Even though seven candidates are vying for the presidency, the race actually is between President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP).
President Mahama, who is seeking for re-election and opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo, who also has an extensive business experience, both have good and interesting backgrounds to help promote the interests of the business and financial sectors when given the nod.
Currently, the two candidates are engaged in a hearts-and-minds battle to convince Ghanaians for their votes on Wednesday December 7, 2016.
Majority of Ghanaians interviewed across the nation by Business Day were of the view that the NDC Governmen should ordinarily have cruised to a comfortable victory in presidential and parliamentary elections due to the significant infrastructure development recorded by the country.
A stream of international visitors, development gurus and business luminaries continue to snake through Accra to pour accolades on Ghana’ infrastructure development.
Yet these songs of praise do not convince many Ghanaians. For many voters, the real measure is how world-class infrastructure projects including oil, gas and power projects will change living standards. This is partly because the revenue and projects of the oil and gas era are yet to materialise for most Ghanaians.
There are isolated bright spots. Cities such as Sekondi-Takoradi are booming, as there are activities of local suppliers to international oil companies. For the rest of the country, heightened expectations about future wealth are mixed with recurring frustrations.
The arguments about socialism, state capitalism and market economics playing out across much of the developing world now are of long standing in Ghana. For President Mahama and many of his party colleagues in the NDC, Ghana’s founding President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s ideas of using the “political kingdom” to reshape the national economy and to break dependence on western markets are still relevant.
Akufo-Addo and the NPP, who hail from the Danquah-Busia tradition, are in strong opposition to Nkrumahism. For them, the idea of a developmental state is abomination. According to the local opinion polls, voters remain almost evenly split between the NDC and the NPP.
Neither party has held a commanding lead in the polls since the 2008 elections, in which late Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills won by fewer than 40,000 votes. For now, Akufo-Addo is slightly ahead by most estimates.
Akufo-Addo, has stepped up his campaign’s attacks on the NDC Government, capitalising on the higher prices of items, power crisis and criticising the government for being too slow and incompetent.
Ghanaians recently faced steep decline in the exchange rate of the cedi to the US dollar, an increase in the price of petroleum products and horrific power crisis that caused a lot of companies to collapse.
Transport costs jumped immediately by 10 percent. The NDC Government has been trying to raise revenue and cut spending over the past, but now faces popular opposition from its predecessor NPP and organized labour. Trying to balance the books in this election year has been a critical test for the government’s economic management.
Mahama and Akufo-Addo are polar opposites psychologically. President Mahama is patient and donnish but credibly presents himself as understanding the problems of average Ghanaians; Akufo-Addo comes across as a fiery orator and a man in a hurry, eager to change Ghana according to his own prescriptions but aloof from the realities faced by most people.
For the NDC to win this election, much will depend on how convincing President Mahama proves to be in defence of his government – its economic policy and its handling of corruption scandals such as Woyome’s case and payment of judgement debts.
Two days leading to elections, Akufo-Addo and the NPP will lose no opportunity to attack the NDC Government on its weaknesses, in order to win power.
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