December 7 poll date bad for Mahama – Lecturer

Parliament’s decision to vote against the proposal to change the date for parliamentary and presidential elections to November may not bode well for President John Mahama, as far as his efforts at re-election are concerned, argues Prof Kwasi Prempeh, a political scientist at the University of Ghana.

The Electoral Commission (EC) had proposed the date be moved from December 7 to the first Monday of every election year in November.

However, the House voted against the proposal on Thursday July 21, with 125 MPs voting in favour of the change while 95 decided against it. This meant YES votes could not get the two-thirds majority required by law to push the proposal through. This year’s elections will, therefore, be held on December 7.

But according to Professor Prempeh, the decision has opposing implications for the protagonists in the upcoming polls – the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). He explained that what transpired in parliament was not unexpected.

Politically, he continued, the NPP had realised that taking the date back to December would not be in the interest of the president as there will be more time for it to highlight the problems facing the country including high living costs and rising electricity and water tariffs, issues whose prolonged publicity Mr Mahama and his administration would not be comfortable with.

“So, it will give the NPP the chance to show to the electorate that he cannot do the job. Had it been brought forward to 7 November, it would have given the president a reprieve and allowed him to look for quick fixes to the nagging issues confronting him,” he reasoned.

“An early voting date would have inured to the benefit of the president as he would have been able to quickly solve a lot of outstanding issues, but taking it back also gives the opposition the chance to bash the president for a number of things that are not being addressed properly in the country.”

Prof Prempeh said one effect of parliament’s rejection of the proposed date change was that a December 7 date would revive talk surrounding the inconveniences an eventual run-off would present, as happened in 2000 and 2008, with the EC needing to work overtime to put things in place for another election while not much time would be available for a detailed transition in the event of a change of government after the poll.