Election 2024: The primaries

The announcement of the timetable for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) primaries tells us that Election 2024 season is formally opened. The New Patriotic Party (NPP) is yet to come out with its timetable, but I do anticipate it will be sometime soon.

The NPP field

Nine names have emerged so far — officially or unofficially as potential candidates for flag bearer — the current Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, Kennedy Agyapong, Alan Kyerematen, Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Kwabena Agyepong, Joe Ghartey, Boakye Agyarko, Dr Konadu Apraku and Francis Addai-Nimoh. I am hoping we do not see a repeat of the 2007 spectacle where as many as 17 contestants vied for the position of flag bearer.

In a discussion on the AM show on JoyTV on the morning of January 19, 2023, I was asked “who is the natural person to lead the party next?” It was an extremely difficult question to answer. It took my mind back to the national address by Mr Kyerematen and the twi song that played at the end of his speech which had a line which translates loosely into “it is his turn now”.

Whose turn, is it? It was former President Kufuor’s turn in 1996 and especially 2000. By 2007, it was the turn of President Akufo-Addo, although there was a sitting Vice President who was both interested and contested in the primary. It still remained his turn in 2012 and 2016. And although there is indication that the current Vice President is interested in becoming the flag bearer, Mr Kyerematen’s interest, participation in prior contests, and longer history of association with the party, makes it his turn now. But how does the party actually determine whose turn it is?

I can however see the emerging narrative among the supporters of Mr Kyerematen that it is “his turn.” But in my opinion, an important development has occurred in the party that changes this “whose turn it is” dynamic. That development is the entry of Dr Bawumia into the party. I do not recall the current Vice President in active New Patriotic Party (NPP) party politics until his selection as running mate in 2008.

But since then, there is no denying the hard work he has put in on behalf of the party. Two events helped him deepen his roots in the party – a) as the party’s main witness in the 2012 election petition. Even though the party lost the case, it shot Dr Bawumia into national limelight and I believe it endeared him to many party loyalists and b) the 2016 election.

There is no denying that Dr Bawumia was the face and voice of the NPP’s campaign in the 2016 election forcefully making the economic management case for why the NPP needed to be elected. Again, that further endeared him to the party and the reason I believe the chatter intensified that he was going to be the next in line after President Akufo-Addo.

I don’t know what the party delegates are thinking and what they will do. I however suppose that they will be wrestling with a number of things a) the whose turn it is argument; b) the recognition of the immense contribution of Dr Bawumia to the party in a relatively short time; c) who can best lead the party in their quest to break the eight against the backdrop of the economic crisis; and the changing perceptions of this government from positive (Afrobarometer Round 7, 2017) to extremely negative (Afrobarometer Round 9, 2022); and d) which candidate can best walk the fine line between extrapolating themselves from the economic record of this government while not appearing to throw the party “under the bus.” Time will tell what the party delegates do.

The NDC field

Three names have emerged for the NDC race — Dr Kwabena Duffuor and Kojo Bonsu who have officially declared, and former President John Mahama, who from every indication will but has not yet officially said so. We do not have to wait much longer since the released calendar of the NDC has candidates picking up forms between February 20 and 22, 2023.

On one of those days, our prediction will be confirmed — that the former President John Mahama will seek to be the flag bearer of the NDC and run once again for the presidency in 2024. I do not know what NDC party delegates are thinking and what they will do, but this is one race I can stick my neck out and say the former President will get the nod and will be the party’s candidate for the 2024 election.

So, will it be Dr Bawumia vs. former President John Mahama? Will it be Mr Kyerematen vs. former President John Mahama? Or will it be some other candidate on the NPP side facing former President John Mahama? Time, surely will tell. Welcome to the 2024 election season.

The writer is a fellow at CDD-Ghana

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