A year from election, Ghana’s economy set to dominate campaignFri, 01 Dec 2023 15:29:13 GMT

After he won last month the nomination as Ghana’s ruling party presidential candidate in the 2024 election, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia quickly made clear he would be running as his own man.With Ghanaians struggling with the worst economic turmoil in years, Bawumia faces a delicate task of striking a balance between running on and running from the government’s record. A year from the election, the race is already shaping up to be a tight contest as Bawumia looks to take the New Patriotic Party of President Nana Akufo-Addo, who is stepping down after serving two terms, to an unprecedented third consecutive stint in control of the country’s top office.Bawumia, a former deputy central bank governor, faces off against National Democratic Congress candidate John Mahama, a former president whose supporters and analysts believe the baggage of NPP’s economic legacy may open the way for him to return to power.”The state of the economy will dominate next year’s campaign and that will be the key message of John Mahama on his second coming,” said Professor Smart Sarpong, a political researcher at the Kumasi Technical University.”Mahama must have a message that will really convince Ghanaians.”Bawumia’s camp acknowledges he cannot separate himself fully from Akufo-Addo after being vice president for eight years and one of his close allies even before. But they say his experience, high visibility in the VP post, his lead in a digitisation drive and his time at the central bank will allow him to define himself as a leader.”Bawumia is not going to be another shadow of Akufo-Addo. He is going to be his own man with his own ideas,” campaign spokesman William Frimpong Bonsu told AFP. “Obviously, continuity is key, but nobody is going to dictate to him how to run his government because he is competent enough to manage this economy.”- Fallen star? -Once seen an economic star and beacon of political stability in the region, Ghana is now struggling with its worst financial outlook in years.Inflation is still around 35 percent while public debt increased sharply, forcing Akufo-Addo to reverse his position and seek a $3 billion credit line with the IMF to shore up the nation’s finances.NPP chiefs say Ghana, like other sub-Saharan countries, suffered sharply from the double shock of the global pandemic and the economic fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine.Still, NDC is already looking to use the economy as its main weapon against the NPP candidate.”We were deceived by the Akufo-Addo government and they are leaving us in a mess,” said Felix Kwakye Ofosu, Mahama’s campaign spokesman.”Bawumia had no clue how to manage the economy and just when everything had collapsed, we ran to the IMF for a bailout.”The vice president will also be the first northerner and Muslim to run for the top office on the ticket of the NPP, a movement dominated by ethnic Akan, which analysts say will pose another challenge for Mahama, who also hails from the north.Both parties dismiss appeals to ethnic, religious or regional loyalties between north and south or to religious affiliation. Analysts said Ghanaians do not generally vote along those lines. But with both Bawumia and Mahama from the north, the region will become a key electoral battleground.NPP has its stronghold in the southern Ashanti region, and was seen as a predominantly ethnic Akan movement. Bawumia’s candidacy has dispelled that, the party says.”We are a national party and we have proven by electing Bawumia as our leader,” said Bonsu, the NPP campaign spokesman.Ghanaian pollster Ben Ephson said attention will be focussed on the north, where the Muslim vote might be split down the middle for the candidates from the same region.But the choice of a running mate will be key to rally support in their respective strongholds — Ashanti for NPP and Volta region for NDC — so the candidates can focus their fight for more disputed areas.”The two parties need to get as much votes as possible from their strongholds then they can battle out in three regions: Greater Accra, Central and Western Region,” Ephson said.”So, 2024 is not a done deal.”