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Ruling Party Partisans Tackle Disunity Problems Ahead of Ghana Elections

Some partisans of Ghana's ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) reportedly worry that infighting and acrimony among the rank and file of their leadership may endanger the party's success ahead of this year's general elections. A new survey released yesterday suggests the NPP was suffering from popular alienation months before the December polls. The survey, conducted by the Center for Democratic Development, says the percentage of Ghanaians who expressed affiliation with the ruling party has declined from 43 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2008. This prompted a leading member of the party to say that unless the party addresses the crisis among its rank and file, it stands a chance of losing in the general elections. From Ghana's capital Accra, pollster and managing editor of the independent Daily Dispatch newspaper, Ben Ephson, tells reporter Peter Clottey that the ruling party needs to get its act together or face disgrace in the general elections.

"I have been a bit surprised that the NPP has kind of allowed this to happen because when the NDC (opposition National Democratic Congress) ex-President Jerry Rawlings was leaving in 2000, the party had similar problems. There were lots of acrimonies on primaries to select parliamentary candidates, and the pattern was that it happened within the party stronghold. And this in the end affected the votes for the presidential candidates and they (NPP) have allowed this to happen," Ephson noted.

He said the constant infighting in the ruling party could be attributed to complacency.

"Complacency, yes. But I also believe that there is a certain disease, which, if it bites you - that is the government - it is called arrogance of power. You don't seem to see, because I thought that the NPP could have learned from what happened to the NDC, and the impact on the party, which led to the party (NDC) losing elections. And it is like the same thing is happening and it is like you've removed the name NDC and put NPP up," he said.

Ephson concurs that there is growing perception among some Ghanaians that the ruling NPP brand is waning.

"If they come and put you up there, say, in a particular constituency, you will win because they will vote for the party, not minding the person. But for the kingmakers, called floating voters, this is something that should be worrying for the NPP. For example, if you look at the hullabaloo that certain members of the NPP gave when they hadn't seen the full list of those who are going to be awarded the state awards, they thought that by giving the award to (NDC opposition presidential candidate John Atta) Mills alone without giving (ruling party candidate) Nana Akuffu-Addo his support, President Kufuor is kind of endorsing Mills. That gives you a fair sense of the panic within the ranks of the ruling NPP," Ephson pointed out.

He said although President Kufuor's administration had made some steps towards reconciling the nation, there is still more to be done to reconcile the country fully.

"I think that they have done something, but they could have clearly done more. I don't belong to the school of thought with regards to interfering in the various judicial processes. But I think that certain things like the withdrawal of privileges to the ex-president and so on, I believe that those things could have been restored and that could have been a step closer to reconciliation," he said.

Ephson said the government erred after some people who were named to be awarded for their meritorious service to the country refused to be part of the ceremony.

"Those who have been awarded want to make a political statement. And I think that you can blame them. But clearly if the attempt was to try and build a bridge to try and reconcile the country, I believe that this was the wrong time to have done it because there should have been some consultations on the background. And giving somebody an award necessarily does not mean that whatever problems there are have been swept under the carpet," Ephson noted.