In many political environments around the world the political parties on the Left are not only progressive in economic policies but also progressive in social issues. However, from my review of policy and ideological positions of political parties in Ghana I realised that only one party in the country, the GCPP, had sought to appeal to social liberals in its party platform. The rest of the political parties are dependably socially conservative although the rhetoric has turned down a bit in the last two years.
The performance of the traditional Ghanaian left-wing parties in the 2012 general elections were terrible. The PPP, GCPP, PNC and CPP combined to win just 1.34% of the total vote. If the PPP, which some suspect is not truly left because of its businessman leader Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, is excluded, then that is 0.75% of the vote for the left. Abysmal.
The left has lost much of its voters to the two major political parties especially the NDC. While the NDC claims a Social Democratic ideology, following the JJ Rawlings and not Nkrumah tradition as well as their neoliberal policies in government separates them from the other parties which claim a leftist orientation. In fact, former NDC Chairman, Dr Kwabena Adjei, admitted that the party was a social democratic party but it had attracted people of several different ideologies because of its attractiveness as a political vehicle. The NPP, which traditionally is Ghana’s right, has also won some of the left’s vote because of social interventions introduced by John Kufuor.
A lot has been said about Ghana’s traditional left-wing parties uniting. That would certainly be a good move. But Ghana’s winner-takes-all political system makes people afraid to ‘waste’ their vote. People would rather vote for the lesser of two evils because there is no reward for second place much less third place. So with the leftist parties not having the funds to entice membership, an ethnic bloc or an economic class of voters, what mostly remains is an ideological bloc. By that I mean voters who are willing to cast a protest vote for ideological purposes. These include socialists, anti-establisment types, Panafricanists and die-hard Nkrumaists. The left can include social liberals and their influence to this bloc.
Social liberals in this case include people with a strong sense of social justice, LGBT rights supporters, feminists and humanists. This voting bloc includes people who feel unrepresented by the two major political parties and are willing to cast a protest vote out of the belief that the two major political parties are not much different in office.
Would the left lose some voters if they went for social liberals? Probably. But they may stand to gain more. Right now their social views differ from most of the world’s leftists. And it would be better for their long-term future to be a platform for social change before it is adopted by one of the leading parties, something I believe would happen before too long.