In what will likely shape much of the narrative for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) ahead of the 2020 general election, the party is today beginning its crunch parliamentary primaries with 524 aspirants battling it out for spots in 163 constituencies.
The biggest opposition party is holding the crucial primaries in two batches with the date for the second batch yet to be announced.
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After all has been settled, the stage will be set for a fever-pitch contest between the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the NDC.
Many political pundits have maintained that the 2020 polls will be contested largely on track records and fulfilment of campaign promises predominantly by the NPP and the NDC.
Today’s event by the NDC is taking place in all the 16 regions.
The Greater Accra Region has the highest number of 31 constituencies billed for the first batch.
The rest are Volta Region, 17; Northern, 15; Central, 13; Upper East,13; Eastern, 10; Upper West, 9; Bono East, 9; Bono, 8; Oti, 8; Western,6; North East, 4; Savannah, 4; Western North, 12; Ashanti, 3, and Ahafo, 1.
There will be no elections in 74 constituencies, which will constitute the second batch for the primaries.
Five constituencies had been put on hold pending investigations by the party’s special committee set up to address internal issues.
They are Asawase, Mpohor, Yilo Krobo, Fanteakwa North and Ellembelle.
In all, 578 aspirants filed to contest in all the 275 constituencies out of which 524 were cleared to contest the elections.
Explaining why the party decided to organise the elections in batches, the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said the reason was to allow the special committee to address the party’s internal issues in some constituencies.
He said the party decided that instead of approaching the elections from the angle of orphan constituencies first before tackling the constituencies with Members of Parliament (MPs) or vice-versa, “We have decided that we will tackle the constituencies in batches and so the first batch is ready”.
Mr Nketia said selection of constituencies into batches was, therefore, contingent on the specific circumstances that existed within each constituency.
At a press conference to announce the party’s preparation ahead of the elections, the General Secretary of the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, said out of the 163 cleared for today’s elections, there would be no election in 38 constituencies because the aspirants in those constituencies would be going unopposed.
He said the party had already put efficient measures in place to ensure successful elections on Saturday.
“The ballot papers are ready and en route to the various constituencies where elections will take place,” Mr Nketia said.
Additionally, he said the party had engaged the services of the Ghana Police Service to provide adequate security at the various districts and constituencies where the elections would take place.
“We have also submitted the compiled list of qualified party members who will be allowed to vote, to the Electoral Commission (EC),” Mr Nketia added.
Mr Nketia cautioned aspirants and voters to abide by the laws and regulations governing the party’s electoral activities.
He mentioned that the party would not allow delegates in the primary to enter the polling booth with cellphones.
The reason, Mr Nketia said, was to arrest the situation where delegates cast their votes and took shots of the ballot paper as evidence to show to their preferred candidates as proof of their loyalty.
He also cautioned aspirants not to engage in any campaign activities within a 500-metre distance from the electoral area where the voting would take place.
“Aspirants or voters who will decide to disregard the laid down rules would be made to face the law,” Mr Nketia added.
Anticipated hot areas
The Ningo Prampram Constituency is one area which is expected to produce a hot contest.
The incumbent MP, Mr Sam Nartey George, will face fierce contest with the constituency chairman, Mr Michael Kwetey Tetteh, who resigned to contest him.
Mr Sam George
Mr Michael Kwetey Tetteh
Although Mr George is said to have an advantage over his contender, many people, including Pollster Ben Ephson, are predicting a fall for him.
According to Mr Ephson, not only would Mr George compete with Mr Tetteh but his contender is likely to get the support of Mr E.T. Mensah who lost his seat to Mr George in the 2015 parliamentary primary.
“Things have built up and it is very difficult for him. Last time he was an underdog, this time if Sam George wins, I will be surprised,” Mr Ephson said in a media interview.
Ayawaso West Wuoguon
In Ayawaso West Wuogon, popular movie star, Mr John Dumelo, will battle it out with Ms Suzzy Afua Adoboe for the slot.
Mr Dumelo, who was an active campaigner for the NDC during the 2016 general election, expressed interest to contest for the seat during the by-election but changed his mind at the eleventh hour.
Ms Suzzy Afua Adoboe
Mr John Dumelo
The seat was subsequently contested by Mr Delali Brempong who won the NDC primary but ultimately lost out to the widow of the late MP, Mrs Lydia Alhassan, in the by-election.
Mr Dumelo will now contest with Ms Adoboe in today’s election which pundits believe will be keenly contested.
At the Buem Constituency in the Oti Region, the former National Organiser of the NDC, Mr Kofi Adams, will be contesting the seat.
Mr Adams filed his nomination for the constituency in 2013 together with 12 others to contest when the seat became vacant following the untimely death of Mr Henry Kamal Ford who was the MP for the area.
Mr Kofi Adams
Daniel Kwesi Ashiamah
However, he was disqualified by the National Executive Committee of the party for being under suspension for his alleged involvement in a secret recording.
He will be seeking to unseat incumbent MP for Buem, Daniel Kwesi Ashiamah, in today’s polls.
The Adenta Constituency is also expected to produce a hot contest when a former Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Nana Oye Lithur, battles it out with Muhammed Adamu Ramadan.
The two will also have to find a way to reduce the impact of a lecturer at the University of Professional Studies (UPSA), Mr Benjamin Angenu, who will also take part in the contest.
Adentan was one of the fiercely contested constituencies during the NDC's primaries prior to the 2016 elections.
But, Mr Ramadan managed to defeat his three contenders to emerge the winner in the race.
Nana Oye Lithur
Although Mr Ramadan lost the seat to the NPP candidate in the 2016 election, Yaw Buaben Asamoah, some pundits have tipped him to win the internal race but that would not be without a fierce fight from Nana Oye Lithur.
Dome Kwabenya has been one of the strongholds of the NPP.
Today’s election for a candidate who will stand on the ticket of the NDC will be contested by four people.
They are Mr Israel Nornyigbey, a marketing consultant, Mr John Agbavor, a businessman, Mrs Faustina Elikplim Akurugu, an entrepreneur, and Mr Godson Nii Ayidzaku Tackie, an accountant.
Chances are that there would be equal opportunities for any of these aspirants.
However, whoever pulls the day, would have a formidable quest to unseat the NPP.
Greater Accra contest
For the first time in the history of the party, there will not be any elections in the Odododiodoo Constituency as the incumbent MP, Mr Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuije, will go unopposed.
There will be a similar situation at the Ablekuma North Constituency where Ms Winifred Ashely will have no person to contest her.
It will be a battle of nerves at the Sege, Trobu, Krowor, Ayawaso West Wuogon and Ayawaso North constituencies as each of the constituencies have only two aspirants.
The rest of the constituencies recorded between three and five aspirants.
Many incumbent MPs, including the MP for Ningo-Prampram, Mr Samuel Nartey George; MP for Ablekuma South, Mr Alfred Okoe Vanderpuije, and the MP for Ashaiman, Mr Ernest Norgbey, are all seeking to get the nod again to represent the NDC in the 2020 parliamentary election.
The incumbent MP for Shai Osudoku, Ms Linda Ocloo, is also seeking to get the endorsement of the electorate but will face stiff challenge from a former Executive Director of the National Service Secretariat, Dr Michael Kpessah Whyte.
The two clashed in a by-election to choose a parliamentary candidate in June 2016 following the demise of Desmond William Ocloo, the husband of Linda Ocloo, shortly after he was elected.