Skirt and blouse voting; wake-up call

BY: Kobby Asmah

Ticket-split voting, or what is usually referred in our parlance as ‘skirt and blouse’ voting, is deeply getting entrenched in our voting behaviour.

The just-ended polls of December 7, 2020 showed just that. That trend of voting once again reared its head, as many voters across the country rejected their sitting Members of Parliament (MPs). In the process, many parliamentarians on both sides of the electoral divide lost their seats.

What happened? What really went amiss?

Recent polls

One such scenario that readily comes into focus is what happened in the Upper West Akyem Constituency, where the New Patriotic Party (NPP) parliamentary candidate, Mr Frederick Obeng Adom, won, with former President John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) winning the presidential election.

The NPP parliamentary candidate for Akwatia, Ernest Kumi, also lost to the NDC’s Henry Boakye, whereas President Akufo-Addo of the NPP won the presidential election in Akwatia.

In the Agona East Constituency, the NDC’s Queenstar Maame Pokua Sawyerr won the parliamentary seat, but the constituents voted for President Akufo-Addo.

Similarly, in Awutu Senya West, Gomoa East, Gomoa West and Asikuma/Odoben/Brakwa, NDC parliamentary candidates Ms Gizzela Tetteh-Agbotui, Desmond De-Graft Paitoo, Richard Gyan Mensah and Alhassan Kobina Ghansa, respectively, won the seats, although President Akufo-Addo won the presidential votes.

In Cape Coast North, the NDC parliamentary candidate, Dr Kwamena Minta Nyarko, beat the NPP’s Barbara Asher Ayisi, although President Akufo-Addo won the presidential election there.

Also, whereas former President Mahama won the presidential votes in Hohoe, Damongo and Binduri, the NDC lost the parliamentary seats there to NPP candidates — Mr John-Peter Amewu, Mr Abu Jinapor and Mr Abdulai Abanga, respectively.

In Fomena, an independent candidate, Mr Andrew Amoako Asiamah, won the seat, whereas President Akufo-Addo won the presidential votes.

These are a few examples of what largely took place during the December polls, indicating the mood of the electorate.

Electorate have spoken

From these outcomes, it is obvious that the electorate have spoken loudly and all political actors must pay attention.

What really accounted for this show of rejection by the electorate?

I believe multiple reasons could be given for this practice of voters supporting the presidential candidate of one party but giving approval to the parliamentary

candidate of another. With such an outcome, it is clear that something untoward happened between the MPs and their constituents, and that voting could have been motivated by popular disenchantment.

A lot also has to do with the relationship existing between constituents and their MPs at both the constituency and the personal level.

In many instances, the complaints have been that many of the MPs remain so arrogant to the people they are expected to serve.

Another thorny challenge is the issue of complacency, especially when MPs contest in their strongholds.

Furthermore, internal disputes and disagreements between MPs and their metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives (MMDCEs) cannot be discounted, with the imposition of parliamentary candidates on constituents also being a drawback.

Positive takeaway

Going forward, there are positive learning curves that our parliamentarians, MMDCEs, political party executives at the constituency, regional and national levels must come to terms with, while they must no longer take their constituents for granted.

As the people's representatives, MPs are expected to be seen as representing their constituents.

To overcome the challenge of ‘skirt and blouse’ voting, the party hierarchy at the constituency level must stay neutral as much as possible and insist that healthy working relationships prevail at all times.

Hopefully, there will be renewed focus on measurable performance by constituents. Even though MPs are, first and foremost, legislators, they must also deliver tangible developments to constituents.

Politics, after all, is a performance contest to see which party can do more for the country.

The just-ended elections have showed that the electorate have the trump card, and that at the end of every four years they could use their thump to punish any politician who fails to quench their thirst.

It is clear we are moving towards a demand-driven electorate and hopefully what happened in the just-ended polls will make those who govern us sit up.

With this in mind, and with Election 2020 over, I wish to congratulate all the citizens of the country on the largely peaceful polls. In every election, the expected outcome could be sweet and bitter — sweet for the victorious candidates and bitter for the losing contestants.

Notwithstanding the fact that every election will always have a winner and a loser, it will not be out of place to applaud the resilience of all of us, especially the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), for a generally good showing during the polls.

It is time to tone down and work for the progress of the nation.

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