[The election in Ghana was last weekend, but with a string of internet troubles, losing three drafts of this post and, to be honest, a severe case of lassitude, I’m only just getting to it now.]
When you think of elections in Africa, what comes to mind? Angry riots? Machetes? Guns? Despotic leaders clinging to power, well past their used by date?
Maybe not these two young men, wearing opposing parties t-shirts, tied together, carrying a sign of ‘PEACE’, walking through Konongo Market, blowing their vuvuzela, the day after the winner was declared.
Like Australia, Ghana is basically a 2 party system, with smaller parties and independents garnering a minimal vote. But, unlike Australia (grrr…), Ghana is a republic and so there is a direct vote for president. Ghana’s former president, John Atta Mills of the NDC, died in August; and was succeeded by John Dramani Mahama; who was successful last week. Like the last election in 2008, the results were close, 50.7% to NDC, with opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo on 47.74%.The Ashanti Region, where we live, is an opposition (NPP) stronghold.
After months, and I mean like since March, there has been precious little on the radio save political discussion (and of course football). As insistent as the political discussion, were the calls for peaceful elections. Ghanaians have seen their neighbours Côte d’Ivoire descend into a brutal civil war from an election. Anyone calling for violence has been roundly criticised.
But, to be honest, as the radio (up here in Ashanti) is mostly in Twi, the finer points of the election were lost on me. The opposition was promising free primary and secondary education, which sounded brilliant to me. But this apparently was not enough. Voter turnout was an impressive 80%. A record number of women, (29 out of 279), were elected to the legislative assembly.
But onto the election itself. The election was carried out in true Ghanaian style. Coool. With hiccups. The new biometric registration system caused some major delays with an additional day added to voting. But rather than frustrations turning violent, voters patiently queued for hours to cast their vote, or returned the following day. More significant irregularities involve claims of counting irregularities (can one constituency really register no votes for one party?). The opposition NPP are currently refusing the Electoral Commissions declaration of Mahama as president, and has taken court action. However, as the Electoral Commission has not lost a case since 1992, it seems apparent John Mahama will be sworn in on January 7. The opposition have said they will accept the court’s decision.
The elections were declared free and fair by the regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) and a local group, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO). Ghana prides itself on its peaceful and democratic society. These are the sixth consecutive peaceful elections since 1992, when coup leader J.J. Rawlings called for democratic elections (which he subsequently won). And while some foreign media couldn’t resist photos of tanks and military personnel, isn’t this the ultimate oxymoron: a good news African story?
For a great insiders view to how electioneering really works in Ghana read this article at the BBC.
AND: Did you know after the controversial 2000 Bush-Gore US election, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe offered to send in his election observers. ha!