Based on election trends since 1992, the Ashanti Region has largely been considered as the stronghold of the New Patriotic Party, NPP. One could easily predict which party or candidate will most likely win in a particular Constituency.
Currently, the Ashanti Region has 47 Constituencies out of which the NPP has 44 while the NDC has 3. Seats being occupied by the National Democratic Congress, NDC are the Asawase, Ejura-Sekyedumase and Sekyere Afram Plains. Areas with NDC sitting members of parliament in the Ashanti region are mostly among the Constituencies that see heated contests and the NPP has over the years attempted to win those seats.
HOTSPOTS IN 2020 ELECTIONS
Clearly, the three seats being occupied by the NDC at the moment are the areas most residents are looking forward to hearing election results from. Asawase, Ejura-Sekyedumase and Sekyere Afram Plains constituencies appear to be key battlegrounds as the NPP has launched a target of winning all 47 seats in the region. In the Asawase Constituency, outspoken lawmaker and Minority Chief Whip, Mohammed Muntaka Mubarak is coming up against the Municipal Chief Executive for Asokore Mampong, Alidu Seidu whom he defeated in 2016. Although largely considered as a safe seat for the NDC in previous elections, the NPP believes this is the time to cling it as the party’s parliamentary candidate is banking his hopes on his work as the Municipal Chief Executive for the area.
The NDC and NPP candidates in Ejura-Sekyedumase will face each other again in the 2020 elections.
NDC’s Mohammed Bawa will be coming up against the Municipal Chief Executive for the area, Mohammed Salisu Bamba, the then MP whom he defeated in the 2016 elections. Interestingly, the two candidates have both been in parliament for a term and have also been Municipal Chief Executives for the area. It has therefore been a battle of track records.
Just like Asawase and Ejura-Sekyedumase, the NDC MP for Sekyere Afram Plains is facing a stiff contest from the district chief executive for the area, Joseph Owusu.
Interestingly, in the three areas with NDC MPs, they are facing stiff competition from the District and Municipal Chief Executives for the areas, who believe their achievements within the period could do the trick for them.
For the NDC, while it is poised to maintain these three seats, it is making frantic efforts to win seats the party lost in 2016 – New Edubiase and Ahafo Ano North.
The New Edubiase Contest in particular is a key area to look at as the NDC lost the seat for the very first time in 2016.
The party is making all attempts to launch a successful comeback but that will not come easy as the NPP is focused on retaining the seat. The battle between the NPP’s George Boahen Oduro who is also a deputy minister for Food and Agriculture and NDC’s Abdul Salam Adams will undoubtedly be a key contest to look out for.
The Ahafo Ano North race is also a heated one. NDC’s Kwasi Adusei who lost the seat in 2016, is coming up against NPP MP Sanid Adumu Suleiman. This contest is not only about renewing old rivalries but a disgruntled NPP member, Kwabena Osei-Bonsu who failed in his attempt to contest in the party’s primaries, is running as an independent candidate, which has the potential of changing the election dynamics. Calls by President Akufo-Addo and opinion leaders in the area on him to rescind his decision to contest as independent have not been enough to make him back down.
PHENOMENON OF INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES SPRINGING UP WITHIN THE NPP
As a stronghold of the NPP, the issue of independent candidates springing up within the party may change the dynamics in this year’s elections. In areas where the NPP splits votes with the NDC, this could serve as an advantage to the NDC candidate in the race. A typical example is the Ahafo Ano North race. The NPP in an attempt to avoid this, made several attempts to ensure the independent candidate, Kwabena Osei-Bonsu does not contest. He however did not heed to even the President’s call to withdraw from the race. Clearly, the dynamics could change based on how he is able to attract votes from the NPP supporters in the Constituency.
The issue of supporting independent candidates in a party’s stronghold usually results in a situation where the constituents tend to vote for the party’s presidential candidate but decide not to vote for the party’s parliamentary candidate. This is what has come to be called “Skirt and Blouse” voting.
Ahead of the 2020 elections, a key area that most people will be keeping an eye on, is the Fomena Constituency. The decision of dismissed Member of Parliament for the area, Andrew Amoako Asiamah to contest as an independent candidate after he withdrew from the party’s primaries, clearly makes the Constituency one to watch.
Speaking to Citi News, the dismissed MP stressed that he is not perturbed by the decision of the Speaker of parliament to dismiss him from the house following his decision to run as an independent candidate.
He withdrew from the party’s primaries citing sabotage by the Constituency and regional executives. Both him and his contender, Philip Ofori Asante are targeting at least 70 percent of the votes. This is indeed an area that many “political watchers” in the Ashanti Region have bookmarked.
In the Bekwai Constituency, the current first Deputy speaker of parliament, Joseph Osei-Owusu is set to face a stiff contest from a disgruntled NPP member, Akwasi Amofa Agyemang who was disqualified in the NPP primaries. Joseph Osei-Owusu in 2008 contested as an independent candidate after he lost the primaries by only a single vote. He won in the general elections and later aligned with NPP and has represented the constituents since then. Will history repeat itself?
In previous general elections, the Asokwa Constituency has not attracted a lot of attention since it is generally regarded as a stronghold of the NPP. However, the decision by a former Constituency organizer, Eric Osei to contest the incumbent MP, Patricia Appiagyei makes the area a key one to pay attention to. Having worked as an executive within the party and also being a former Assembly member, Eric Osei appears to command a lot of following, but will that be enough to unseat the incumbent and thwart her attempt of being in parliament for the third time?
In the Suame Constituency, George Prempeh who claims to be a member of the NPP is running against majority leader in parliament, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu. Will George Prempeh who the party says is not a member of the NPP be able to defeat the venerable Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu? Well, the President and the Vice have both been to the constituency to canvass for votes for the majority leader. Will that be the game changer?
Other areas such as Kwabre East, Afigya Kwabre South among others have persons within NPP contesting as independent candidates.
Meanwhile, the NPP says the development will not affect its chances of winning all 47 seats in the region as they envisage.
In various strongholds of the NPP in the region such as Suame, Kwabre East, Kwadaso, Atwima Kwanwoma, Bekwai, Ejisu, Asokwa, Bantama, Oforikrom, Afigya Kwabre South and Old Tafo among others, one can easily predict who (which parliamentary candidate) or which party the election will favour. However, the margin of win is what could determine who wins the presidential election. In case apathy sets in but the NPP wins in those areas, the total number of votes for the president could be affected. Similarly, once the residents turn out to vote overwhelmingly in these strongholds, it could push the presidential votes up and increase the NPP’s chances of winning the elections.
It appears the two main political parties are well aware of this and have intensified their campaigns in the region. As a stronghold of the NPP, if the NDC wins more votes in the region, it could boost their chances. In the same vein, as an area with over three million votes, if the NPP wins it convincingly, it could easily win the general elections even if it does not command majority votes in other regions. This is because the margin in Ashanti can cancel out a number of regions in terms of the difference between the NDC and NPP.
So will any of the independent candidates in the Ashanti Region be able to cause any major upsets in this year’s elections? The Fomena contest especially promises to be interesting as it appears is the most heated independent candidate race in the region. There is a great deal of suspense as many are anxiously waiting to know the outcome of that contest.
For the presidential elections, the various political parties would be hoping to get as many votes as possible. Out of the three million voters in the region, as its stronghold, the NPP is hoping to get more votes in order to widen the margin between it and the NDC. The NDC is also looking forward to getting more votes in the region to enhance its chances of winning the presidential elections. So will the NDC be able to increase its votes in the region as it is envisaging? How will the voting pattern in the region affect the general election especially with the presidential race? Undoubtedly, the election in the Ashanti region would be an interesting one as there are key Constituencies that are expected to have heated contests. All these would be clear in the coming days as Ghanaians are going to the polls on Monday, December 7.
The writer is a journalist with Citi FM/TV. He is the Bureau Chief for the MiddlebeltRead Full Story