How Ghana’s presidential election was won and lost
The peaceful conduct of Ghana’s Presidential Election held on December 7 was no doubt a beacon of democracy.
Since 1992 when Ghana returned to democratic rule, after a protracted military regime, two parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) have lost power to each other. The beauty of the exercise was that at each of the time power has to move from one party to the other is usually done under a peaceful and atmosphere.
In 2000, former President Jerry Rawlings’ ruling NDC lost power to the opposition NPP’s candidate, John Agyekum Kuffour, even though he (Rawlings) was the incumbent.
Similarly in 2008, Kuffour, who succeeded Rawlings, conceded defeat to the NDC, John Fifiifi Arthur Mills under peaceful atmosphere.
Three months to the end of Arthur Mills’s tenure, in 2012, he passed on. His Vice, John Dramani Mahama completed his tenure after which he contested the 2012 election and won.
Mahama however sought for re-election in the December 7 election but lost to the NPP’s and his opponent, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo who, like Mills made his third attempt to the presidency.
Akufo-Addo’s victory put to an end the 24 years old culture of ‘Johns’ ruling the almost 60-year old former Gold Coast, which obtained its Independence from the British Colonial rule in March 6, 1957 under the leadership of Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
Nana Addo won with 53.85 per cent against Mahama’s 44.40 per cent. The President Elect’s party also won 171 parliamentary seats out of the 275 seats.
In the 2012 election, Mahama defeated Nana Addo with about 300,000 votes but in the last election Nana Addo defeated him with about one million votes.
The outcome of the election must have been determined by the decision of the electorate to vote against the ruling party based on the indices of hardship brought about by the mismanagement of the economy and uncontrollable corruption within the government.
The NDC allegedly ran a malicious and hate campaign against Nana Addo, whom it described as being too ‘short’ to rule, a ‘violent person’ and a ‘cocaine sniffer’ among others. The ruling party went as far as boasting to retire the President-elect completely from politics.
The NDC major campaign message was that it had built massive infrastructure, including roads, schools, hospitals and expansion of the Tamale, Northern Region capital’s Airport.
The party also said it needed more time to complete all the uncompleted projects. But while it is true the party embarked on massive infrastructure, there were some government employees, including teachers and nurses who did not receive salaries for over two years.
Before the election, there was the apprehension it would result into violence. Such fear was heightened when few days to the exercise, NDC supporters who were on ‘Health Walk’ passed in front of Akufo-Addo’s Nima, Accra house and hurled stones into the house. His private security men had to fire warning shots to disperse them.
The following day both the American and British High Commissioners issued a statement, warning that any politician that instigated violence before, during and after the election would be denied Visa to their countries.
All, including the NPP who had severally accused the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Mrs. Charllote Osei, of allegedly conniving with the ruling NDC party to rig the election commended the commission.
The Chairman of Let My Vote Count, a political group, Mr. David Asante, who criticised every action the commission took before the election publicly commended it for a job well done.
Why the incumbent lost
One of the grievances of the electorate against the ruling party was that most of the government appointees, including ministers were accused of perceived arrogance and that they usually come on air to defend the indefensible, using foul languages against whosoever dares to hold contrary views to theirs on government policies.
Another factor was the issue of corruption, which was assumed to be at its peak in Mahama’s government. In fact, Rawlings, the founder of NDC publicly described out going administration as the most corrupt since the country’s Independence.
The government increased taxes, fuel price and electricity bills. The NPP disclosed that the NDC government increased the country’s external debt from 9.8billion Cedis in 2008 to 101 billion Cedis.
Another thing that counted against the NDC was that they sidelined Rawlings, founder of their party. Rawlings’ eldest daughter had to fight to the Supreme Court to get permission to contest for the party’s Parliamentary seat.
The NDC refers to the Volta Region, Rawlings’ region, one of the ten regions as their “World Bank” because they have always won between 97-98 % of the votes there. But reverse was the case this time because their votes there was reduced drastically.
The Guardian leant that many NDC supporters deliberately did not go to vote, apparently because of the way Rawlings has been treated by the party.
NPP anchored their campaign on free education up to High School Certificate (HSC) level, provision of factory for each district and provision of a dam for each village in the Northern Region who are predominantly peasant farmers.
The NDC, which has ruled for 16 years out of the 24 years since the country return to democratic rule, successfully convinced Ghanaians that Mahama is ‘incompetent’ and that if reelected would increase their hardships.
Mahama pledged his support to the new government while Akufo-Addo promised not to witch-hunt anyone. Both of them are the co-chairmen of a Transition Committee to organise a smooth handover of power.
Ghanaians are full of expectation that Nana would, hopefully within the shortest possible time turn around the economy.