Ghana goes to tension-soaked election tomorrow



Rawlings’ wife among presidential candidates, ECOWAS deploys observers

Ghana will tomorrow go to the polls to elect another President and 275 Parliamentarians to administer the affairs of the country for the next four years.

About 15million voters, out of the 27million population are said to have registered for the election, which observers believe, is the most “tension-soaked” in the history of the 59 year-old West African country. Ghana runs a uni-cameral legislature.

Since 1992 when Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings handed over power to Mr. John Agyekum Kuffour, there have been peaceful transitions of power between the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the largest opposition party, New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Rawlings ruled for 11 years as Military Head of State after which he shed his military uniform, formed the NDC and contested as its flag bearer, won and ruled for eight years of two terms each before his party lost to Kuffour in 2000.

Kuffour ruled for eight years of two terms under the platform of the NPP but his party lost to the NDC in 2008. Prof. Fifiifi Arthur Mills defeated Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, the flag bearer in the election with a narrow margin in the 2008 election.

Arthur Mills passed on few months to the end of his tenure in 2012. His Deputy, John Dramani Mahama was sworn-in to complete his (Mills) tenure after which he contested against Akuffo-Addo and won. He is seeking re-election.

Seventeen Presidential candidates filled forms to contest the election. But the country’s electoral body, Electoral Commission (EC), for various reasons disqualified 10 of them.

Among the seven is Rawlings’ wife who left the NDC before the 2012 election and formed her National Democratic Party (NDP). Her husband still remains an NDC member.

The contest is really between Mahama (NDC) and Akuffo-Addo (NPP). Akuffo-Addo, a popular Human Rights lawyer is the son of Ghana’s late President Akuffo-Addo. He was the country’s Attorney General under President Kuffour’s regime.

Mahama is a son of a Minister under Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.

He started his political career as a Parliamentarian and later became a Deputy Minister, and then Minister before Prof. Mills chose him as his vice. He later became the Acting President after Mills’ death.

The two leading parties, NPP and NDC embarked on rigorous campaign through every nook and cranny of the country since June.

The main campaign message of Mahama and his NDC is that they deserve another term because they have provided massive infrastructure throughout the country, including Regional hospitals, an airport, first class roads and constructed 73 Secondary School buildings across the country.

The NPP whose slogan is “change” based its message on mis-management of the economy by Mahama’s administration and alleged “massive corruption” by government officials, which according to them Mahama is handling with kid gloves.

Besides, the NPP claimed that Kuffour’s government left an external debt of 9.8billion Cedis but the present government has raised it to 102billion Cedis.

According to them, it is the highest debt the country has ever incurred since independence in 1957.

They also insisted that Mahama government is the most corrupt in the history of the country, an assertion which Rawlings, NDC founder has publicly acknowledged.

Tension is very high between supporters of the two main rivals, NPP and NDC. Two Sundays ago, NDC supporters purportedly attacked the Nima, Accra residence of the NPP flag bearer.

There have also been clashes between them at various parts of the country. There have also been allegations of arms smuggling into the country by both parties.

The two leading parties are again accusing each other of planning to rig the election. The NPP has alleged that the EC has connived with the government to rig the election, an allegation, both the EC and government have denied.

Due to Ghana’s democratic credentials, the country is known as “Beacon of Africa’s Democracy”. There are serious fears that the way the NPP and NDC supporters have seen this election as a “Do-or-Die” one, such enviable record might be broken during this election.

It must be recalled that the NPP alleged massive rigging during the 2012 election. They went to court to challenge the results but the Supreme Court after eight months sitting, ruled in favour of the NDC.

The NPP argument is that, “Supreme Court has made us to know that elections are won on the field and not at the court so we will do everything possible to monitor and defend our votes on the field, we are not ready to go to court again.”

Meanwhile, former Interim President of Liberia’s Government of National Unity, Amos Sawyer, will lead the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) short-term observer mission for the presidential and legislative elections in Ghana.

The observer mission, which is in accordance with ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, is to ascertain that the electoral process is conducted properly to ensure free, transparent and credible elections.

This was contained in a statement made available to The Guardian, and it indicates that the mission will comprise of 94 observers, of which 80 are short -term while 14 are long term, except for Ghana, and the Community Parliament.

Besides, the mission is made up of members of the Civil Society, representatives of electoral commissions in West Africa, Ambassadors of Member States accredited to the ECOWAS, and observers from the Koffi Annan International Peacekeeping and Training Centre.

However, 14 long-term observers have since November 27 this year, been dispatched. They are experts in security, gender, electoral operations, constitutional laws and political affairs.

The short-term and long-term missions will receive on-site support from a technical team from the ECOWAS Commission. The team will comprise of the Commission’s Vice President, Edward Singhatey and its Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Halima Ahmed.

The Director of Political Affairs, Dr. Remi Ajibewa, the Head of the Electoral Assistance Unit, Francis Oke, the Acting Head of the Communications Unit, Liberor Doscof Aho, and other officials of the institution will also form part of this team.

The observers are expected to be spread across Ghana’s ten regions, to observe and monitor all the pre-election, election and post-election polling operations, and to remark on the conduct of the elections.

Their observation will focus on the conformity, transparency, fairness and smooth conduct of the legislative and presidential elections.

At the end of the elections, the observer mission will present its view and where the need arises, make recommendations to the different stakeholders in the election process. The Head of the Mission, Amos Sawyer, is therefore expected to make a preliminary statement at a press conference that will hold in Accra on Thursday 8 December 2016.

There are seven presidential candidates contending in the elections. The president who has been in power since 2012, John Dramani Mahama, of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, of the New Patriotic Party (NPP, the main opposition), and Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, of the National Democratic Party (NDP).

Ivor Kobina Greenstreet, of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Paa Kwesi Nduom, of the Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Edward Mahama, of the People’s National Convention (PNC), and an Independent Candidate, Jacob Osei Yeboah, are all vying for the highest office of their country.

Apart from electing their president for the next four years, Ghanaians will also be going to the polls to elect 275 members of Parliament. 1158 candidates are running for the legislative positions.

ECOWAS, in the statement, appealed to the candidates, leaders of their political parties as well as activists and sympathisers, to ensure that the conduct of the elections was peaceful and calm to promote national cohesion.

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