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Beyond campaign promises and blitz

Author: Kobby Asmah

Once again, politicians have started promising their way into political power with barely 17 weeks to this year’s election. In the 2012 election, the ruling National Democratic Congress promised to build 200 senior high schools within four years. Last Saturday, the 2016 Presidential Candidate of the New Patriotic Party also promised to build factories in each of the 216 districts across the country and convert all polytechnical into universities if he is given the opportunity to rule Ghana for the next four years. Many other political parties including the People’s National Convention (PNC), the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) will not be left out of the galore of promises. 

Galore of promises

Indeed, the PNC has given an assurance that it will end dumsor within the first year of its government if Ghanaians vote it into power whilst the PPP and the CPP are touting incorruptible governance during their term of office. The Independent People’s Party (IPP) has expressed the intention to introduce child and unemployment benefits to ease the pains of Ghanaians if it is given the power. This was made known last week when the party became the first in Ghana to launch its manifesto.

Traditional job-hunting

Beyond the political campaign promises, trail, blitz and voting, do we the electorate know for a fact that our politicians are also engaged in a traditional job-hunting, merely looking for job opportunities? A job opportunity to serve the nation in truth and with high integrity. But let’s pause for a moment. If the presidency and parliament were to be our private establishments, would we just put anybody there to administer them on our behalf without any proper thinking-through?

Various answers always come up when the issue of whether Ghanaians are satisfied with the performance of their elected leaders is mentioned.

Those who are satisfied with the performance of their elected leaders will continue to eagerly vote the same way while some of those dissatisfied with their elected leaders have gone as far as threatening not to vote at all. But does this mean they should really stay away from elections?

Since 1992, the Ghanaian electorate have been going to the polls every four years to elect their leaders (both presidential and parliamentary) as the constitution demands.

Barring any difficulties, come November 7 this year, the electorate will go to the polls. This will be the seventh time they will be voting to select their leaders and I wonder if they will use the power of the thumb to bring good and accountable governance to the people.

Importance of voting

The post-campaign rituals begin soon after election results are declared when there is a swell of political job seekers, including campaign staff, party workers and volunteers from all walks of life preparing to take over the reins of government at all levels. At this stage, the destiny of the nation resides in the bosom of the elected political job seekers.

This is why voting in any national elections must be deemed a very serious exercise and given much consideration. 

In my view, the first question every voter needs to ask and answer independently is the type of politician that must be offered a political job to govern this country. Whether it is the president of the country, a legislator, an assembly member or any other politically elected official like members of the unit committees, the voter needs to think through his decision to make informed choices that can guarantee economic prosperity and enhanced opportunities for all.

Selecting right candidate for job

As the old adage states: Hire in haste and repent at leisure. Wrong decisions do not only cost the voter but also the entire nation and its progress. Nevertheless, if the individual voter gets the hiring decisions right the first time, it will be beneficial to all in society.

Great hiring decisions begin with the formulation of clear guidelines with more focus on accomplishment. While avoiding the charisma trap, the voter must always look for evidence that candidates seeking political jobs have taken on difficult tasks and overcome obstacles in the past.  

After all, the most charming and eloquent candidate is not necessarily the best person to be elected. The voter needs to place higher premium on ethics and attitude to work. Rather than experience, knowledge and skills, it is equally important to identify the behaviour and qualities which are required for effective, principled, firm and truthful leadership.

If one is careful about the engaging process, evaluates and learns from past engaging processes as well as broadly consults with persons with the nation at heart, the nation stands a much better chance of getting the next great employees to rule it.

What influences voters choice?

Many different factors influence voter behaviour during elections. In some instances, even in the early stages of a campaign, many voters already know how they will vote. Though sometimes a flamboyant campaign can successfully sway voters to influence the predicted outcome of an election, it does not always change the mindset of voters.

A voter's background, including social identity, such as economic class, ethnicity, gender, race and religious preference, also has the largest influence on that voter's decision. 

Practical campaign messages directed at voters, using a theme that resonates well with the people and a voter's psychological attachment to a particular political party all count during elections. Without any doubt, voters tend to be attracted to whichever party affiliation mostly influenced their childhood. For instance, voters raised in a family of Nkrumaist or the Danquah, Busia and Dombo traditions usually identify with those traditions and vote accordingly.

Necessary considerations

In my view, however, beyond these, the voter's view of the incumbent's previous performance is paramount and a necessary consideration. 

Once you have interested parties or candidates, how do you figure out which one is right for the country? Which political party or candidate should you engage? Who has the best chance of bringing rapid progress and development while on the job? Perhaps the most important choices that you make as an electorate are your engaging decisions.  As we are hoping to have another successful election on November 7 this year, the Ghanaian electorate must not only think of a free, fair, transparent and peaceful election but also endeavour to choose the right candidates for the various political jobs. Voters will have little to blame if wrong choices are made and square pegs are put in round holes.