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IMANI Recall: From promises to tales – the strategies political parties used to persuade the citizenry before December 7th 2012

This article seeks to narrate the 2012 elections based on the themes mentioned by representatives of the 8 political parties published in the Daily Graphic newspaper. It highlights the major threads some political parties preached prior to the elections.

By Samantha Atta-Mensah


 Daily publications from April 1st 2012 to November 30th 2012 in the Daily Graphic newspaper consisted of quotes from various politicians representing many of the political parties which joined the presidential race for the elections. Out of the many political parties in the race for the 2012 presidential seat, we observed 8 of them, namely; NDC, NPP, PPP, PNC, UFP, IPP, GCPP and CPP. Coincidentally, there were 8 major themes identified that parties spoke about within this period in order to win as many votes from the citizenry; amongst which were- infrastructure, education, job creation, health, good governance, agriculture, corruption and energy.

Eight political parties, eight themes; one would assume that each party had at least one unique theme from the other, however it was not the case and the general trend follows the pattern listed above. With NDC and NPP repeatedly being quoted on similar topics; which we knew to be infrastructure for the NDC and education for the NPP, other political parties trailed along the lines but picked up some of these themes a bit too close to the elections. This was evident in the change in methodology of many parties, implying that parties began to speak of similar themes after a certain period- September to be specific. As would be expected, the representatives who were most often heard of in the papers were that of the presidential and vice presidential candidates for all parties, as well as the spouses of each presidential candidate. Other than the presidential candidates, it was important for the citizenry to know that there were other people representing the parties. For that reason contesting members of parliaments and other members of various political parties spoke up and were published in the papers. The parties with more MP’s had an advantage over those with fewer. As would be expected, the MP’s spoke about improving the main issues people had specific to their constituencies before speaking on general plans for the nation. With many people hoping to develop different areas, collaboration amongst majority is what brought about the good governance theme. The media ensured that they published the parties’ major themes before publishing quotes that were related to general themes; this was evident in the transition from several themes to a stage where all the parties began to speak about similar themes such as corruption.

Good governance was a fairly common theme that appeared in the papers.  Although it seemed quite simple, a phrase that was common among the parties was continuity of what previous governments had done. It entailed the continuation of projects which was going to ensure a better Ghana, as well as  the extension of planning period for some of the long term goals set by not only the ruling party but by parties which ruled before. NPP, CPP and NDC were some parties who had this theme appear as part of their top 3 goals to ensure an improved Ghana for the citizenry. Parties that did not have a focus on continuity were criticized.

As every political party hoped to deliver good governance, many specified which aspects of the nation they truly wanted to influence given the opportunity to lead the country. According to quotes in the Daily Graphic, infrastructural development appeared to be the most prominent issue most of the political parties addressed. The ruling party was cited over fifty times within the period of research for making promises and statements on the plans they had for various areas of the country with respect to the improvement of infrastructure. Other than the NDC, other parties highlighted the need to improve the number of schools, hospitals, roads and general improvements in a variety of transport services in the nation.

Out of 554 political publications in the Daily Graphic newspaper within the time frame of this research, the ruling government was published 176 times, leading with 32% in media appearances compared to the other 7 parties. With such strong media presence how could anyone ignore them? The incumbent NDC constantly updated the public on what they were doing and what they planned to do before the elections in December. Consequently it gave them an edge over the other parties who had relatively less people representing them in government. With 8 main themes being spoken about prior to the elections, NDC decided to focus on infrastructure. This could have been as a result of the work they had already begun and the collaborations with other countries that were providing aid to Ghana with infrastructural development. An example of such work was the deal with the Chinese government aiding the Winneba infrastructural development plans. John Mahama, who was the vice president as of 24th May stated that “work on the landing site in the area [was] to be funded with $200 million from the $3 billion China development bank loan would commence soon.” This party only had the right to say this because they were in power. Such plans for the country’s development seemed appealing to the citizenry and this endeared them towards the NDC. The publication on the Chinese collaboration gave the NDC an advantage over the other parties, and they used it to their benefit.

Obviously the ruling party could not only focus on one theme and expect to capture majority of the votes. For that reason, a few months later, they switched focus to education, which was quite ironic because their main opponents, the NPP, had education as their main theme for the 2012 elections. This definitely did not exclude any other political party from focusing on this theme; however the strategy used was intriguing because of the sudden switch. Contrary to this, there were promising statements which seemed fairly realistic. More NDC politicians were becoming more gender specific in their hopes to contribute to educational reforms. In Madame Helena Adjoa Otoo’s views the facilities for girls in boarding schools “were inadequate and therefore could not meet the needs of the female students’ population.” The less general publications being made addressed more specific needs of a demographic which impressed the citizenry at the time. The NDC capitalized on being more specific with their promises so that they could target smaller groups, which would eventually create a larger pool of voters. With these two themes being the most spoken of by the party, they ensured that they put out their strongest points in the newspapers and did not overlook other important themes. They were frequently spotted for speaking of good governance, as well as health, job creation and agriculture in that order of frequent publications.

Although the NPP was prominent with their focus on educational plans, they failed to convince the citizenry and one would wonder why this was so. Even though we were all aware of the “Free SHS” scheme being preached, the NPP surprisingly did not have as strong a presence in the Daily Graphic newspaper with regards to their main campaign theme. With only 48 quotes out of 132 from the NPP on education, compared to other parties’ figures for their major theme, that was not enough. Additionally, it became monotonous hearing the same topics from the same representatives and that could have contributed to the election results. Nevertheless, the parties’ promises were captivating to some of the populace, giving them hope of a brighter tomorrow. On countless occasions both the presidential and vice presidential candidates looked beyond providing free education for the knowledge gained; but also looked at the improvement of impoverished aspects of the nation. The educational theme did not only look at expanding schools and providing teachers, but also focused on improving the qualities. According to Dr Bawumia “education is the only credible way of transforming livelihoods and creating a decent life.” Whereas this claim may have been subjective yet true, the focus of the quality and accessibility to education was convincing. This emphasized that the NPP did not only want to provide a service to the citizenry, but also communicated the importance of improving the lives of the citizenry. The NPP just like all the other parties could not only focus on education or one theme as a matter of fact. Their second most spoken of theme was infrastructural development. By this time it was evident that the NPP and NDC were going after each other.

The other 6 political parties had similar plans for the nation. PPP made 22 appearances in the papers speaking on job creation; unfortunately this did not distinguish them out of the lot. In order not to appear biased, they made comments on the 8 themes. I must admit the strategy used by the PPP was impressive, within the period there were 101 stories from the PPP. It is fair to say that the PPP flag bearer, Paa Kwesi Nduom made at least one plan for the eight themes available in the paper. This may not have been much of a big deal to the other parties, however, it showed equality in the plans the party hoped to execute if they were elected.

As December 7th approached the parties began to speak of broader themes with very little depth. Knowing the state of the economy in that period with respect to our energy crises, many parties capitalized on how they could address the issue closer to the election. Additionally, corruption was another theme that came up quite frequently; assumptions being made would be that every party was trying to prove they were as transparent as possible with their plans for the betterment of the nation. One intriguing fact was the unfortunate non-debatable issue that the publications in the newspaper were not going to favour any political party more than the ruling government. This created an imbalance in the appearances others had in the papers. The Daily Graphic was definitely trying to put out the most interesting stories which came from capturing the two most competitive parties- NPP and NDC. All in all, there was never going to be an equal opportunity for all the parties to present their plans for the country in the newspapers because of the priority given to others. Until other political parties are given equal attention by the media and citizenry, the balance in publication will continue to be a fantasy.

This narrative was written by Samantha Atta-Mensah an intern with IMANI. The individual reports were compiled by Lawrinda Ewun-Tomah, an Independent Contractor


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