Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Ghana on December 7, 2012. The President of Ghana, the country’s head of state, is elected for a four year term, renewable once. The unicameral Parliament, after this election, will have 275 members, 45 more than it currently does. They are elected in single-member constituencies by FPTP.
Ghana is a success story in a troubled and unstable region prone to political and ethnic violence, the most notable and recent example being Ghana’s unlucky western neighbor, Côte-d’Ivoire. Today, Ghana is regarded as a successful and stable democratic state with remarkably little violent ethnic conflict and a strong economy.
The former Gold Coast, one of Britain’s most cherished colonial possessions, was the first sub-Saharan colony to win independence in 1957. The country’s father of independence and head of state between 1957 and 1966 was Kwame Nkrumah, a figure who is widely known in the rest of Africa and recognized as a leader of the ‘pan-Africanist’ movement which sought African political unity. In power, Nkrumah grew authoritarian and followed a socialist and pro-Moscow policy which destroyed the country’s cocoa industry.
The period immediately prior to independence laid the bases of Ghana’s modern political system, which unlike in surrounding West African nations is much more ideological and less ethnic, even if it is still influenced by ethnic differences and tensions. In 1949, the pro-independence United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) split after Nkrumah, an intellectual, founded his own party, the Convention People’s Party (CPP) on a more radical nationalist platform than the UGCC, perceived as closer to the colonial power. Indeed, Joseph B. Danquah’s UGCC was an elite group tied closely to the Ashanti ethnic group and Ashanti chiefs (the Ashanti in southern Ghana have tended to form the country’s economic elite and tend to be more educated and wealthier than other ethnic groups). Following independence, the ideological divide between Nkrumah’s pan-Africanist socialist CPP and Danquah’s UGCC (renamed NLM) continued; the NLM finding support in the Ashanti regions with cocoa growers, local chiefs and the elites.
Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup in 1966, which led to a period of political instability, economic chaos and military coups throughout the 1970s which lasted until 1981. In these years, Ghanaian politics was generally dominated by Nkrumah’s opponents who pursued a more conservative policy, closer to Washington and to the cocoa industry. Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings led a successful coup in 1979, but Rawlings stepped down n favour of a democratically elected President, Hilla Limann, who professed to represent the inheritance of Nkrumah’s CPP. But facing social unrest, economic chaos and widespread discontent, Rawlings stepped back in, seizing power for himself in 1981.
Rawlings was authoritarian, but fairly ‘tame’ and moderate compared to other West African dictators of the era. At the outset, Rawlings made gestures towards the revolutionary Nkrumahists, but seeing the Nkrumahists as a threat to his power, he quickly sidelined them and successfully reshaped the ‘left’ (represented in the past by the Nkrumahists CPP) to his own mold. Rawlings was thus able to progressively replace Nkrumahism with his own brand of left-of-centre politics, which came to agreements with the Ashanti-dominated Danquah/Busia centre-right tradition on the need for structural adjustment, international openness and liberal economic policies.
After sidelining the revolutionary left and toning down his own revolutionary rhetoric, Rawlings moved towards a liberal economic policy and implemented structural adjustments recommended by the IMF and the World Bank. These policies were successful in restoring economic growth, and may eventually have promoted the move towards multi-party democracy in 1992.
The first free election since 1979 was held in 1992. Jerry Rawlings was the candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), challenged by the National Patriotic Party (NPP), the latest incarnation of the country’s right-wing Danquah/Busia tradition and still largely dominated by Ashanti/Akan economic elites (while Rawlings found support with other groups, but most notably his own people – the Ewe in the Volta region bordering Togo). Rawlings won the first election, recognized by observers as free and fair, with 58% against 30% for the NPP and about 7% for former President Hilla Limann, standing on a Nkrumahist platform. Claiming the election was stolen, the NPP boycotted the subsequent parliamentary election.
The 1996 election confirmed the bipolarization of Ghanaian politics, with the progressive marginalization of the anti-system Nkrumahist left, which won only 3% of the vote in 1996 and whose decline was in part precipitated by its unnatural alliance with its historical rivals, the centre-right NPP. Rawlings won a second term with 57% of the vote in 1996. These second elections also consolidated multi-party democracy, with the entrance of the opposition into Parliament.
The 2000 election saw the peaceful transfer of power between the NDC and the NPP, a sign of the country’s matured democracy. John Kufuor of the NPP defeated John Atta-Mills of the NDC in a runoff election with 57% of the vote. In a 2004 rematch, Kufuor defeated Atta-Mills with 52.5% against 44% of the vote. Kufuor’s two terms were marked by rapid economic growth and low inflation, although poverty and political corruption remained major issues.
In 2008, the NDC’s John Atta-Mills narrowly defeated the NPP’s candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo (the son of a former president) in a closely fought election, prevailing with 50.2% in the runoff. Atta-Mills died on July 24 this year, at age 68. By his death, Atta-Mills had become fairly unpopular despite strong economic growth and record-low inflation because of corruption, the devaluation of the currency and new oil contracts in the country’s nascent oil industry which gave the government fewer royalties than before. Atta-Mills was succeeded by Vice President John Dramani Mahama.
After Atta-Mills’ death, Mahama replaced him as the NDC’s presidential candidate. Atta-Mills had defeated a primary challenge from Jerry Rawlings’ wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, late last year. The former president had his differences with Atta-Mills and was widely seen as being behind his wife’s candidacy, and later by his wife’s new splitoff political party. She had tried to run in this election, but her candidacy was rejected due to errors in her documentation. The NPP candidate was Nana Akufo-Addo, the party’s 2008 presidential candidate.
Turnout was 79.43%, much higher than in 2008. Results for the presidential race were:
John Dramani Mahama (NDC) 50.70%
Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP) 47.74%
Papa Kwesi Nduom (PPP) 0.59%
Henry Herbert Lartey (GCPP) 0.35%
Hassan Ayariga (PNC) 0.22%
Michael Abu Sakara Foster (CPP) 0.18%
Jacob Osei Yeboah (Ind) 0.14%
Akwasi Addai Odike (UFP) 0.08%
This website has presidential results by parliamentary constituency.
The parliamentary results do not seem to be finalized as of now, according to this website the NDC has 120 seats against 95 for the NPP as things currently stand.
Mahama prevailed in another closely fought election. However, Nana Akufo-Addo claims that glitches which prolonged voting allowed the incumbent government to tamper with the votes. He has refused to concede defeat, unlike after the 2008 election, and urged his supporters to take to the streets (although he will be contesting the result in courts, not through violence). But international observers say the vote was free and fair, and the few glitches along the way were not enough to change the result.
Mahama likely benefited from the remarkably smooth transition after Atta-Mills’ death in July, and perhaps from a lingering sympathy vote for the deceased president. In his campaign, he promised to tackle corruption – which is one of the biggest political issues in the country, reduce youth unemployment and use wealth generated by the new offshore oil industry to develop infrastructure. The NPP promised largely the same thing, albeit with a slightly more liberal bent than the social-democratic NDC.
Although Ghana’s politics are less ethnic than in other countries and elections are more complex than the ‘ethnic census’ elections in other West African countries (or even South Africa), ethnicity does remain a major factor. The NPP, heir of the Danquah/Busia right-wing tradition, is a predominantly Ashanti elite party which is led by Ashanti leaders and which finds its strongest support in the Ashanti/Akan regions of Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo or Eastern Region. It is also strong with the more educated and affluent sectors of Ghanaian society. Akufo-Addo won over 70% of the vote in the rural Ashanti constituencies of the Ashanti Region this year, and the NPP has been dominant in that region since 1992.
On the other hand, part of the NDC’s success in 2008 and again in 2012 lays with its ability to build a strong, multi-ethnic base of support. The NDC finds very strong support in the Volta Region, where it has consistently won over 80% of the vote since 1992. Rawlings was a native Ewe, an ethnic group which is split between Togo and Ghana and which has historically been quite opposed to the Ashanti elites in Accra ever since it voted against joining Ghana in 1956 (the Volta Region was British Togoland). Mahama himself is from the Northern Region, and Atta-Mills was from the southwest. The NDC has found strong support in these regions as well, including in the northern parts of the country which, like in the Côte-d’Ivoire are traditionally Muslim in contrast to the Christianized or animist south.
Although the opposition has not conceded defeat, this election confirmed Ghana as a bright spot in West Africa and a stable, democratic success story in Africa.