What the Re-election of Brazilian President Means for President Mahama

What the Re-election of Brazilian President Means for President Mahama

This piece is purely the opinion of Jerome Kuseh.

Dilma-campanha

Like President Mahama in Ghana, President Dilma Rousseff has seen the Brazilian economy struggle under her watch. The Brazilian real has lost a third of its value against the US dollar, growth is sluggish and there has been a slew of corruption scandals. Her re-election on Sunday against her centre-right challenger, Aécio Neves, indicates that voters sometimes look beyond prevailing economic conditions.

Dilma’s Workers Party won 51.6% of the vote in the run-off election to beat Mr Neves’ Brazilian Social Democratic Party in one of the narrowest election wins in the country’s history.

Ms Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla fighter receives much of her support from the nation’s poor and working class, who have benefited from the welfare policies instituted by her predecessor, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva. Mr Neves’ party has been associated with the rich minority of Brazil and receives support from the business community. He appears to have been unable to shed the perception that a vote for his party would represent a vote for more inequality. His party has now lost three elections in a row.

In a Facebook post, which was also shared on Twitter, President John Dramani Mahama has congratuled Ms Rousseff on her victory.

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The co-operation he is referring to includes the Tamale International Airport Project which is being supported by the Brazilian government. But nobody, least of all the president, can overlook the similarities that exist between Brazil and Ghana.

President Mahama’s government has been characterised by economic challenges including a fast depreciating currency, high inflation, slowing growth, fuel shortages and power rationing. Allegations of corruption in the Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development Agency (GYEEDA) and the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) have also cast doubts on the president’s commitment to fighting corruption.

With the re-election of Nana Akufo-Addo as the flagbearer of the opposition NPP, President Mahama and his NDC will be hoping that should the economy not improve by 2016, Ghanaians will follow the Brazilian example and give a third successive defeat to Nana Akufo-Addo.

However, President Mahama will be careful to note that Ghana’s political landscape is not as ideologically divided as Brazil’s. President John Agyekum Kufuor of the NPP, exited office in 2008 after having instituted welfare programmes including the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), national school feeding programme and the capitation grant for schools. Yet the NPP is often referred to as Ghana’s centre-right party.

Ghana’s traditional left is now left with a myriad of parties all claiming some form of connection to the nation’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. The NDC has carved a large portion of that vote for itself, but they have been largely indistinguishable from the NPP in terms of economic and welfare policy.

With this nebulous political terrain, the president knows better than to rely on the Brazilian example. Ghana’s political division lies more in ethnic allegiances than ideological disagreements. However, that has not prevented a large majority of Ghanaians (72%, according to the latest afrobarometer poll) from giving the government poor marks on economic management.

It appears that the president’s best bet on winning another four year term is to improve the economy. The recent rise in the value of the cedi as a result of the issuing of the Eurobond, the cocoa syndicated loan and the confidence effect of the IMF programme provides an opportunity for the government to follow through with reducing expenditure and increasing revenue. But it appears that in the long run, international commodity prices and donors will have to turn in the nation’s favour.

As the president celebrates Ms Rousseff’s victory, he is sure to keep in mind that this means little for his own political future.

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