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Ghana’s Ruling Party Dismisses New Forecast of Opposition Election Win

Ghana's ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is sharply dismissing the latest poll which suggests the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) could win this December 7 general election. The new poll, which was released Monday, was conducted by a United Kingdom-based Policy and Strategy Associates, Incorporated, which surveyed all the country's 10 regions. The results suggest the presidential candidate of the main opposition, John Atta-Mills, with 53.6 percent, with the presidential candidate of the ruling party, Nana Akufu-Addo, following with 42.0 percent.

The rest of the other presidential candidates trail the two leading contenders ahead of next month's election. Stephen Asamoah-Boateng is Ghana's minister for information and a leading member of the ruling party. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Accra that the latest poll is inconsistent with other recent polls. He described the discrepancy as a ploy to boost the opposition party ahead of the election.

"Obviously with an election coming, the polls are things that people just keep throwing at us every day. Whatever it is, just take a look at it, read between the lines, and as a political grouping you need to have, you need to have your strategy right anyway. But having said that and reading it and taking notes, you don't depend on polls anyway. The polls may give you an indication of what can be done, and some polls may also throw you off balance and give you wrong information. And you may be so disappointed. So what you need to do is to get a group of people, which the NPP has got. We've got a group of people who study polls. And so far, the polls that we have seen are very positive. And with this one it goes counter to what the trend has been," Asamoah-Boateng noted.

He said the ruling party's internal poll shows it is in position to maintain its grip on power and continue with the work of President John Agyekum Kufuor.

"We have also conducted polls with our own people who are not NPP. But they come from outside to do it for us. And me being an information minister, I also have my way of checking. And I have actually commissioned some areas where they can give me ideas about voting pattern so I don't believe it (the new poll). We will look at it, but I can tell you, I don't believe it," he said.

Asamoah-Boateng reiterated that the new poll is inconsistent with recent polls, which suggest a statistical dead heat with the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).

"I'm getting the details so I can also look at the information, and my job as the information ministers is to analyze things, so I'm looking at it. But it just flies in the face of all the indications we've seen. So one would want to see what criteria they used and the sample they used. But let me tell you, most of the ones that we have used in Ghana, it is peculiar. If you are in London and you think you can do 760 people all across every region, you wouldn't get the whole true picture of who can win the presidency," Asamoah-Boateng pointed out.

He challenged the results of the polling company as not fully representative of what is currently prevailing in the country.

"In Ghana, the presidential votes are basically in greater Accra, in Ashanti and then to some extent Sekondi-Takoradi and Koforidua. So if you are allocating sample numbers or to regions, you must weigh that in relation to the numbers who vote in the region," he said.

Asamoah-Boateng said the ruling party has a good narrative, which he believes would be the winning magic wand for the ruling party.

"Let me tell you that the NPP has very good advantages in so many things. We have a good story and a positive story of the past eight years, which we are telling Ghanaians. And then we are also selling a story of a future, which looks, bright and optimistic about the economy and about the social welfare programs, education and health. And then, we are also looking at the oil that has been found in Ghana, which we are preparing for. So we are selling that kind of positive story, and that is one thing that we have advantage over the opposition," Asamoah-Boateng noted.

He said the ruling party is focusing on being positive in its overall message ahead of the election.

"The second point is that we have a campaign strategy that is not criticizing the opposition or looking at them and dismissing or chasing them. We are more looking at our message and going down with it rather than telling people how bad the opposition is. So there is a clear difference in message delivery," he said.

The surveys were conducted from October 25 to November 7, 2008. November 7 is a month before Ghana's December 7 general election. The polling company said the sample sizes in each region ranged from 720-765, with a margin of error of +/-4 percent. In total, more than seven thousand people were polled in various informal, relaxed surveys across the country.

This is the third time in recent months that of such a research exercise has been sponsored by young Ghanaian professionals, who described themselves as independent, multi-partisan working associates of the Policy and Strategy Associates firm, incorporated in the diaspora.