Editorial: By-elections and Peter Mac Manu’s paradigm shift

New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament for Kumawu Constituency Philip Basoah died on Monday, March 27 at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, where he has been on admission for a serious ailment. His death was confirmed by the Majority Chief Whip, Frank Annoh-Dompreh, in a tweet the following Tuesday morning. He was the Chairperson for the Employment, Social Welfare, and State Enterprises Committee and also a member of the Lands and Forestry Committee and also a member of the Selection Committee.

In accordance with Article 112(5) of the Constitution, as amended, the Electoral Commission will publish a notice of the vacancy in the constituency and will announce the by-election date to be held in the constituency. Even before the Electoral Commission (EC) sets a date for the eleection in Kumawu, in the Ashanti region, traditionally the ruling party’s stronghold, the New Patriotic Party’s (NPP) primary is shaping up to be an interesting duel. Other political parties would also go through election processes or nominate candidates to contest the by-election.

In an interview with TV3 recently, Mr Peter Mac Manu, a former National Chairman of the NPP and a luminary in Ghana politics opined that by-elections should be done away with to avoid the acrimony and cost that comes with it. Mr Mac Manu advised that the by elections should be abolished and that the political party on whose ticket the dead MP stood, should be made to find a replacement.

Using the vacant Kumawu Constituency seat for example, which the NPP Member of Parliament, Philip Basoah held till his demise, in Mr Mac Manu’s view, the ruling NPP should be made to run an internal primary to find a replacement. According to him, this would prevent the acrimony that comes with NDC and NPP campaign and also avoid huge cost of running election by the Electoral Commission. 

There have been recorded violence in by-elections in Akwatia, Atiwa, Chereponi, Talensi and Amenfi West. The Chronicle perfectly agrees with the former NPP National Chairman’s view, especially coming on the back of the Ayawaso West by-election in 2019. The violence that marred the La-Bawaleshie polling station saw the Ningo-Prampram MP Sam George  assaulted and 18 people wounded by gunshots.

This resulted in government setting up a 3-member commission to investigate the violence that erupted during the by-election. All these came at a great cost to the state, the Electoral Commission and the political parties involved in the election. Also, during by-elections large voter turnout is absent, but all the national machinery of the political parties are brought to the constituency where the by-election will be held, leading to acrimonious exchanges and political violence.

It must, however, not be lost on us that by-elections can also be important as they are used to test the popularity of ruling governments. For instance, in swing constituencies the ruling party could maintain or lose a by-election due to economic conditions at the time of the elections. The by-elections are, therefore, a measuring gauge to test the preparedness of opposition parties for the impending general election or the ruling party to learn from its shortfalls and work hard for the coming general election.

Much as by-elections can be used to gauge government’s performance, its negative effects in our democratic dispensation cannot be written off. The Chronicle, therefore, supports Mr Mac Manu’s assertion to cancel by-elections which are costly and lead to political acrimony.


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