Ben Buchwalter


Elections in Ghana Promise Change and Inspire Hope
December 18, 2008, 9:39 pm
Filed under: Foreign Affairs | Tags: , , , , , ,

Before Ghana’s December 7 election, there was much discussion about the importance of a peaceful electoral process for the West African coastal country and the entire African continent. 

The first round of the election went off without a hitch. In fact, 70% of eligible voters turned out to cast a vote for one of the six Presidential contenders. But when all the votes were tallied, Nana Akufo-Addo of the National Progress Party (NPP) received 49.3% of the vote, and John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) took 47.8% of the vote. Since more than 50% is required to win the Presidency, these candidates will face off in the December 28 runoff election.

One reaction to the close election stands out. Bridget, a 39 year-old General Manager from Accra said,

I am feeling relaxed because over the weekend there were no incidents, there was nothing to make me worry and there were also a lot of checks and balances in place to ensure everything went well.

The threat of violence was a legitimate concern in Ghana, even as Africa’s first Independent Democracy. In the past year, the world was shocked by electoral violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria. Ghana’s peaceful election ensures that it will remain a political leader for the continent that many Americans still view as a catastrophe zone.

For the past eight years, John Kufuor, the leader of the NPP, ruled as Ghana’s first democratically elected President since 1979. In that year, Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings seized power from the corrupt government and peacefully handed power to Dr. Hilla Limann. But in 1981, Rawlings rose again to overthrow Limann and consolidate his power as Ghana’s Head of State. In 1993, Rawlings changed his title to President and was re-elected twice in semi-democratic elections.

Kufuor beat Rawlings in the 2000 election and has served two terms, the maximum allowed by Ghana’s Constitution. Kufuor has vowed to peacefully hand over the Presidency to Akufo-Addo or Mills, whoever wins the runoff. This indicates Ghana’s incredible transformation and status as a Democratic power in Africa.

After Ghana’s Independence in 1957, decolonization spread quickly throughout the continent. Between 1957 and 1965, almost thirty African countries declared independence from a colonial power. If the December 28 runoff is as successful as the first round, then Ghana could inspire another wave of reform through legitimate and peaceful elections.

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