A genuine assessment of the performance of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP) in the 2012 general election is simple: Woeful failure. But placing third in an election, after just nine months after birth, and considering the vigorous election campaign it waged, a fair assessment of the PPP, as it celebrates its first anniversary, is straightforward: Great success of a political party with huge promise for the future. The 2012 Election saw eight flag bearers contesting and about 14 political parties contesting for various parliamentary seats.
Since the advent of the Fourth Republic in 1992, 23 political parties have emerged but a large number of them had disappeared just in the same manner they appeared – fast and rash!
Apart from the major political parties – the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the New Patriotic Party (NPP), the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and the People’s National Convention (PNC) – the rest, like a kwashiorkor child, have managed to survive as they continued to battle death with each passing moment.
They only exist in name as political parties; they have no officers, offices and structures across the country as required by law.
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Moreover, they do not make any significant contribution to national debate and public discourse on critical development issues and national economic growth.
The only contribution they make is to give some meaning to the practice of multiparty democracy in Ghana, and offer doses of humour during electioneering.
It was against this background that many political watchers dismissed the birth of the PPP on February 25, 2012 as another episode of comic relief on the political landscape.
Indeed, at the conception stage of the PPP, many people had advised the abortion of what they believed would become another kwashiorkor political party.
Their reason was solid and very convincing: Except for delusion, what could a new political party achieve nine months away from general election when other parties that had been in existence since the beginning of the Fourth Republic were still wobbling?
And unless for hallucination, how could a candidate believe he could use about six months to campaign and win the 2012 presidential election against formidable competitors of the major political parties who had either hit the campaign trail about three years earlier or was enjoying enormous incumbency advantage.
But the PPP proved the critics wrong by running one of the best election campaigns in the annals of the Fourth Republic.
Within a short space of time, the party was able to marshal resources to establish its roots nationwide and match the two ‘big boys’ (NDC and NPP) boot-for-boot in all facets of election campaigning.
The party’s election campaign was decent and decorous; it was issue-based, focusing on matters at the heart of the country’s development, such as corruption, education, health and job creation.
Having covered general elections in Ghana since 1996, and covering the PPP election campaign as correspondent for the Daily Graphic, I can testify to the impressive efforts of the party to win the hearts and minds of the electorate.
Indeed, the votes obtained by the PPP in the presidential election and the party’s inability to win a single parliamentary seat were a pale reflection of the vigorous election campaign it waged. This assessment begs the question, ‘So what happened?’
Surely, the PPP must have done or is still doing some introspection of its performance in the 2012 general election to enable it to address the shortcomings and forge ahead in the hope of achieving better results in future elections.
Soon after the declaration of the 2012 election results, the party screamed foul about alleged manipulation of votes it obtained in some polling stations and constituencies.
The party may have very good reasons for believing so because in many instances, the results declared for the PPP at some polling stations and constituencies were quite surprising and ridiculous.
But the PPP will be deluding itself to attribute its abysmal performance in the election to external factor only. To a very great extent, the harm was caused from within.
Many of the parliamentary candidates of the party had thrown in the towel long before the Voting Day. Their attitude suggested that they did not have confidence in themselves and the party.
Whenever they spoke at campaign and other platforms, they cast a dark cloud over the bright red sun (the symbol of the party), and on many occasions, it took the swift intervention of the presidential candidate, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, to salvage the situation.
The election strategy of the PPP to constitute a 21-member polling station executive whose major task was to win 10 votes each for the party was brilliant and most intriguing.
But the sincerity and loyalty of many of the polling station executive members were questionable right on the day of their inauguration. Anyone who doubts or challenges this assertion should consult the election results.
Assuming the 21 members of the polling station executives, who were sworn in by Dr Nduom, could not win 10 votes each for the party, at least their votes should be secured for the PPP.
So how come the party obtained one or two votes or even no vote in many polling stations? That question is mind-boggling.
The attitude of some people within the party’s campaign machinery also left much to be desired.
As Dr Nduom stretched every tendon, including a breath-taking two-hour jogging at age 59, to win votes, some of his lieutenants effortlessly scattered the votes by their negative attitude.
Sometimes the negative attitude bordered on courtesy and foul language, and as a party flying the clean election campaign kit, it was a critical determining factor in the election as feedback I picked from the ground suggested.
At other times, the negative attitude bordered on money. Some of the officers were not sincere, truthful and trustworthy in money matters to the extent that even some drivers of the campaign team, who had suffered under the circumstance, looked doubtful to vote for the PPP, gauging their disappointment.
Of course, journalists covering the campaign were victims of similar circumstances that must have had a negative impact on the party electoral fortunes.
Some political analysts have also suggested that the target of the PPP to win 50 parliamentary seats was overly ambitious.
According to them, if the party had targeted a handful of parliamentary seats and concentrated all of its resources in those constituencies, perhaps, it would have a representative in Parliament by now.
But all is not lost yet. The PPP still have a lot of promise to make a great impact in future elections provided it puts is house in order.
Going forward, it is important for the party to continue its engagement with the public on critical national issues. It must endeavour to provide alternatives and credible opposition to the government by putting the latter on its toes at all times.
The party must also be given a national character by keeping all the regional, constituency and polling station structures very active. It should not be reduced to a ‘one-man show’, otherwise observers will not take it serious.
If the PPP will ever make any impact different from what the kwashiorkor political parties in existence, it must necessarily mobilise sincere, loyal and committed officers who are willing to sacrifice for the good of the party; not those seeking their personal benefits.
The party does not have to commit people to swear by Antoa Nyamaa, the powerful Ashanti deity, to elicit their loyalty and sincerity, but it must surely find a way of doing so. - Writer’s Email:
Article by Kofi Yeboah