Although the opposition party in Ghana disputes the integrity of the December 7 presidential election, most Observer Missions insist that it was credible
| By Maureen Chigbo | Dec. 24 2012 @ 01:00 GMT
THE election in Ghana has come and gone with winners and losers emerging but the echoes will continue to be heard for some time to come. While the winner of the presidential election, incumbent President John Mahama, who was Ghana’s vice-president until the unexpected death of President John Atta Mills in July, is rejoicing with his supporters, the losers are mourning their losses and are not about to concede defeat easily.
For the first time since democratic elections started in Ghana after the reign of President Jerry Rawlings, founder of the National Democratic Congress, NDC, the opposition which lost the election has decided to contest the result announced by the electoral commission. The commission said Mahama of NDC won with 50.7 percent votes, compared to Nana Akufo-Addo, National Patriotic Party, NPP, candidate’s 47.7 percent. Ghana’s main opposition party says it is considering a legal action to annul Mahama’s victory in the Friday, November 7, fiercely contested election.
Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, chairman, NPP, told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC, that the party would decide Tuesday, December 11, whether there was “robust” evidence to prove the result had been manipulated. In a statement on November 9, the opposition said it would contest the results. “To accept this result is to discredit democracy in Ghana and, in the process, distort the process of democratisation in Africa,” the NPP said. “Therefore, the New Patriotic Party cannot accept the results of the presidential election as declared by the EC (election commission) this evening.”
Earlier, the NPP said it had “enough concrete evidence” to prove that Akufo-Addo had won the election. “The ruling NDC conspired with certain EC staff in constituencies across the country to falsify the election results and thereby abuse the mandate of the people of Ghana,” the party said. The party said in a statement on its website that in the northern Savelugu constituency, 31,165 votes had been “falsely declared” for Mahama, when he had, in fact, obtained 21,165 votes. In another case, 15,000 votes were “illegally added” to Mahama’s tally in Greater Accra’s Dome Kwabenya constituency, it said.
The move of the opposition to contest the result may be a surprise to many Ghanaians considering that Akufo-Addo lost the 2008 presidential poll by one percentage point, but accepted the result. This is moreso because the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission to Ghana’s 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary elections led by Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria, had described the electoral process as generally peaceful and transparent and appealed to political parties and candidates to accept the eventual verdict that would emerge from the poll despite the logistical challenges that caused undue delays in completing the electoral process. “The Electoral Commission provided the necessary environment and facilities to eligible Ghanaians to exercise their franchise in a secure and transparent manner and ECOWAS expects this spirit to continue till the concluding phase of the electoral process,” the monitoring team said in its 46-point Preliminary Declaration issued in Accra on Saturday, December 8.
Christiana Thorpe, chairperson of Sierra Leone’s Electoral Commission and deputy head of the 250-strong Observer Mission, who read the statement, congratulated Ghanaian voters for their courage, patience, determination and commitment in the face of challenges and appealed to them to maintain the same spirit till the end of the process.” The mission also congratulated the country’s security agencies for their commendable role in ensuring election security.
Despite the challenges, the ECOWAS Mission “recognises the advantages of the Biometric Electoral Process and called on the Electoral Commission to continue to perfect the equipment by using them in lesser elections, including the District Assembly Polls.” The Electoral Commission is also enjoined to seriously consider adopting a viable back-up verification mechanism to the biometric voting machines, BVM, by exploring the alternative use of voter IDs and the manual voters register.
Women did not fare better in the election. While women constitute 51.2 percent of Ghana’s population and participated massively in the electoral process, the declaration noted that their aspirations for elective positions in the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections were “severely limited” with no woman among the seven candidates in the Presidential election.
Of the 1,332 candidates vying for the 275 parliamentary seats, only 134 were women, constituting only 10.06 percent of the total. This is why ECOWAS mission urged the in-coming administration and parliament to consider adopting affirmative action to enhance the capacity of women particularly their participation in elected positions in the country by giving them special support, as well as political parties that promote the active role of women in the leadership within their ranks and as candidates in future elections.
It also called on the in-coming Parliament to expedite action on the adoption of a media regulatory framework capable of checking the excesses observed in the course of the electoral process. Those present at the declaration were Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, president of the ECOWAS Commission, and Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman, commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, as well as representatives of other observer missions. ECOWAS deployed the observer mission to Ghana pursuant to the Constitutional Convergence Principles of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), and within the framework of the Programme of Assistance to Member States organising elections.
Another group which monitored the Ghanaian election, the West Africa Network for Peace building, WANEP, agrees with the position of ECOWAS with regards to the challenges inherent in the Ghanaian election. This is why WANEP urged the Electoral Commission and the incoming government to improve on the effectiveness of subsequent elections and ensure that election materials and officials arrive early in all parts of the country, eliminate the breakdown of the biometric verification devices at some polling stations during voting and also provide back-ups for the malfunctioning verification devices which led to the postponement of voting in some polling stations to Saturday, December 8. The other issues it wants government to tackle include not allowing huge concentration of voters in some polling stations, which led to long queues and late voting; insufficient communication by the electoral commission on polling stations affected by the malfunctioning of the biometric verification devices; burning of ballot boxes and attempted ballot box snatching in some areas, insufficient education of polling officials on the use of biometric verification devices, BVD, and the electoral laws. Despite these, WANEP has recommended that political parties and candidates should accept the verdict of the people and resort to legal means including prioritising dialogue and mediation in dealing with the disputes.
It has called for a review of electoral laws in Ghana aimed at addressing incidences of electoral violence; creating of more polling stations to reduce the high concentration of voters in one polling station and increasing the number of security officers per polling centre to prevent ballot box snatching as well as curtail incidences of violence. It also wants the electoral commission to ensure proper and adequate education of polling officials on the use of voting equipment and on electoral laws and procedures. In congratulating Ghanaians for exercising their franchise in a way that strengthens the democratic credentials of the country, WANEP is of the view that the challenges experienced do not constitute a factor that could discredit the integrity of the election outcome.
Ghana, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, is regarded as one of Africa’s most stable democracies. But the outcome of the court case which will be instituted by the opposition will certainly test and deepen democracy in the country which was the first to gain political independence in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a lot of natural resources which the newly elected president will have to manage effectively to curb poverty which is ravaging mostly people living in the rural areas. The newly-elected president will also have to tackle several economic and social issues such as hunger, corruption, illiteracy and poor governance which have been the bane of most governments in sub-Saharan Africa like Nigeria.
Mahama is lucky that Ghana, unlike Nigeria, has had two decades of political stability that has helped the country’s economy. But he will have to consolidate and make more progress by tackling other development challenges like providing farm subsidies to about 50 percent of the Ghanaian population that is involved in agriculture. Most farmers in the country are subsistent farmers like in other countries in the region. Mahama will also have to find ways to improve on farm techniques and practices as agriculture which employs a large percentage of the population mostly in the rural areas and also tackle climate change issues adversely affecting Ghana and the ECOWAS region in general.