Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party is holding the first round of primary elections on Saturday to chose its candidate for the 2024 election, with President Nana Akufo-Addo stepping down after two terms.
Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia, a former central bank official, has been touted as an early front-runner by analysts and pollsters, though Saturday’s vote is the first of two primary races.
Party delegates will chose five of the ten top candidates on Saturday to go through a final vote on November 4 on the candidate for the December 2024 presidential contest.
Alongside Bawumia, the field includes two other top contenders for the post — Alan Kyerematen, a former trade minister, and Kennedy Agyapong, a prominent lawmaker, according to analysts.
“Bawumia is the most marketable aspirant and he seems to have a lot of support among the super delegates,” local pollster Ben Ephson told AFP.
“He has been formidable and given a good account of himself as a vice president. I will be so surprised if he doesn’t lead with a good margin on Saturday.”
Results to select the top five candidates from the nationwide voting are expected later Saturday afternoon.
Ghana is managing with its worst economic crisis in years and has entered into a $3 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund in a bid to better manage a debt burden.
If he wins the NPP candidacy, Bawumia — a former deputy governor of the central bank –- could become the first Muslim to lead the ethnic Akan-dominated party.
The NPP, whose stronghold is in the Akan-dominated Ashanti Region, has been led by non-Muslims and Akan-speaking candidates since its formation.
But the country’s dynamics seem to have changed with Bawumia becoming the first non-Akan aspirant of the NPP, demonstrating his strong position as front-runner.
But Carlos Ahenkorah, a NPP lawmaker and spokesperson for Kyerematen, said it would be too risky for the party to elect a sitting vice president as its candidate after the recent economic turmoil.
“It will be politically suicidal and strategically unwise for us,” he said.
But Bawumia’s camp points to his proven record in opposition and in government, and analysts said he also appeared to have establishment backing as someone who has been a loyalist and has an economic background.
“He has paid his dues and stood by the party when all wasn’t well in opposition. The delegates feel it is time to reward him,” Abdul-Razak Wuni, a political scientist, told AFP.
“It’s clear that the economic crisis will dominate the campaign in the lead up to the 2024 polls — the NPP will need an economist… He’s the suitable choice for them,” he said.