Wednesday, October 1, 2008

CPP And Third Party Aspirations

Ghanaian politics is not kind to third parties. Since independence the country's civilian political scene has been dominated by two political parties at any one time. The only exception is when we have experienced a de jure one-party state as was the case between 1960 and 1966 and the almost one-party state of 1969/70 when Dr. Busia's Progress Party was unchallenged.

In the 1979 election's Mr. William Ofori Atta's United National Convention which was a breakaway from the Danquah-Busia Tradition probably helped the Nkrumaist People's National Party to put Dr. Hilla Liman into the Castle, but the contest was mainly between the PNP and Mr. Victor Owusu's Popular Front Party.


The country's [political history is littered with the ghosts of party's that made the valiant but futile effort to break the political bifurcation. One Dr. John Bilson actually formed a party called the Third Force but it too went the way of other more subtly named parties but which all had the intent of breaking the two party mould.


In the coming weeks it is against this trend that the Convention People's Party will buck if it is to mount a credible third-party challenge. Until two weeks ago few people gave the CPP a chance greater than perhaps "doing better than last time", but since last time was a mere two percent that prediction did not amount to much.


However, all this seemed to change with a mammoth rally organised by the CPP at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle on September 21st, which was the 99th birthday of Osagyefo Dr, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's Independence hero and first president of the Republic.


One rally, no matter how mammoth, cannot be used as a predictor of success in such a tight political race, and especially when the two major parties are going all out to squeeze out any third party pretensions. But we should look for the auguries in the practical situation in which the party was able to put up its "Circle Show".


There are three main significant points about the large number of people, estimated at more than 20,000 strong that thronged Kwame Nkrumah Circle on Osagyefo's birthday to answer the CPP's call to arms. The first is the vindication of Nduom's strategy of "quiet recruitment" behind the scenes, especially in the rural areas. Dr. Nduom honed this skill during the Party's primaries during which he outfoxed his rivals by working steadfastly in the rural areas.


The second is the show of party unity. Almost all factions of the faction-ridden CPP were represented at the rally. The received wisdom, which is the starting point of all discussions regarding the CPP is that its effort are undermine by the factions and their mutual hostilities. Not only were almost all factions represented, it appears that there is unity of purpose behind the Nduom candidacy.


Thirdly, the CPP appears to have gone back to its spiritual home by claiming the Nkrumah legacy unequivocally. This is significant: there have been times when the party's candidate has made statements that have been interpreted as a disparagement of of Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and at other times, even some leading members of the party appear to question the relevance of Kwame Nkrumah to the CPP of today.


All doubts about the Nkrumah connection were put to rest with the rally held at Kwame Nkrumah Circle on Kwame Nkrumah's birthday with Nkrumah's daughter on display and even Nkrumah's most famous Independence Eve scene re-enacted. More importantly, the CPP has adopted Nkrumah's most enduring strategic legacy: organisation decides everything.


Now, let us not get carried away: it was just a rally, as Mr. Kwesi Pratt, a vocally disaffected member of the party has reminded us, but what a rally! It was not as big as Kasoa for the NPP, but this is the CPP, which until recently was fighting to create an identity in the minds of Ghanaians. The interesting thing is that the rally appears to have been attended mostly by party members and not by-standers. By every indication, the CPP is alive.


But if the CPP is to mount a credible third party challenge, it has to aim to capture most of the 27 percent or so of the electorate that polls say are undecided. This is because the party's potential voters that are drawn from the large pool of Nkrumaists in the country have so far not voted for the party. New and undecided voters just might be the ticket for Osagyefo's party to ride. 

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