Ben Buchwalter

Elections in Ghana are Prize for Democracy
December 7, 2008, 5:48 pm
Filed under: 2008 Election, Foreign Affairs | Tags: , ,

Today nearly half of Ghana’s population is expected to vote on who succeeds President John Kufour, who has led the country for eight years, the maximum length allowed according to Ghana’s constitution. Though Ghana was the first African nation to declare independence from European colonization, it endured decades of military and dictatorial leadership.

Before Kufour was elected, the military leader J.J. Rawlings ruled the country from 1981 through 2001. He first overthrew the government in 1979 to rid it of corruption and try to re-implement a democratic system. But Dr. Hilla Limann, who was elected after this coup, soon defaulted to the corruption that was traditionally part of Ghanaian politics. This led to Rawlings’ second military coup in 1981. For the next twelve years, Rawlings ruled the country as the Chairman of the Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC). In his second decade, Rawlings changed his title to “President” and was elected through a series of less-than-legitimate elections. John Kufour was elected in Democratic elections in 2001. Click here for a timeline.

So Kufour’s decision to step down after two terms serving as President indicates Ghana’s incredible transformation and status as a Democratic power in Africa. The election, between Kufour’s chosen successor Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP and John Atta Mills of Rawlings’ Party, the NDC, is likely to run smoothly without the electoral corruption that has plagued elections and led to politically-charged violence in some African countries including Nigeria, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.

I spent four months studying abroad in Ghana in the Spring of 2007. The photo above is from the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence from British rule. Though Rawlings is still a force in Ghanaian politics, a relapse to electoral fraud and political manipulation of the population seems seriously unlikely. From what I could tell, Ghanaians are extremely proud of their status as one of the world’s solid Democracies. Hopefully that status will be maintained by a successful transfer of power after today’s election.


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