Ghana, one of the more politically stable and democratically mature countries in Africa, is holding presidential and parliamentary elections nationwide on Friday, 7 December. The polls will open at 0700hrs (GMT) at 26,002 stations. Slightly over half of the 24 million populace are registered to vote, although a 60 to 75 percent turnout is expected. There are eight presidential candidates, and 1,332 parliamentary aspirants for the 275 single-seat constituencies. Speaking on Wednesday, Electoral Commission (EC) chairman, Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, disclosed the commission will announce the poll results by Monday, 10 December.
President John Dramani Mahama of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) are the foremost presidential contenders. Independent observers largely believe Mahama has a slight lead over his rival due to the traditional incumbency advantages and support from the Akan majority in Ghana, conflicting with DaMina Advisors’ statistical forecast that Akufo-Addo will emerge a clear winner in the first round of the polls with a majority of at least 52 percent. The risk advisory firm attributes NDC’s anticipated loss to the poor campaign penetration among the illiterate and semi-illiterate, a general decrease in popularity, infighting, and religious and geo-ethnic factors.
The other candidates are Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Michael Abu Sakara Foster of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Henry Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP), Hassan Ayariga of the People’s National Convention (PNC), Akwasi Addai of the United Front Party (UFP) and Jacob Osei Yeboah, an independent candidate.
If none of the candidates emerge as a clear winner of a 50 percent majority plus one vote, a run off will be held on 28 December. In the case of the parliamentary elections, a simple majority will determine the new Members of Parliament. The campaigning period that has reportedly collectively cost about USD288 million (GHS549 million) is set to end at midnight on Wednesday, 5 December.
Special voting for EC staff and security, immigration and emergency personnel experienced few problems on Tuesday, 4 December. Hundreds of the prospective voters in the Greater Accra, Western and Volta regions were not listed on EC’s register, and after consulting officials at various polling stations, were told to return early on Friday. The fault reportedly lay with the voters who had failed to provide the required information and documentation. There were also reports of minor skirmishes among the voters, which marginally raised concerns of disruptions on Friday. Furthermore, EC continues to face criticism over the non-registration of 3,000 constituents in Upper Eastern Region’s Kassena-Nankana district, and the registration of minors.
Sylvia Annor, the commission’s Principal Public Relations Officer, remains optimistic about a smooth voting process; she was satisfied with the performance of the verification machines during the special voting sessions, describing the process as “quicker” and an “improvement of the past” and offered her reassurances that registered voters will not be disenfranchised, as civil service organisations, politicians and judiciary officials continue to dissuade those under the age of 18 from voting on Friday.
Indeed Annor’s optimism is supported by historical trends as Ghana has held five relatively peaceful national elections since 1992, which was preceded by a period of political instability and military rule. During the elections in 2008, violence erupted surrounding the tense unprecedented second run-off between Atta Mills and Akufo-Addo amid claims of intimidation at polling stations, ballot-box stuffing and inflated results. Jarreth Merz, director of the acclaimed documentary, “An African Election”, during a TED talk last July, described the subsequent onset of calm as the frenzied crowd in Accra started to chant for peace as one reflective both of the power of the people and Ghana’s determination to honour democracy.
Friday’s elections are expected to be peaceful, but the risk of violence remains and many are watching to see if Ghana will maintain its comparatively good record in peaceful power changes.
Free and fair elections will bolster the legitimacy of the winner and preclude potential electoral unrest. The new biometric system will for the first time be used to confirm the identities of registered voters, and while it does not eliminate fraud or electoral malfeasance, it somewhat strengthens the credibility of elections through the computerisation of operational procedures and identity verification. About 290 joint election observers from the Economic Community of West African States and the African Union, amongst other international observers, will monitor proceedings throughout the ten regions. Ghana is placing a large emphasis on the maintenance of order and 23,000 policemen supported by 18,000 immigration, fire, custom and prison officials will be available on the day and 5,000 soldiers will be on standby.