential aspirant of the party.
This is a far departure from previous elections when the region almost became a battleground for the major political parties — the NPP and NDC.
At least I happened to witness the political activity that took place in the Ashanti Region in 2004 because I had then been transferred to the region as a correspondent of the Daily Graphic.
I travelled wide with the presidential candidates and some parliamentary candidates, and it was a huge political invasion of the region.
Massive rallies were organised in Kumasi by the two biggest political parties in Kumasi while similar ones were held in the constituencies.
At that time the NDC for instance had vowed to capture at least 30 per cent of the popular votes in the region, which they believed would guarantee their presidential candidate, Prof. J.E.A. Mills, the chance of winning the elections.
The NDC could not claim the 30 per cent but won three parliamentary seats at Ejura Sekyedumase, New Adubiase and Asawasi. Even though the NDC generally attributed their defeat in the 2004 elections to their dismal showing in the Central Region, some party members at times blamed their defeat in the 2004 elections on their non-performance in the region.
The ruling NPP with President Kufuor seeking re-election went all out to do battle with the NDC and romped home to a massive victory to justify the description of the region as the NPP World Bank.
Today, much attention has been focused on regions like Central, Brong Ahafo, Western and the three northern regions.
In fact, the real battleground has been the Central Region where the NDC has vowed to turn the tables, believing that could guarantee it victory in the elections.
For the NPP, it is bent on maintaining its hold on the Central Region because the party thinks that the government has done a lot in that region to retain the confidence of the people.
Currently, Prof. Mills and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo are traversing the Central Region to sell their messages to the electorate. Prof. Mills for instance has been there at least three times in the recent past.
No matter the reasons the parties have for their inactivity, they must bear in mind that it would be dangerous and indeed a political miscalculation to ignore the most populous region in Ghana.
The number of registered voters in the Ashanti Region is too huge for any political party to ignore. One political party activist said the votes in Bantama Constituency alone exceeded all the votes in the Upper West Region.
Following from this, it drives home the fact that the Ashanti Region is one area a political party would ignore at its own peril.
The NDC has relaunched its bid for at least 30 per cent of the popular votes in the Ashanti Region. Party officials insist that this time round they would make it because they have done enough to get the votes. But I dare say that the NDC would need to work very hard if it really wants to achieve that goal. I have not seen any serious business on the part of the party. They look so dormant that nothing seems to be working for them.
With the NPP so determined to capture the three parliamentary seats from the NDC, the main opposition party can hardly run away from the fact that a herculean task awaits them.
Even then, the NPP itself would have to be extra serious for it cannot take the electorate for granted.
It would be making a mistake if it relies on historical antecedents to project a massive win in December.
I hear of a campaign team of Nana Akufo-Addo in the Ashanti Region but it seems all its activities are concentrated on radio stations instead of hitting the ground full force.
The NPP should know that a slip in Ashanti would sound its death knell.
In politics there is always something special about a stronghold.
As for the other minority parties like the CPP, People’s National Convention (PNC) and Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) the least said about them the better. They are almost dead and I strongly believe that they would now be considering pulling out of the parliamentary race in some constituencies.
These days that the electorates have become so discerning, politicians need to be calculatingtheir campaigning if they really want to get their votes.

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