The politics of positioning on a ballot paper

To what extent will the spot that a flagbearer or party occupies on the ballot paper influence the vote on 7 December?

The position of a political party on a ballot paper plays a very important role in Ghanaian elections, as it can help the party to conjure a memorable slogan, depending on the spot it occupies.

In the 2000 elections John Agyekum Kufuor, the then presidential candidate for the New Patriotic Party (NPP), took the lowest spot on the ballot paper.

This led to the famed NPP campaign slogan “Aseε hɔ” – meaning “at the bottom”, or “down below”.

The opposition National Democratic Congress, on the other hand, went with the mantra Ɛsoro hɔ”, meaning “up above”. The party was in the second position on the ballot paper after the Great Consolidated Popular Party, led by the late Dan Lartey.

Top spot

Twenty years down the line, the flagbearer for the NPP, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo will occupy the first spot on the ballot paper.

On the other hand, after balloting at the Electoral Commission on Tuesday 20 October, the flagbearer for the opposition NDC, John Mahama, will occupy the second spot – same as the NDC did 20 years ago.

Since the balloting on Tuesday, all the political parties have begun to give differing interpretations of what the spot they occupy means, going in to the 7 December election. The main debate has focused on each party’s position on the ballot paper.

Call me number one

John Boadu, the general secretary of the New Patriotic Party, says its position in the top slot on the ballot for the December presidential and parliamentary election will make the NPP’s campaign easier.

“The position on the ballot paper in all elections is very critical … more so when you have a lot of political parties which may have presidential candidates but don’t have parliamentary candidates,” Boadu said.

“With the number-one position, you have all your parliamentary candidates on the ballot placed at number one.

“It makes it easier for us to campaign, because there are a lot of things in this country [where] the NPP government is number one in delivering those things.”

First out of the blocks

Boadu said originally the NPP had wanted the number four, to help reinforce its “4 More to Do More” mantra. Nevertheless, the party knew that no matter where it was placed, it could communicate strategically to persuade Ghanaian voters.

Boadu said the NPP can be credited as the first political party in Ghana to roll out a raft of weighty social interventions and policies.

“The New Patriotic Party … has implemented the biggest educational intervention in Ghana since independence, which is benefiting close to 1.5 million youth. It was the NPP government alone, when there was this pandemic [COVID-19], that provided free electricity and water for more than six months,” he said.

“It is the NPP that first implemented the National Health Insurance Scheme … and even when the scheme was about to collapse, we came back to save [it] and it is up and running. It is the NPP that has implemented the biggest intervention in the agric sector, which is Planting for Food and Jobs.”

Reading the omens

The flagbearer of the NDC, John Dramani Mahama, has said that his second position on the ballot paper means he will be making a second coming and will return to the presidency.

He believes the number-two spot on the ballot paper is a good omen for the party that will bring victory come 7 December.

“This is good. If you get to the booth and pick the ballot paper you’ll find my picture in the second position and the NDC symbol. So, we’re number two on the ballot paper. Second term for NDC, second term for Mahama – and this is ‘Two sure’,” he told the chiefs and people of Nkroful in Ellembelle, Western Region.

Sammy Gyamfi, the NDC’s national communication officer, tweeted that “John Mahama will be number two (2) on the ballot on 7th December, meaning God has ordained him, @JDMahama, for a second (2nd) term.”

As for the NPP, he said, its position on the ballot paper indicates that “President Akufo-Addo is ordained for just one (1) term. #TwoSure”.


Why vote?

Whatever one makes of the debate about numbering on ballot papers, it is worth noting that, for most Ghanaians, their choice will be determined by much more than a party’s position on the ballot. What will weigh most heavily in the presidential and parliamentary elections this December will be the achievements of each of the political parties standing.

The New Patriotic Party government took the bold step of introducing its flagship programme, the Free Senior High School policy, in its first year, in addition to a raft of other interventionist policies.

The party believes it deserves another four years to pursue its policies so that the country can develop faster.

Kwesi Aboagye is a shoe seller at Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra. He told me that he will vote for the New Patriotic Party because of Free SHS.

Before the policy came into effect, he was spending about GHC2,000 every time his ward began the school year. However, that has changed in the past three and a half years. He said he has spent less than GHC100 on his other children.

Kofi Yeboah is an employee of one of the Ghanaian-owned banks. He told me the 7 December election will not be an easy race. But– because of the recent clean-up of the financial sector – he knows which party he wants to vote for.

“If I vote from my head, I will vote for the NPP, but if I want to vote from my heart … This year I am going to vote from my heart by voting for the NDC,” he said.

Yeboah believes the clean-up of the financial sector had a political underpinning, hence his decision.

All to play for

I have not yet decided which party to vote for, but obviously it won’t be based on which spot a flagbearer occupies on the ballot paper.

But wait – perhaps I could vote for Akua Donkor, the presidential candidate for the Ghana Freedom Party, because she has selected a veteran journalist, Adakabre Frimpong Manso, to be her running mate.

As a journalist, I might be given priority under her presidency if she wins.

Then again, maybe not. But I am still contemplating which party to vote for, because I am still scrutinising the parties’ offers and determining which one deserves my vote.

I hope you are, too. Would you vote based on the spot occupied by a flagbearer, or would you vote by his or her track record?

Fred Dzakpata

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.
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