Ghana - Hint Of Rawlings Split Rattles Ruling Party


Ghana's long-time leader Jerry Rawlings has threatened to form a political party of his own to put pressure on President John Atta Mills, the hand-picked successor of whom he increasingly disapproves.
Opinion polls point to tight presidential and parliamentary election races in December pitting Mills and his NDC against Nana Akufo-Addo and his NPP - suggesting that Rawlings' move might give Mills pause.

"If you are in a group and you feel that your voice is not being heard, it is within your rights to get out and join another group," Rawlings's spokesman Kofi Adams told a radio politics chat show this week.
"Don't be surprised if a new party is formed with the intention of using it to salvage an existing party."
Rawlings has accused Mills of a lack of leadership over the National Democratic Congress (NDC) party, and last year his wife Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings tried to win the NDC ticket for December's vote - a challenge that Mills easily saw off.
Mills, a Fulbright scholar and former economics lecturer known to his supporters as "The Prof", enjoys a name for being incorruptible that has bolstered Ghana's reputation as one of the best places to do business on the continent.
However, detractors accuse him of indecisiveness and have criticised his handling this year of a graft case that ultimately led to four leading politicians being charged with corruption and the departure of two of his ministers.
Rawlings dominated Ghana's politics for two decades after his 1979 coup before hand-picking Mills to take over the NDC. Many Ghanaians see his continued political interventions as unwelcome interference, but he still holds sway among a small group of NDC party cadres.
OLD GUARD AGAINST NEW
Kissy Agyeman-Togobo of Songhai Advisory, a business intelligence consultancy for sub-Saharan Africa, pointed to past rumours of a Rawlings breakaway party and said it was not yet clear whether it would materialise this time.
But she added: "The resurfacing of such a claim only serves to deepen the perception of irreconcilable differences between the old and new guard within the NDC which could undermine the party's chance of victory in December."
The presidential and parliamentary elections will be Ghana's first since it made its debut as an oil exporter in 2010.
Opinion polls point to a close presidential race. A survey by Synovate in May put Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) in the lead, while others have pointed to a Mills victory.
The NDC declined comment on the formation of a new party, but said efforts were being made to patch up differences between party members in government and the Rawlings camp.
"We believe there is still room to resolve the differences and bring the party together towards victory in December," Deputy General Secretary George Lawson told Reuters.
Adams has declined to comment further and Rawlings himself told Reuters: "I wish to remain silent for now ... I'd rather leave it to Kofi Adams to handle."
But the NPP has seized on the row, hoping for a boost in a tight election race likely to be fought around whether Ghanaians are seeing the benefit of oil-fuelled economic growth, set to reach 8 percent this year.
"For us in the NPP, this is a wonderful development," said NPP director of communications Nana Akomea.
"Rawlings is not only a founder of the NDC but he was seen as Mills' mentor in the past - he is doing what he's doing now because he is convinced that Mills has disappointed Ghanaians."
Pollster Ben Ephson said Mills and the NDC could still win the elections even with the Rawlings couple opposing them - as long as he ran a strong campaign.
Moreover, forming a breakaway movement would be a big gamble for the Rawlings. "Should they decide to leave the party and Mills wins, they are finished politically," he said.

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