A leading member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Alan Kyerematen, on Monday shook the country’s political landscape with his decision to go solo in the 2024 elections as an independent candidate.
A serial presidential hopeful who has contested the party’s primaries in 2007, 2010, 2014 and 2023, he believes his political pedigree and overtures towards the youth have the magical wand to win him the 2024 elections against the country’s political duopoly—the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the NPP.
Making a case for his resignation from the NPP for the second time in 15 years, he said: “it is abundantly clear to me that my service and contribution to the party are not appreciated and my continuous stay in the party will create further tension and division, which is an exact replay of circumstances that led to my decision to resign from the party in 2008.”
But does the country’s political history and election results favour him?
Throughout the archives of Ghana’s political history, the emergence of new parties formed by aggrieved members leaving the NPP or the NDC is common. However, while these breakaway parties often generate considerable attention and initial excitement, the historical record demonstrates that, more often than not, they fail to make a lasting impact on the political landscape. Neither do independent candidates fare any better.
One key reason for this limited success lies in the inherent challenges new political entities and independent candidates face. The NDC and the NPP possess significant resources, infrastructure, and name recognition, all of which are crucial for electoral success. New parties, by contrast, often struggle to compete on these fronts, making it difficult for them to gain a foothold in the political arena.
Moreover, the dynamics of Ghana’s electoral system which promotes the “first-past-the-post” structure further hinders the prospects of new parties. The system tends to favour established parties by making it challenging for smaller, emerging parties to secure seats in legislatures, which are typically winner-takes-all. It is even worse for independent presidential candidates.
History offers numerous examples of breakaway parties and independent candidates that initially appeared promising but ultimately struggled to maintain momentum.
Across West Africa, only Benin has shed the partisan skin and has elected two independent presidential candidates back-to-back as president—Thomas Boni Yayi (2006-2016) and Patrice Tallon (2016- to date).
Fact-Check Ghana goes into history to search for the performance of independent presidential candidates and break-away parties and the impact they had on Ghana’s elections since 2000.
The 2000 election was the country’s first election to have witnessed the participation of breakaway parties. The Reform Party and the United Ghana Movement were splinter parties from the NDC and the NPP respectively.
The Reform Party had its roots in the NDC. It was led by Goosie Tanoh, a presidential aid during the Rawlings administration. Many analysts believe that Rawling’s ‘Swedru Declaration’ which imposed Prof J.E.A Mills on the party as its flagbearer for the 2000 elections triggered the formation of the Reform Party. Mr Tanoh who had presidential ambitions resigned from the NDC with others, including Peter Kpordugbe and Barbara S. Asamoah (now Deputy General Secretary of the NDC).
In his defence, Mr Tanoh would later claim that he left the NDC to form the new party because the NDC had lost its adherents for sidestepping its core values of transparency, probity and accountability. He also claimed that at the time the party had little respect for the grassroots to the extent that national leaders were able to veto the grassroots’ choice of elected parliamentary candidates and replace them with their favourites.
In the 2000 elections, Mr Tanoh contested against the ruling party candidate, Prof Mills; the NPP’s J.A Kufuor; the Convention Peoples Party’s Prof George Hagan; the Peoples National Convention’s Dr Edward Mahama; the Great Consolidated Popular Party’s Dan Lartey and Dr Wereko Brobbey, aka Tarzan of the United Ghana Movement. He managed to pull 1.10% representing 78,629 of the more than 6.5 million valid votes cast.
Mr Tanoh quit politics in 2001 but rejoined the NDC in 2007.
United Ghana Movement
Energy expert, Dr Charles Wereko-Brobbey called time on his relationship with the NPP in 1998. Just like Goosie Tanoh, he left the NPP to form the UGM because of internal party conflicts. He polled 22, 123 votes, representing 0.30% of the total votes cast. It would also be the last time the party contested any election in Ghana. He later rejoined the NPP only to be suspended in 2013.
In 2004, no new party appeared on the ballot sheet, and neither did any independent presidential candidates try their luck. But two emerged in 2008— the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) and Kwesi Amoafo-Yeboah.
Democratic Freedom Party
Formed in 2006, the party originated from within the NDC. Aggrieved former leaders of the NDC, who lost the national executive contest at the party’s Koforidua congress, left to form the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP). These disgruntled leaders included a former national chairman, Obed Asamoah; a former national women organiser, Frances Asiam; Bede Zedeng, a former national general secretary, who had fallen out with former President J.J. Rawlings resigned from the NDC claiming there were attempts to assault them at the party’s congress.
At the heart of the conflict was a turf over the control over the NDC with Rawlings claiming that the NDC under the chairmanship of Mr Asamoah had lost its core values of transparency, probity and accountability. Mr Asamoah, a former foreign affairs and attorney general, on the other hand, accused the former President of being a dictator who made decisions including the Swedru Declaration without consulting the leadership of the party. He also claimed the party did not tolerate dissenting views, particularly against J. J Rawlings and Prof J.E.A Mills.
The DFP was launched in October 2006 ahead of the 2008 elections. It elected a 43-year-old marketer, Emmanuel Ansah-Antwi, as its flagbearer. Many expected the DFP to eat into the NDC’s strongholds and cause extensive damage to the NDC’s chances of winning the 2008 elections. But the DFP had a poor showing in an election Prof Mills won in a roundoff. Out of the over 8.4 million valid vote cast, the DFP’s candidate recorded 27,889 representing 0.33%.
The 2012 election also produced a breakaway party and an independent candidate—the Progressive Peoples Party led by Papa Kwesi Nduom and Jacob Osei Yeboah.
Progressive Peoples Party (PPP)
In December 2011, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, who led the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) into the 2008 elections, resigned from the party. It was an end to a cold relationship between the businessman and the CPP’s national executives who accused him of hijacking the party and subverting the authority of newly-elected executives led by Samia Nkrumah, the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s daughter.
At a press conference to announce his resignation and the subsequent formation of the PPP, Dr Nduom threw a subtle jab at the CPP, which he had also represented as a lawmaker from 2005 to 2009.
“Our new political movement aims to present a credible, united, disciplined and well-organised election machine that is coupled with a clear, specific platform for change Ghanaians can feel in their lives in their pockets within four years.”
But his rhetoric failed to match the result. He got 64,267, representing just 0.58% of the almost 11 million valid votes cast. The PPP has since contested the 2016 and 2020 elections but continued to post an abysmal performance.
National Democratic Party (NDP)
The 2016 polls produced yet another new party—the National Democratic Party (NDP). After losing a rather acrimonious NDC flagbearership race to Prof J.E.A Mills (now late), former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawling in October 2012 left the party her husband led into two elections to form her own party in 2012. Mrs Rawlings who had resigned as the NDC First National Vice-Chairperson to pursue her presidential ambition accused the leadership of the party of not creating a level playing field in the two-candidate race.
Her team also alleged that in the course of the campaign, there had been a grandiose design of “vile propaganda used especially against our candidate”.
The Electoral Commission disqualified her and three other candidates from contesting the 2012 elections over their failure to properly fill their nomination forms. Known as the ‘Iron Lady’, Nana Konadu’s presidential ambition provoked excitement and controversy, with supporters acclaiming a breakthrough for women while her critics were concerned about the prospect of an entrenched political dynasty. But the woman of steel who cut her political teeth while massing up thousands of Ghanaian women behind her husband during the days of the revolution and the aftermath was unfazed.
She returned to the race in 2016 but garnered only 17,207 representing 0.16% of the more than 10.7 million valid votes. Her performance in 2020 was no different.
All Peoples Congress
The 2020 elections also produced two new faces –Hassan Ayariga who broke away from the Peoples National Convention before the 2016 elections and an independent presidential candidate, Alfred Asiedu Walker. Mr Ayariga who contested the 2012 election on the PNC’s ticket resigned, accusing the EC and his contender, Dr Edward Mahama, of rigging the party’s primaries. He formed the All Peoples Congress (APC) in January 2016 but couldn’t make it on the 2016 ballot paper because he was disqualified for failing to properly fill his nomination form. He, however, contested the 2020 election and polled 7,140 which was 0.054% of the more than 13.1 million valid votes.
Independent presidential candidates
Three independent presidential candidates have contested four elections since 1992 – a businessman, Kwasi Amoafo Yeboah, in 2008 and a businessman and electrical engineer, Jacob Osei Yeboah, who contested in 2012 and 2016 and 2020 elections.
They couldn’t even garner 0.5% of the valid votes cast. In fact, rejected ballots were more than the total number of votes the three had amassed in their attempt to win the presidential elections.
There is no doubt that Alan Kyeremanten might be the most prominent independent presidential candidate since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1992. However, a critical examination of data reveals a trend that is not sympathetic: several noteworthy figures who vied for the presidency under the banners of breakaway parties or as independent candidates did not fare well. In a country where allegiance tends to lean more towards political parties rather than personalities, Alan Kyerematen will need more than his profile to break the jinx of independent presidential candidates.
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