The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) has fixed October 9 as the tentative date for President John Dramani Mahama to participate in the “Election 2012 Evening Encounter,” with Presidential Candidates.
President Mahama becomes the first ever sitting President to participate in both the Evening Encounter and presidential debate which seek to create a sole platform for each Presidential Aspirant to present his or her programmes and manifestoes to the electorate.
Both former President John Agyekum Kufour failed to participate in the Elections 2004 Encounter as well as the Presidential Debate whilst the late President John Evans Atta Mills before his demise refused to participate in this year’s Encounter.
In a statement made available to the Ghana News Agency by the NDC, Mr Johnson Asiedu Nketia, General Secretary of NDC, explained that the President has instructed the party to revert its earlier position and confer with IEA for a possible date.
“In view of President Mahama’s directives, the party held a meeting with IEA officials at the NDC headquarters on Friday where the two bodies agreed and fixed October 9 for the President to appear at the Evening Encounter platform.
“President Mahama has requested me to indicate to you his preparedness to participate in the evening encounters and subsequent debate,” Mr Asiedu Nkeitia stated.
The Flag bearer of the Convention Peoples Party, Dr Michael Abu Sakara Foster, Mr Hassan Ayariga, Flag bearer of the Peoples National Convention (PNC) and the New Patriotic Party’s Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, have already participated in the encounter.
In a related development, a statement to the Ghana News Agency, signed by Mrs Jean Mensa, IEA Executive Director, explained that the encounter served as a sole platform to present their vision for governance in a 30 minute speech.
“This is crucial, as the candidates will need to have a detailed plan on key policy issues, and to have an intimate knowledge and understanding of their proposals, and put extensive thought and careful consideration to it.
The candidates are at liberty to decide on which issues to speak on and topics may range from the economy, security, illicit drug trade, youth development…there is no restriction on which issues the candidates could speak about, and there is no requirement to consider any particular issue,” Mrs Mensa said.
She said participants will include civil society organizations, the business community, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), academia, representatives of professional associations such as the Ghana Medical Association, the Ghana Registered Nurses Association, the Ghana Bar Association, grassroots-based organizations and the media.
Mrs Mensa said the audience are expected to quiz the candidates on their presentations, but would also be allowed to ask questions about policy issues not directly addressed by the candidates.
The IEA Executive Director said the one-on-one format of the programme was designed to ensure an open and distinct avenue for the candidates to project their vision for the country to a neutral crowd.
Mrs. Mensa explained that the Evening Encounter series initiated in Election 2008 sought to provide an individual platform, and a unique opportunity, for each of the Presidential Candidates to share their vision of programmes and strategies for development.
She said it differs from the Presidential Debates in that, while debates centre on the interaction between Presidential Candidates, the focus of the Evening Encounters is on the interaction between Presidential Aspirants and the electorate.
Mrs Mensa said the Evening Encounters will provide a forum where the flag bearers and indeed the political parties have equal access to the media.
It provides the electorate, including key interest groups and organisations, an opportunity to ask probing questions of the aspirants. This would enable the electorate to discern what each Presidential Aspirant stands for, what each Aspirant intends to do and the direction in which each aspirant intends to take Ghana.
The electorate would be enabled through the Evening Encounters, to analyse and critique the plans of the various aspirants to determine how realistic the plans and programmes are. This would enable the electorate to make an informed choice on election day.