Deputy Education minister Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has indicated, it is possible for the NDC to rescind its decision to boycott the 2016 presidential debates being organised be the Institute for Economic Governance (IEA).
A return to the IEA debate he said is conditioned on the IEA providing assurances that it will be more balanced and fair towards the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC). The IEA would also have to explain actions in the past which the NDC believes showed it was biased against the governing party, he intimated.
Mr. Ablakwa made the comment after praising the US presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump held yesterday in New York. The deputy minister observed that the US debate provided a platform for a show of wit and oratory for US politics is renowned.
He stated that it was an enlightening experience for voters in America who are set to go to the polls on November 8.The US presidential debate watched by a section of Ghanaians would have whetted appetite for a Ghana version possibly with the two main contenders, the NDC candidate and sitting president John Mahama and NPP Presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
But any hope of a similar debate in Ghana is increasingly becoming unlikely if the event is hosted by the IEA, an organisation that has organised presidential debates in the four elections. In June 2016, the governing NDC announced it had pulled out their candidate President John Mahama, accusing the IEA of bias. This is not the first the party is doing this.
In the 2012 elections, the NDC said its then candidate John Mills would not participate in the debates but beat a U-turn when President Mills died and John Mahama replaced him as candidate. “We have concerns about some of the statements of the top officials of the IEA...their posture,” he said.
He stressed the party line that the NDC was not consulted in the processes adopted by the IEA when it announced the 2016 presidential debates which is expected in October. “On this one all the parties corroborated the NDC’s view...I heard NPP communication director say that they were also not consulted”, he said. “If the IEA were more open, more transparent, more balanced, more fair , more careful with their posturing ...we would not have these concerns,” he stated.
As things stand currently, the 2016 presidential debate to be organised by the IEA would be a trap for President Mahama, Samuel Ablakwa said.
He explained that the decision of the party to pull out of the debate has no bearing on the president’s capacity to hold his own in a debate. “Mahama would love to debate...he has been debating all his life...we believe that it is really his strength,” the deputy education minister said.
While expressing disappointment in the IEA’s posture towards his party, the deputy minister pointed to the prospects of a debate to be organised by the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).
“Let us not rule out a possibility of a Hillary Donald style if there is a credible platform. We have heard the NCCE say that they would want to organise one”.
“All the indications ...from within my party is that if they go ahead, the NDC will present its flagbearer”
Nonetheless if the IEA is keen on a return of the NDC to the presidential debate, a second window exists, Ablakwa said.
Opening a window of opportunity for the IEA, the deputy minister said on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Tuesday, “we have time. If the IEA will give assurances and will try to explain some of the concerns that party has, who knows may be the NDC will take a second look”.
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