Friday, October 24, 2008

Piesie - Spinning the Numbers(Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng Elections' Diary)

Our space visitor could also have concluded that the ballot indicated the actual finish place of the election, if he was to go by the broadest smiles which were worn by NPP supporters as they savoured their position at the top of the ballot paper for the December 7 election.

This would appear strange and arcane to non-Ghanaians and others who take bits of the democratic process for granted. It would not matter much where a candidate was placed on the ballot paper; after all every party has a symbol and every candidate has a name, but apparently where a candidate or party is placed on the ballot is deemed to be imbued with mystical meaning and foreboding.

There was drama galore as representatives of all seven political parties in the presidential and parliamentary race gathered for the ballot on Tuesday morning. The idea was for the political parties to ballot for places on the ballot paper and for the presidential candidates, including the lone independent candidate to ballot for places on their ballot sheet.

Ordinarily this should be a very simple ABC activity, even if it was necessary in the first place. But nothing is as it appears in Ghanaian politics. The assembly of important politicians and party representatives squabbled about whether a clear or opaque container had to be used: they settled on opaque and then solemnly, as if performing the most important political act of the campaign, proceeded to pick a number.


That was the easy part. The real excitement was how the various parties would spin their place on the presidential ballot. The placing went as follows:

  1. New Patriotic Party (NPP)
  2. Peoples National Convention
  3. National Democratic Congress (NDC)
  4. Democratic Freedom Party
  5. Democratic Peoples Party
  6. Convention Peoples Party (CPP)
  7. Reformed Patriotic Democrats
  8. Independent candidate

Then, on cue, numerology came into its own as each of the parties tried to convince its members and the public that its placing was propitious. The obvious winners were the NPP which got the number one position. Its spin doctors explained that getting the top spot was divine affirmation of its slogan of "moving forward". Its main rival, the NDC countered that its own third place was even more divine as this indicated the support of the "Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Ghost".

 Thus, on and on each party claimed to have found solace in its place which was determined by pure chance. Our friend from outer space would shake his head ruefully, suggesting to himself that these politicians had lost their marbles. But, in truth, there is madness to the method of assumed numerological destiny. In an nation with a relatively low level of literacy visuals become very important and in that sense the ballot paper becomes like a family picture and the voter has to locate where various family members are in the picture. It is easy to find your favourite if you know where they are in the picture.
 According to recent political myth-making, the NPP is said to have benefited immensely from being at the bottom of the ballot in the 2000 elections. It derived a mini-slogan, "Aseeho" (at the bottom), which also had a sexual double entendre that caught the imagination of the public. Now that the NPP finds itself at the top they are spinning it in the opposite direction.
 Whether all this makes sense will be revealed only after December 7, but one thing is for sure: the picture at the bottom of the ballot would be that of an independent candidate, and no matter how he spins it, he will not be going to Flagstaff House in January 2009.


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