If Presidential elections were held tomorrow … would you vote for an independent candidate?
I am not sure how many people saw it coming. However, when Mr Alan Kyerematen bowed out of the NPP flagbearer race after the super delegates conference, there were some who speculated he would “go independent.”
We now have our answer. The decision to “go independent” in a political space that has been dominated by the NDC-NPP duopoly is an interesting political phenomenon. Especially by a man who has had a long-standing political relationship with the duopoly.
Alan argues the party is plagued with several issues. I cannot help but wonder when he fully came to recognise these issues. After all, this is the same party he sought to lead into the 2024 election up until Super Delegates Saturday.
But here is the real question. Does he have a chance to win the presidency as an independent candidate outside of the NDC-NPP duopoly?
Voting Third Party/Independent
Beginning Afrobarometer Round 3 (2005), Ghanaians are asked this question: “If a presidential election were held tomorrow, which party’s candidate would you vote for?” Among those who specified a party, here are the percentages of those who said they would vote outside of the NDC-NPP duopoly – five per cent (Round 3, 2005); four per cent (Round 4, 2008); one per cent (Round 5, 2012); two per cent (Round 6, 2014); four per cent (Round 7, 2017); four per cent (Round 8, 2019); and five per cent (Round 9, 2022).
In addition to the voting intentions of Ghanaians, take a look at the percentage share of votes of third parties including independents over the course of the Fourth Republic– three per cent (1996); 7.4 per cent (2000 Round 1); three per cent (2004); 2.8 per cent (2008 Round One); 1.5 per cent (2012); 1.8 per cent (2016) and 1.6 per cent (2020).
It is clear that very few Ghanaians regularly say they intend to vote for a presidential candidate who is not running on the ticket of the NDC or the NPP. And that intention is seen clearly when you examine our election results. The best showing of third parties including independents was the 2000 election where their total combined share of votes was seven per cent. Individually, no single third party or independent candidate has been able to secure more than three per cent of the vote.
The Alan Independent Candidacy
There are two arguments one can make about the prospects of Alan’s independent run for president. The previous section leads one to infer that given the voting intentions of Ghanaians and the actual results of our various elections, he has no real shot at the presidency. At best, his candidacy will have a spoiler effect on the eventual outcome of election 2024 with the NPP suffering the most.
On the other hand, one may argue that the candidates in our previous elections who contested either on the ticket of the other political parties or as independents outside of the NDC-NPP duopoly did not have Alan’s political pedigree. As a result, the prospects this time around is much different from the prospects of other candidates in previous elections.
If I were to choose one of the two arguments, I would opt for the first – the candidacy has no real prospects of winning the presidency. At best, it will have a spoiler effect on the prospects of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the 2024 election. The political behaviours of voters that form over time do not easily change overnight. In actual fact they strengthen. The empirical evidence is very clear when you look at what Ghanaians have said about their voting intentions in the Afrobarometer surveys as well as what they have actually done in elections. I often say that in as much as I hear the narrative “we are tired of NDC-NPP, we need a third force” Ghanaians keep voting for NDC-NPP in alternating fashion. I am not convinced they want to break that habit.
But I could be wrong. Maybe the reason Ghanaians have been voting NDC-NPP even as they seem to crave a third force is because they are yet to find that candidate who they believe is the one. The one who can truly change our politics and move us away from this NDC-NPP duopoly.
Is Alan the one? When all is said and done, and with all due respect, his candidacy is not independent in the truest sense of the word. The reality - he is coming out of the NDC-NPP duopoly. Think about this. He has had a long history of participation in our duopoly politics. Not until his decision to bow out of the NPP primaries in September he was gearing up to lead one of the duopoly political parties.
How then does he convince Ghanaians that he is a truly independent candidate and not a candidate with scores to settle with his political party? Time will tell.
The writer is a Democracy and Development Fellow at the Ghana Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-Ghana).