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Ghana Voters Combine Christmas With Political Gift-Giving

Some Ghanaians are complaining that Christmas gift-giving will be undermined by campaign spending for the December 28 presidential runoff election.Since the initial December 7 vote, huge amounts of contributions have been pouring into campaign coffers of the two major political parties still in the running and will not be spent on holiday festivities.Reporter Peter Clottey is covering the campaign for the Voice of America from the capital Accra.He says that public sentiment is grateful the process is working, but also hopeful it will end soon.

“Some business people are complaining that because of the second round of voting, businesses will be hampered, especially during the Christmas festivities because they believe that money will be pumped into the campaigning instead of people buying things for themselves to enjoy the Christmas festivities,” he said.

Eight political parties fielded candidates for the first round of voting on December 7 to determine a successor for two-term incumbent John Kufuor, with all but the two leading contenders eliminated from a runoff to be held December 28.The ruling party’s Nana Akuffo-Addo narrowly missed the 50 percent margin needed to avoid a runoff.He will face opposition leader John Atta Mills, who won nearly 48 percent of the vote.Reporter Clottey says the tight race necessitates a new infusion of funds to sustain rallying, advertising, and staff costs.

“The campaigns themselves have to raise money, just like in the US.They organized dinner parties, both for the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP),” he notes.

As for financial backers of the six first-round candidates now eliminated, Clottey says several are hedging their bets with donations to both the NPP and the NDC in the hope of staying eligible to receive lucrative contracts, appointments, and political favors.The political bargaining continues as the general public notices a dip in the annual holiday hustle and bustle they anticipate for Christmas and New Years.Clottey says it usually represents big business.

“It is usually huge.Unfortunately, the electioneering campaign has slowed things down drastically.I have been in touch with business people all across the city (Accra), especially where brisk business usually happens.I have gone to the market and spoken to the market women and business people around, and they have all complained about the same thing.You have people buying all the cakes and Christmas things that come along with Christmas festivities.And people are not buying them – people who bake a lot of Christmas cakes and all that have been complaining that their orders have sharply declined because of the voting.But it remains to be seen whether it will pick up once the December runoff draws to a close,” he said.

If the runoff also were to finish in a very tight contest, Clottey suggests Ghanaians, who are looking forward to bringing in the new year in celebration, will want to expedite the process so the country can move on.He notes that the more than 205-thousand first-round votes were disqualified by the country’s electoral commission in the first round.Those voters might have easily clinched a margin of victory and possibly averted the need for a runoff.This round, he suggests, voters will get another chance to resolve the deadlock that has cut into holiday fun of a nation that usually goes all out for holiday merriment.