#GhanaDecides: The significance of Ghana’s elections to Africa

Today, Ghanaians go to the polls in the 7th general elections since the return of democracy and civilian rule in 1992. Since then, Ghana have entrenched a system of a peaceful transfer of power between two parties: the NDC and the NPP.

The NDC are the party of Jerry Rawlings, the former military ruler who became a democrat, and are the incumbent party in Ghana. Yet again, they are up against the NPP, who held power between 2000 and 2008.

The elections are taking place in a tense atmosphere, with questions around the electoral commission’s ability to ensure credible elections. Elections in Ghana are typically close affairs, with both parties separated by no more than two or three percentage points. That makes every election potentially contentious, and there was none more so than the 2012 general elections.

After the 2012 elections, there was eight months of litigation by the NPP who took their case to Ghana’s Supreme Court, alleging irregularities. The court ruled 5-4 in the NDC’s favour.

The judgement included an urgent call for reforms in the electoral process, and the person tasked with that reform since September 2015 is Charlotte Osei, who has been enmeshed in controversy regarding the disqualification of 13 of the 17 presidential candidates and a fresh voters’ register.

There are already allegations that as chair of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Charlotte Osei is conniving with the NDC to rig the elections.

This is no different from what happened in Nigeria as the 2015 general elections approached, which put former INEC chairman Attahiru Jega in the eye of an electoral storm whipped up by the PDP and the APC. Jega was in fact in Ghana last year to share his own experience of being an electoral umpire, and said Osei was doing a commendable job.

Africa is still trying to deepen its democratic culture, and an important part of that culture is the conduct of elections that are acceptable to all stakeholders. Ghana is a key part of this culture, having done a transfer of power as far back as the turn of the century. In so doing, they became a continental leader.

Conducting credible elections again would ensure that Ghana continues to set a good example for the rest of Africa.


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