Ghana Elections: Too close to call in Accra

Not since Ghana played Brazil in the 2006 World Cup has the whole nation been galvanised around a single event as now. It is election time. Both a presidency and a parliament of 230 members are in the gift of the electorate.

And how the electorate is making the candidates suffer! Seventy-two hours after the voting ended, neither of the two main presidential candidates – Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and John Atta Mills of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) – has obtained a comfortable lead.
In order to avoid a runoff, a candidate must win more than 50% of the vote. With all the votes from the 230 constituencies counted, Nana Addo holds a slight lead, with 49.13% to the 47.92% obtained by John Atta-Mills. None of the six other candidates got more than 1.5%.

In the parliamentary vote, too, the two parties ran neck-and-neck, with the ruling NPP winning 108 seats so far, five behind its main rival, the NDC, which has got 113 seats out of the 230 declared. It seems certain that smaller parties and independents will hold the balance in the new parliament.

The close nature of the contest has thrilled Ghanaians: it’s like a football match to many.

They hang around street corners clinging to their radios to hear the declaration of the latest results. But unlike elsewhere in Africa, they are doing so in good humour and not with pangas at the ready.

They are most amused by the workings of a sophisticated voting system called the “skirt and blouse” method. With this, if a member of parliament becomes unpopular in his constituency, he is thrown out. But if the presidential candidate of his party appeals to them, they give him their vote nevertheless.

Through this method, one of the most voluble MPs of the dissolved parliament, Stephen Asamoah-Boateng, former minister of information, has been shown the door. Other officials have suffered a similar fate.

If the current trend continues, it may well turn out that the winning president’s party may not have a majority of seats in parliament. It would be interesting if Ghana were to enter an era of what the French call “cohabitation”.

For what Ghanaian voters hate most about their rulers is their perceived arrogance and remoteness from their constituents. Once someone is elected, he is almost always only to be seen flashing around in the luxurious seats of a chauffeur-driven, air-conditioned 4×4.

Former promises – that he would fight for them to obtain water, electricity, schools or a health post – are all too easily forgotten. But the voters do not forget. At a time like this, many a defeated candidate will be gnashing his teeth and wondering why he allowed good scotch and brandy to dull his wits enough not to realise that four years is a short time in a politician’s life.

These personal judgments are important because there is little to choose between the two main parties in policy terms. Indeed, the personalities of their former leaders probably counts as much as their policies. The NPP has been led by the incumbent president, John Kufuor, for the past eight years. He has been seen as a liability to Nana Akufo Addo, in that his numerous travels abroad, “collecting per diem allowances”, have been often criticised. His party has thus lost influence in the marginal constituencies, such as the capital, Greater Accra, and the northern parts of the country.

The NDC, on the other hand, is haunted by the spectre of its former leader, Flight Lieutenant (retd) Jerry Rawlings. Atta-Mills, its candidate, is perceived to be the “poodle” of Rawlings – who presided over atrocities against civilians when he was military head of state from December 1981 until he transformed himself into a constitutional president in 1992. He left office in 2000, in observance of a constitutional limitation to his term, but he has been running the NDC ever since, often making fiery statements that remind Ghanaians uncomfortably of his military past.

So, in three weeks’ time , a political “replay” will take place in Ghana. At that time, there will be a proper cup final atmosphere. And there will have to be a result, come what may.

Credit: Cameron  Duodu

Source: Guradian

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.