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Primaries on Demand? Intra-Party Politics and Nominations in Ghana

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2012

Abstract

In new democracies, why do political party leaders relinquish power over nominations and allow legislative candidates to be selected by primary elections? Where the legislature is weak and politics is clientelistic, democratization of candidate selection is driven by local party members seeking benefits from primary contestants. Analysis of an original dataset on legislative nominations and political interference by party leaders for the 2004 and 2008 elections in Ghana shows that primaries are more common where nominations attract more aspirants and where the party is more likely to win, counter to predictions in the existing literature. Moreover, the analysis shows that party leaders interfere in primaries in a pattern consistent with anticipation of party members’ reactions.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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Footnotes

*

Department of Government, Harvard University (email: nichino@gov.harvard.edu, nlnathan@fas.harvard.edu). The authors wish to thank Robert Bates, Jorge Domínguez, Jeff Frieden, Frances Hagopian, Adam Glynn, Torben Iversen, James Robinson, Arthur Spirling and seminar participants at Harvard University for helpful suggestions, and Abel Boreto, Sangu Delle, Daniel Kroop, Jitka Vinduskova and Sumorwuo Zaza for their research assistance. Support for this research was provided by the Committee on African Studies and the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. To ensure exclusive access to our original data collection for a second article, we impose a one year embargo on making replication material for this article publicly available. Project data will be available no later than 12 months after publication of this article at http://dvn.iq.harvard.edu/dvn/dv/nichino.

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28 An even better option for the party leader would be for the party leader's favoured aspirant to make the payments to the other aspirants in exchange for their withdrawal. But inducing the favoured aspirant to do so would have its own costs to the party leader and would appear the same to local party members, so we do not consider it as a separate option here.

29 Kemahlioglu et al., ‘Why Primaries in Latin American Presidential Elections?’

30 Poiré, ‘Biased Ambitions’; Langston, ‘The Changing Party of the Institutional Revolution’; De Luca et al., ‘Back Rooms or Ballot Boxes?’

31 The number of constituencies was increased from 200 to 230 just prior to the 2004 elections.

32 Constituency development funds like those in Ghana exist in Kenya, India, the Philippines, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia, among others. See Philip Keefer and Stuti Khemani, ‘When Do Legislators Pass on “Pork”? The Determinants of Legislator Utilization of a Constituency Development Fund in India’ (The World Bank, Working Paper, 2009).

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37 For an example, see Halifax Ansah-Addo, ‘NPP to Expel Appiah-Ofori’, Daily Guide, 8 July 2009.

38 For example, see ‘Voting progresses at NPP Conference’, Ghana News Agency, 17 December 2005, http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/politics/artikel.php?ID=96234

39 Party supporters can become ‘card-carrying’ members by applying at a local branch office of the party and paying their annual dues, which are about US$1 (author's interview with NPP Regional Secretary, Brong Ahafo Region, Sunyani, 6 October 2009).

40 Article 11 of the Constitution of the New Patriotic Party, Accra, Ghana (1998).

41 Öhman, ‘The Heart and Soul of the Party’.

42 The former General Secretary (1998–2005) and current Vice-Chairman of the NDC said of his party's approach to candidate selection: ‘In 2000 we decided to go a bit more bureaucratic … and we paid for it because we lost a number of seats … So in 2004 we didn't make the mistake. We opened the flood gates so that everybody’ could run (Author's interview with former NDC General Secretary (1998–2005) and current Vice-Chairman, Accra, 6 May 2010. Also author's interview with NDC General Secretary, Accra, 5 March 2010). Although this decision suggests the adoption of primaries by the weaker party, in line with Serra, this view is not supported by our data analysis (Serra, ‘Why Primaries?’). Though the NDC had more primaries in 2004 than in 2000, the party leadership continued to prevent some primaries in both 2004 and 2008. The NPP was still more likely to hold primaries than the NDC in both 2004 and 2008.

43 Article 11 of the Constitution of the New Patriotic Party, Accra, Ghana (1998); Article 42 of the Constitution of the National Democratic Congress, Accra, Ghana (2002).

44 Generally, to be eligible for the primary in 2004 and 2008, aspirants had to be dues-paying members in the constituency, hold only Ghanaian citizenship, pay a filing fee, reported to be roughly US$350 in 2008, and also demonstrate support from party members in the constituency.

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48 For example, see Simmons Yusuf Kewura, ‘Tears Flow at Minister's House’, Ghanaian Chronicle, 12 August 2004; Kwame Asare Boadu, ‘Boakye is NPP Candidate for Asunafo South’, Daily Graphic, 7 July 2007.

49 Author interview with NPP Ayawaso East constituency nominee (2008 election), Accra, 12 May 2010.

50 For a typical example, see Moses Dotsey Aklorbortu, ‘Shama NPP Supporters Protest Against MP’ Daily Graphic, 28 May 2008. Also see Victor Kwawukume, ‘NDC Group Threatens to Vote “Skirt and Blouse” ’, Daily Graphic, 22 April 2008.

51 For example, in the Effutu constituency in the NPP in 2004. See ‘Confusion Rocks Effutu NPP’, modernghana.com, 18 October 2004, http://www.modernghana.com/news/64919/1/confusion-rock-effutu-npp.html.

52 See Enoch Darfah Frimpong, ‘NPP Fomena Appeals to National Executive’, Daily Graphic, 14 March 2008.

53 See Samuel Kyei-Boateng, ‘Protest Over NDC Plan for Wenchi East’, Daily Graphic, 25 September 2004.

54 Our main sources were the AllAfrica.com database search engine, which contains articles from three Ghanaian daily newspapers (Ghanaian Chronicle, Accra Daily Mail, and Daily Searchlight) and microfilm copies of all issues of Ghana's ‘paper of record’, the Daily Graphic, from January 2003 through June 2008. Microfilm of the Daily Graphic from July 2008 to 2012 is not yet available, although most primaries for the 2008 elections had already been conducted by this point. Newspapers in Ghana often have political affiliations – the Chronicle devoted far more coverage to developments in the NPP, for example – but the Daily Graphic had more balanced coverage.

55 Ansolabehere et al., ‘The Decline of Competition in US Primary Elections, 1908–2004’.

56 Having a primary election is partly mechanically related to the number of aspirants who come forward to seek a party's nomination for parliament, since having only one aspirant always means no primary. Having more than one aspirant is necessary for, but does not mechanically imply a contested primary, since party leaders can still interfere to prevent primaries from taking place.

57 Outcomes for both election years can be viewed as largely independent decisions, in that party-constituencies that held primaries in 2004 were not more likely to have primaries in 2008 than those that did not have primaries in 2004. In our data, 65 per cent of the constituencies that did not have primaries in 2004 had primaries in 2008, while 69 per cent of constituencies that did have primaries in 2004 had them again in 2008.

58 For example, in Ellembelle constituency in the Western Region of Ghana, the NPP presidential candidate won 61 per cent of the vote in the 2004 election, but the NPP deferred to the CPP, a minor party, and did not field a parliamentary candidate. As the NPP prepared for the 2008 elections, a more realistic expectation of the potential support for a hypothetical future NPP parliamentary candidate, should the party have chosen to end the alliance, would have been something closer to the 61 per cent the party received in the 2004 presidential election than the 0 per cent it received by default in the 2004 parliamentary election.

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60 We also estimate models including higher order terms and interaction terms between ethnic fractionalization and the previous vote share and find that these terms were not statistically significantly different from zero (not shown), so they are excluded from our favoured specification. We also estimate a generalized additive model, allowing for an interaction between ethnic fractionalization and the previous vote share. With the vis.gam function in the mgcv package in R, we visually confirm that the parametric form of the equation displayed above, including the squared term on past vote share and the assumption of no interaction between ethnic fractionalization and past vote share, is reasonable (not shown).

61 Results using the parliamentary vote share rather than the presidential vote share are very similar (not shown).

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63 Serra, ‘Why Primaries?’; Adams and Merrill, ‘Candidate and Party Strategies in Two-Stage Elections Beginning with a Primary’.

64 To check, we have estimated this model with the quadratic term (not shown) and find that the probability of a primary election predicted by the models with and without the squared term are quite similar, is generally increasing with previous vote share, and always falls within the 95% confidence interval of the other model. The percentage of observations correctly predicted also hardly differs across the models. Since a simpler model is generally preferred and our theory for the restricted sample is that the probability of a primary would increase in the previous vote share, we prefer to exclude the squared term.

65 We created an index for the development level of a constituency created by conducting a factor analysis with a principal-component factor model of three extremely highly correlated measures of living conditions recorded in the 2000 Census data – percentage of households using electricity, percentage of households using modern sanitation facilities (toilet), and percentage of households with running water (either pipe-borne or from a tanker).

66 The proportions are statistically indistinguishable at higher numbers of aspirants because they are very close to 1 and the sample sizes become much smaller. We ignore the difference in proportions between observations with only one aspirant and those with additional aspirants because it is mechanically not possible to have a contested primary election with only one aspirant.

67 For example, Agyekum-Gyasi, ‘Baffuor deGraft Elected Parliamentary Candidate’; Magdalene Sey, ‘NPP MP aspirant goes independent’, Ghanaian Chronicle, 6 August 2008.

68 For example, see Simmons Yusuf Kewura, ‘Tears flow at Minister's house’, Ghanaian Chronicle, 12 August 2004; Kwame Asare Boadu, ‘Boakye is NPP candidate for Asunafo South’, Daily Graphic, 7 July 2007.

69 Author interview with former NDC General Secretary (1998–2005) and current Vice-Chairman, Accra, 6 May 2010.

70 Serra, ‘Why Primaries?’; Adams and Merrill, ‘Candidate and Party Strategies in Two-Stage Elections Beginning with a Primary’.

71 Rather than quality in campaign skills, the party leader may be interested in education, experience, or other qualities that would indicate competence in the legislature. But we find that incumbents with less education or without ministerial experience are no less likely to seek re-election than their more educated or more experienced counterparts. Including these variables together in the model does not affect any of our estimates (not shown).

72 Montalvo, José and Reynal-Querol, Marta, ‘Ethnic Polarization, Potential Conflict, and Civil Wars’, American Economic Review, 95 (2005), 796816CrossRefGoogle Scholar

73 Serra, ‘Why Primaries?’; Adams and Merrill, ‘Candidate and Party Strategies in Two-Stage Elections Beginning with a Primary’; Carey and Polga-Hecimovich, ‘Primary Elections and Candidate Strength in Latin America’.

74 Levitsky, Steven and Helmke, Gretchen, ‘Informal Institutions and Comparative Politics: A Research Agenda’, Perspectives on Politics, 2 (2004), 725740Google Scholar

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