The election of President John Dramani Mahama as President with 5.57 million or 50.70 percent of the 10,995,262 valid votes cast to edge out closest challenger, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party who polled 5.24 million votes or 47.74 percent, will certainly go down as a memorable event in Ghana’s electoral history.
As high as 251,720 of the total 11,246,982 votes cast were deemed invalid or rejected. Total registered voters stood at 14,158,890.
In all eight men including an independent candidate contested to become the next president. Also at stake was the contest for 275 seats in parliament by 1,332 candidates from 14 of the 23 registered political parties. Out of the number, 133 are female contestants.
This is the sixth time that Ghanaians have gone to the polls to elect a President and Members of Parliament after the country returned to civilian rule in 1992, following 3 previous democratic regimes that were truncated and interspersed by 5 different military interventions since the country gained independence in 1957 from the British.
The election was a closely fought one which made it difficult for an early prediction of the winner. This is the lowest win an incumbent party going for a second term has got since 1992. In 1996, the ruling party led by Jerry John Rawlings won by 57.4% while John Agyekum Kufuor won by 52.45 percent.
However the relatively low margin obtained by the NDC’s John Mahama could partially be as a result of the fiercely contested elections four years ago which was won by some 40,000 votes only. The margin was so small that the opposition NPP considered a return to power a very high possibility.
It is also anticipated that revenue from the country’s oil and gas will peak in the next four years. Some experts have predicted that the next government will benefit from so much revenue that it would be able to undertake several projects which could make the ruling party popular and difficult to unseat subsequently. The desire therefore for any of the major parties to win this election was very strong.
The personalities involved in the contest also added to the fierceness of the contest. The opposition NPP had a well-respected and known political activist who has been in the forefront of politics for over a period of four decades. Nana Addo also hails from a politically rich family. Three of the “Bix Six”-the founding fathers of Ghana—were his relatives; J. B. Danquah (grand uncle), William Ofori Atta (uncle) and Edward Akufo-Addo, who became the third Chief Justice of Ghana and later ceremonial President of the Republic from 1969–72, was his father. Many people particularly within his party, believe the astute lawyer deserve to be President and at 68, this was possibly his last chance and therefore “a do or die” affair.
No second round
Although no one dismissed the possibility of a second round ahead of the elections, there was a general desire by many people to see the elections end in the first run.
The reason was partly because of the thought of queuing up again to vote and the general fatigue associated with campaign activities. Additionally, the tension that characterized the second round of 2008 which nearly brought the country to its knees, appeared to be fresh in the minds of the public.
Some also said the avoidance of a second run meant that the public was assured of an uninterrupted festive season during the yuletide.
So palpable was the desire to avoid the second run that commentators, political analysts and journalists openly admitted on various radio and television programmes, their wish that there was no run-off.
The poor performance of the other six contestants also helped in great measure the attainment of a first found victory. Together the other contestants obtained 1.56 percent or 171, 603 votes.
This year’s election will go down as the most peaceful with less acrimony during the campaign period, an issue-based campaigns and debates and less negative incidents on the voting day. This is despite the high turnout of 79.43%.
However the election process was uncharacteristically pushed into a second day of voting following the breakdown of gadgets used to verify the biometric data for registered voters before they cast their votes. This was the first time Ghana was using a biometric electoral system for voting. The introduction of this system was an issue of contestation between the NPP who wanted it and the NDC which argued that a breakdown of the machines could pose a challenge but the views of the former prevailed.
However on the day of voting, a number of the machines broke down, compelling the Electoral Commission to suspend voting in those polling centres till the next day. The second day of voting was conducted in a “generally peaceful and largely incident free” manner, according to the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO).
Despite the generally peaceful atmosphere of the election, there were reported cases of arrests of people who attempted to disrupt the process. There were also cases of false alarms from the generally excited and expectant voters.
Another major incident was the massing up of NPP supporters at the premises of a private organization on the claims that the office was being used to intercept and doctor election results in favour of the NDC. The gathering dispersed after the leadership of the NPP and some journalists were conducted round the offices of the company. Earlier interventions by the head of the ECOWAS Observer Mission and former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo went unheeded.
The opposition NPP is contesting the outcome of the presidential elections. The Party which had held not less than 4 different press conferences since Saturday, in one of which the party claimed it had won the elections by over 51%. The press conference which was strongly criticized as an “unfortunate press conference” by the National Peace Council, was addressed by the party’s General Secretary Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie who claimed “We know the results; we know Nana Addo will be the president. Go there (EC) in white, no mourning cloth and jubilate.”
Later the next day (Sunday), the Chairman of the party Jake Obetsibi Lamptey held another press conference and requested for a postponement of the declaration of results claiming there were “falsification of figures”. We demand that the EC conducts an audit of the collated figures as well as the counts from the biometric verification machines before the electoral results are finally released” he said accusing EC officials of collusion. “It is obvious from the preponderance of evidence available to us that at all material times the ruling National Democratic Congress led by President John Mahama 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”.
However their claims was not backed by enough evidence according to the National Peace Council which hurriedly called a meeting among the political parties just before the results were declared on Sunday night. The party has been asked to gather enough evidence and pursue appropriate procedures for redress.
After the declaration of the results, NPP issued a statement saying “The National Chairman of the Party has accordingly convened an emergency meeting of the National Executive Committee of the NPP on Tuesday December 11 to lay out the steps that the party will take in light of these events.”
The party in 2008, after narrowly losing the run-off also went to court to attempt to annul the results but was unsuccessful.
A few parliamentary candidates with very close results have also contested the outcome of their respective contests and in some cases reportedly refused to sign the election result sheets.
The contested seats include Sekondi constituency in the Western Region which is being disputed by the NDC’s Anthony Cudjoe, the Chief Executive for the Metropolis. He is disputing that the incumbent Papa Owusu Ankomah won. Mr. Cudjoe according to the provisional results lost by about a thousand votes.
In the Tema East constituency, the NDC candidate who is also the Chief Executive for that Metropolis, Kempis Ofosu Ware is contesting the results which he lost by only 3 votes to the NPP’s Titus Glover. Former Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Ayikoi Otoo has refused to concede defeat in his comeback bid for the Krowor constituency in the Greater Accra region.
Former Information Minister in the NPP era, Stephen Asamoah Boateng failed in his comeback bid to unseat Deputy Central Regional Minister Acquinas Quansah for the Mfantseman constituency in the Central Region. Mr. Asamoah Boateng lost by over 2,000 votes.
Education has been the dominant issue in this year’s election following the promise of the NPP to implement a free secondary education dubbed Free Senior High School (SHS). This proposal was originally made by other parties such as the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and the Progressive People Party (PPP) an offshoot of the CPP. But the NPP made the policy the top campaign issue. The NPP proposal was countered by the NDC which argued that such a policy will compromise the quality of education and was also not sustainable. The NDC proposed expanding infrastructure as a way of addressing quality and progressively make education free.
Other issues that have come up include healthcare, a strong economy, jobs and social interventions.
The NDC’s John Mahama has won the elections on the back of a not too united party front. Probably the government’s worse critic was its own charismatic founder and former President Jerry John Rawlings, who for the first time failed to campaign for the party except for a tacit endorsement saying “the emergence of John Mahama has also added a spark to the governing party and has brought about the possibility of the ruling party also winning the election". Otherwise he had lost faith entirely in the parties ability to win.
Former President Rawlings had earlier supported his wife’s failed bid to contest then sitting President, the late Prof. John Atta Mills. The wife later broke ranks and joined a newly formed party, the National Democratic Party but failed to meet the requirement to contest in the presidential elections. The NDP’s candidates in the parliamentary elections made a poor showing without a win. Meanwhile the NDC has majority seat in parliament.
As caretaker President following the demise of President Mills, John Mahama can run for two terms. He is projected to face a former Trade Minister in the previous NPP regime, Allan Kyerematen, whose image has begun popping up on social media. But Mr. Kyerematen who contested and lost the primaries to Nana Addo would have to go for another primaries and win before this projection materialize.
This feature article is by African Elections Project (AEP) Media Monitoring Centre, Accra, Ghana. Follow us on twitter @Ghanaelections and like our facebook page Ghana Votes.