The New Patriotic Party(NPP) has won a number of by-elections both in power and opposition times. There have been instances where the party has snatched parliamentary seats from the National Democratic Congress(NDC) in by-elections.
The 2002 Bimbila and the 2003 Amenfi West by-elections are examples to mention but few of the seats taken away from the incumbent holders by the NPP.
But the recent by-election held in Assin North which many thought were going to fall for the ruling NPP, was an exception. The dynamics that characterised the election though seemed normal and usual for some political watchers, others are of the view that, the incumbent Gyakye Quayson should not have retained the seat in view of the circumstances surrounding it
In contrast, the NDC local campaign teams, augmented by their national campaign apparatus, shocked the governing NPP by winning a landslide. While the NPP reduced in votes, the NDC candidate increased its margin relative to the 2020 results.
Many have wondered why a party in power, in spite of all the huge resources deployed to the constituency by the government to trigger developments and related issues, was unable to win the seat. Gyakye Quayson of the NDC polled 17,245 votes representing 57.56% whereas George Opoku of the NPP obtained 12,630 votes representing 42.15%.
As a constituency with many settler communities with different ethnic groups and languages, the NDC capitalised on these and dispatched advanced team with multi-lingua abilities, moving from one village to the other to solicit support.
At some point, some of their populist members were wearing wellington boots, dressed like farmers and were seen crossing rivers to reach out to residents to canvas votes. Some people tend to downplay these tactics but it works very effectively especially in the farming communities.
Even before the opening of nominations by the Electoral Commission, the NDC and their acolytes, had already pitched camps within strategic areas in Assin North, doing underground work. So on the election day when the NPP gurus, national officers and government appointees entered the towns in the constituency, people along the streets, especially the youth, had started jubilating and cheering on Gyakye Quayson, indicating that the place had already been dominated by NDC.
The NPP, led by the national chairman, national organiser and other national officers, Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, Chief Executive Officers of state institution, were present in the constituency to throw their support and to ensure victory.
This show of solidarity by actors of the ruling party to their candidate is commendable. However, there were some excesses and needless show of opulence that need to be checked going into the 2024 general elections.
Avoidable excesses and poor strategies by NPP
- The constant movement of Toyota V8 land cruisers within villages and towns of the constituency by party and government officials whose presence did not add anything to the campaign, was seen by the local people as waste of resources and wanton display of profligacy.
- The unpreparednedness of the national officers and the national campaign team to empower the constituency executives as well as the regional executives who know the inside-out of the constituency, to take over the campaign, made the whole thing a top-down approach.
- The mindset that the settler communities were no go areas for the NPP and hence abandoning same to the NDC.
- While the NDC were in the remote villages dressed in ordinary, simple attires, the NPP was organising town hall meetings and press conferences in the towns. At some point, some national officers of the NPP were granting interview in land cruisers. This infuriated some of the local people.
- The use or wearing of flamboyant costume by national officers or party gurus to local communities in grandeur and jamboree style to campaign.
- The distribution of items and cash by outsiders of the constituency instead of the local teams. At some point, Chairman Wontumi and Nana B were seen distributing items while the parliamentary candidate was not engaged for such activities to make him more marketable.
- The failure to utilise NPP people with multi-lingua abilities to go and campaign in the minority ethnic areas.
Lessons and recommendations
- In terms of resource and cash administration and subsequent deployment, the treasurer should be allowed to play a pivotal role in future elections. The handling of donations and money for the party, should not be entrusted under officers not sanctioned to do so. The national chairman should be in the known of the cash flow system within the party.
- Campaign teams should appear in moderation to local areas instead of using land cruisers to criss-cross villages excessively.
- The number of party and government appointees who enter a constituency to assist elections, should be regulated. Those who move there should be assigned a particular strategic task before being allowed to move in.
- Party officials should swallow their pride during campaign times in the hinterlands.
- The organisation of needless press conferences in the cities, instead of getting down to the ground to work to attract votes, should be avoided.
- The national party should learn how to draw propaganda strategies especially tribal matters. Emotional campaign plays part in Ghanaian elections. The party should not downplay it.
- Looking at the well packaged resources that the NDC shared in terms of cash and items across, there is no way one can say the NDC is broke in opposition. Henceforth, the NPP government should empower and build its business men and women so they will be able to support when the need arises. In this case, some of the local party people who are business minded, could also be empowered financially to assist the party without the constituency party having to wait for resources from the central government for execution of campaigns and minor projects.
- Parliamentary candidates in such instances should be made visible and not be overshadowed by the national teams and appointees from Accra. It is clear Charles Opoku was not a politician or was new in the political terrain, though communicated well, but was not given the needed attention to market him at the town hall meetings.
- The NPP in power and government should not wait until elections before attempting to solve the plight of the people. How much at all will a bridge construction cost that the government or the district assembly cannot help but wait for opposition MP to do for the people?
The last minute show of developments and road construction during elections as well as lackadaisical or lukewarm and thrifty way of distributing items to voters should be avoided. The NDC, though in opposition, distributed well packaged and befitting items plus cash.