2016 Ghana Elections Smooth But Tensions High

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2016 Ghana Elections Smooth But Tensions High, By Jibrin Ibrahim

2016 Ghana Elections Smooth But Tensions High, By Jibrin Ibrahim

I am writing this column around 6pm on Thursday, about 24 hours after Ghanaians voted, and two issues stand out. Virtually all of us who observed the elections were impressed with the smooth, professional, almost incident free manner in which the elections were conducted in most polling stations.

This piece was written by Jibrin Ibrahim. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.

Electoral procedures were strictly followed, turn out was very high, and the verification machines worked almost without failure, while voters found their names on the register. It was almost perfect. Nonetheless, there is very high tension.

About sixteen hours after voting closed, the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) made a declaration that they had won the elections with 53.4 percent of the votes cast and insisted that the Electoral Commission must declare the results immediately to avoid mayhem. Meanwhile, the Commission had announced that the results would take about 72 hours before being announced. The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) followed with their own declaration that they were leading in the scores and will definitely win. Tension is very high and the youth are beginning to converge at party headquarters.

I was also an observer in the December 2012 Ghana elections when the day after, the General Secretary of the opposition NPP had also declared that that their candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, also the same candidate this time, had won with 51 percent of the votes, while the incumbent president had obtained 45 percent of the vote. Dr. Afari Gyan, the then Chair of Ghana’s Electoral Commission came out after 72 hours and declared President John Mahama winner of the election with 50.70 percent of the votes cast, while his main opponent scored 47.74 percent.

This time round, it appears feasible that Nana Akufo-Addo might have won but as an observer I cannot speculate on the outcome before it is formally declared. What is striking is the very strong mobilisation of the NPP, based on the belief that they won presidential elections on two previous elections but were out rigged by the NDC and that on this third attempt, their candidate will succeed because they have developed mandate protection strategies.

I have discussed with many specialists and they all concur that there is no evidence that the two previous elections were rigged but as we find out increasingly in popular electoral culture, many do not care about facts when belief in partisan positions is much more confortable.

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo is 72 years old and, clearly, this is his last chance. It is not surprising that there were obvious signs of desperation in his camp to get the position. Convention is also on his side. In recent electoral culture in Ghana, ruling parties succeed in winning a second term in office but after eight years are defeated by the opposition CHANGE candidate. It happened to former presidents Jerry Rawlings and John Kuffour, and the question is if it will happen to President John Mahama. The current president appears confident that it will not happen to him because he served out the final months of late President Mills, so he has not had his eight years in office. Of course the convention is not a rule and citizens can vote in and out who they like.

The practice in Ghana is that television and radio stations broadcast results as they are announced in polling stations and also engage in informal tallies of results and the story in the airwaves is that the eight-year convention would work for the NPP. Meanwhile, the National Peace Council has came out to strongly criticise the NPP for illegally declaring results as they did in 2012 and has urged them to exercise restraint in the interest of peace. The chair of the Electoral Commission has also criticised the two leading parties for jumping the gun. She also pointed out that voting was postponed to the following date in one constituency and as polls are usually very close in Ghana, it is out of the question to declare a winner before all the results are in.

The side story of the elections was the wife of former President Jerry Rawlings, Nana Konado Rawlings who is contesting to be president. It would be recalled that Nana Rawlings was possibly one of the most imperial and powerful first ladies in African history. In 2000, at the end of her husband’s second term in office, she had tried to contest for the presidency, which she thought she was poised to win having established structures in all districts in the country. Eventually, people say that her husband was able to persuade her not to contest. She however contested for the party presidential primaries against late President Mills and was disgraced. She then set up a party – the National Democratic Party (NDP) with the clear intention of taking votes away from her former party, the NDC and compromising the chances of John Mahama. She tried that again during this election and all indications are that she has failed again.

One issue that has been on many people’s mind is the rationality of the winner takes all nature of the electoral system. In 2012, Mahama got 5,574,761 votes, while his opponent Nana Akufo-Addo got 5,284,898, and the former got all the power while the latter got nothing. It is definitely not a just system and Ghana would have to think of developing a more inclusive political system. The two party system is getting even more entrenched with the 2016 elections. Ghana has a strong tradition of the ethnic vote but what is interesting is that some of the ethnic votes swing from election to election, which shows significant maturity of the voters. Civil society played a huge role focusing the parties on issue-based campaigns and persuading all Ghanaians to avoid violence. Finally, one of the most impressive outcomes of Ghanaian elections is the development of the skirt and blouse culture. This means that in many constituencies, voters will vote one party for the presidential election and vote for the opposing party in the parliamentary election. This is another good indication of the maturity of the Ghanaian voter. Long live skirts and blouses.

I was also an observer during the impressive December 2008 Ghanaian elections. I believe that we can say that there is a Ghanaian model of democracy that Africa can be proud of. It is the ability to transform an authoritarian militarised state into a legitimate one. It is a narrative about the rebuilding of institutions, re-establishment of the rule of law, proper conduct of pluralist elections, the promotion of press freedom, reconstitution of effective local government, development of effective oversight functions and effective public probity in a state that had previously suffered considerable decay.

The lowest point in the history of Ghana’s political development was the Acheampong regime of 1972 to 1978. The regime had taken over from the Busia elected regime, which it had accused of corruption and mismanagement. The Acheampong regime, however, turned out to be even more corrupt than the preceding ones. In July 1978, a palace coup by General Akuffo led to the removal of General Acheampong. The ban on politics was lifted and a Constituent Assembly was put in place but no serious punishment against the corruption and abuse of office of the previous regime was instituted. On May 5, 1979, an attempted coup by Jerry John Rawlings occurred but was foiled and he was detained. On June 4th, 1979, he was rescued from jail by junior ranks of the armed forces and he took over power in a “spontaneous revolution”.

When Rawlings got to power, the economic crisis had reached a catastrophic level. The intake of calories per capita, for example, was only 68 percent of the minimum required. The Ghanaian people desperately needed a redeemer and Rawlings played that role because he was considered to be a man of the people. Rawlings started a crusade for moral discipline, for probity in social and economic life and for accountability. The initial targets of the corrective punitive measures were senior military officers and their civilian collaborators. The circle however quickly widened to include smugglers, hoarders, tax defaulters, lodge members and so on. The policies seemed to represent a profound critique of the existing social structure and a cry for transformation; this was the source of the Rawlings charisma. That charisma however had a thin veneer that covered a reign of terror.

In 1992, Rawlings’ movement – the PNDC – transformed itself into a party, the National Democratic Congress and contested elections. Opposition parties were so upset at the irregularities during the presidential election that they boycotted the parliamentary elections. The transition process was clearly an undemocratic one. The PNDC had monopolised political space and refused to allow other parties the possibility of operating freely. Many observers were of the view that they were seriously flawed. Indeed, the New Patriotic Party issued a report that had detailed allegations of irregularities in 100 of the country’s 200 constituencies. The Report was very influential and was entitled, The Stolen Verdict: Ghana November 1992 Presidential Election.

The 1992 return to a liberal democratic constitution was a step towards democracy despite its numerous flaws. Political liberalisation, constitutionalism, the rule of law, judicial independence and press freedom were all placed on the political agenda. By 1996, the conditions under which elections were held had improved significantly. Since them, movement has been towards democratic consolidation, so I remain confident in Ghana’s democratic future.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of Premium Times.

This piece was written by Jibrin Ibrahim. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of 360Nobs.com.



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