For some Ghanaians, having to choose between the NPP and NDC presents a limited set of options that’s far from ideal. There are those who do not see the hold both parties have over the nation to be a positive thing. Certainly, that percentage of voters seeking a viable alternative is in the minority as the share of votes won by all 3rd parties was less than 2% of total votes cast in 2016.

Hypothetically, if there was such a thing as a viable 3rd party in Ghanaian politics, what is the minimum share of the electorate such a party should win in order to secure a seat at the table? Being the data nerds that we are, we decided to explore this very question. 

What we found out: 

  • The combined share of support that the NDC and NPP has enjoyed in all elections to date ranges from 93.2% (2000) on the low end to 98.4% (2012) at the high end.  

  • In 2020, that number is closer to the high end than the low end. Given the gap in support between the two major parties and everyone else, the current set of electoral dynamics at play effectively precludes anyone who is not representing the NPP or NDC from rising to power. 

  • One would be forgiven to think that for a 3rd party to have an impact in our elections, the only way forward is an outright win. In reality, it doesn’t take winning anything close to a majority of votes to reshape how Ghana is governed. 

  • Our current governance structure gives near absolute power to the party that wins both the presidency and parliament. This presents two fronts for having a hand in how the nation is governed if you are said hypothetical 3rd party. 

  • The first way will be to win just enough votes to prevent either major party from winning the presidency in the first round. Our elections forecast model generates its predictions by simulating the elections more than 10,000 times. We decided to take it to task to see if there is a threshold that a 3rd party needs to cross in order to cause a run-off in every presidential election. And the magic number is only 8%.

  • If this were to happen, one can easily imagine a scenario where the NPP and NDC will have to vie for the support of this hypothetical 3rd party. And that could give said party an outsized influence in how the nation is governed. 

  • The second way for our hypothetical 3rd party to become viable is to win enough seats in parliament to bring the nation’s legislative machinery to a halt without said party’s involvement. Out of the current 275 seats, the magic number it will take is a mere 38 seats. That’s less than the number of seats the NPP wins in the Ashanti Region alone!

  • So there you have it. It really doesn’t take a majority for a 3rd party to have a say in the nation’s politics. Now as to whether such a scenario is entirely good for the country, that’s another matter altogether. As with most things in life, there are trade-offs to be considered!
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