Ghana: Ghana Decides: D-Day For Presidential & Parliamentary Vote: A View From The Ground

Last Updated: 8 December 2016
Article by Kobi Annan

D-Day has finally arrived for Ghanaians. The long- anticipated parliamentary & presidential elections are underway in some 29,000 polling stations spread across the 275 constituencies in the country, as over 15.7 million eligible voters cast their ballots.

  • Voting underway in a largely peaceful, orderly manner.
  • Voting characterised by long queues in the morning but electorate willing to wait to exercise its franchise.
  • Despite election day not being declared a national holiday, business activities have come to a halt across the country, especially in the capital Accra.
  • Voters determined to vote on issues and not solely based on previous party affiliations or vote buying.
  • Declaration of results earmarked for Friday 9 December1

On your Marks

As has been the case in all previous six elections since the beginning of the 4th Republic in 1992, the polls are expected to be between the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). In all, there are seven presidential candidates, the others coming from the Convention People's Party (CPP), Progressive People's Party (PPP), National Democratic Party (NDP), People's National Convention (PNC) and one independent candidate. 

John Dramani Mahama - National Democratic Congress

  • Background in Brief: The incumbent president, John Dramani Mahama, was elected to be the party's presidential candidate unchallenged at the primary elections held in November 2015. He has long been a part of the political fabric of Ghana having previously held posts as Member of Parliament, Deputy Minister of Communications & Vice-President. He initially became president following the death of his predecessor John Evan Atta Mills in July 2012.
  • Support Base: The NDC traditionally draws much of its support from the Volta region, to the extent that the region is often colloquially referred to as the "World Bank" of the NDC. In the 2012 elections, the party won over 85% of the vote in the Volta region. The party also traditionally performs very well in the three regions of the north – Northern (where president Mahama is from), Upper East and Upper West. As a populist party, the general support base of the party comes from blue collar workers - farmers, labourers and petty traders.
  • Campaign Trail: Following his primary election win, Mahama embarked on an "Accounting to the People Tour" which he insisted was not part of his electoral campaign but consisted of touring the country highlighting the work the government has achieved since the previous elections. With regards to its official election campaign, the NDC has taken a door to door approach, backed up by large rallies with the presidential and parliamentary candidates. The party has been mostly campaigning by showcasing the works of the party over the past four years, especially infrastructural projects such as schools, hospitals, roads and factories. They are asking for 'another four years to be able to continue the good work that they have started.'

 Nana Akufo Addo - New Patriotic Party

  • Background in Brief: Nana Akufo Addo is contesting the presidency in Ghana for the third time as flag-bearer of the NPP (he also lost the primary elections in 1998). He has held a number of political posts including as a member of Parliament, Minister of Justice and Foreign Minister, and is a member of the Akyem (Akan ethnic group). He won the primaries to contest this election with a landslide victory of over 94% against seven other candidates.
  • Support Base: The traditional support base of the NPP has been in the Twi-speaking Akan regions of the country - particularly, Ashanti and Eastern regions. Brong Ahafo, Western and Central regions, which are also predominantly Akan do swing. However, the underperformance of the party in the Ashanti region in 2012 has been one of the reasons attributed to their election loss. With its centre-right political pedigree, the NPP is traditionally viewed as the party of businessmen, traders and wealth creation.
  • Campaign Trail: The NPP has used medium and large scale rallies much more frequently than the NDC. They have been campaigning mostly based on the 'failed promises' of the NDC but also have laid out a comprehensive plan for their term of office are they given the chance.

 Local View

Reports out at the time of writing suggest that voting started on time at 7am across almost the entire country. However, at the time of writing there were reports of a polling station in one constituency - Jaman North -  still not having begun voting due to logistical issues although the political parties there are currently in discussions about how to proceed. There are media reports of various logistical and security issues at various polling stations but these do not appear to be widespread or indicative of the general mood across the country. These include armed persons being arrested, skirmishes, absence of voting materials and names missing from the voter's register.

Songhai analysts on the ground have reported long queues at polling stations in Takoradi, La Township and on campus at the University of Legon. However, queues have been orderly and peaceful and are dying down as the day progresses. Our analyst at the University of Legon (potential ground for millennials and first time voters) described the atmosphere as "a lively moment with no tension as many of the students are first time voters and they are excited to cast their ballot for the first time." Another of our analysts in the Trade Fair area described the mood as "calm, almost subdued as people seek to cast their ballot and continue about their day as normal." At the same polling station some delays and disagreements were witnessed but, again, nothing that significantly hindered the voting process. In the Kwesimintim constituency, Takoradi, the situation was described as "very, very orderly. The only challenge voters were facing was joining the wrong queue." Our consultant there had this to say: "it was calm at this polling station and things were really moving on quietly." In Ho West and Ho Central, a general sense of order was echoed, with one consultant describing polling stations in both constituencies as 'friendly' and he actually 'helped to set up'. There wasn't a high security presence in either because the way the consultant views it, there is unlikely to be any unrest there 'because this is an NDC stronghold'.

Outlook

Despite the challenges that have been reported both by our team and in the media, it is likely that the legitimacy of the election will not be challenged, Nana Akufo Addo has already come out to say that the polls have been free and fair so far2. Many of the issues faced occur routinely during elections in Ghana so the Electoral Commission, electorate and all relevant stakeholders are well versed in how to mitigate them. As the day progresses, we will get more of a sense of how the political parties and candidates have judged the process.

As is often the case, there may be some small skirmishes around the time of the polls closing and during the counting process. As these are known to be contentious periods during the day, security officials have been put on alert to be especially vigilant at these times. The likelihood of security challenges is an affirmation of the views expressed in a recent poll conducted by Songhai Advisory ( http://bit.ly/2gzOLeX ). It is also vital that there are extra security measures put in place when the final results are announced as this is another potential flashpoint.

The million-dollar question is always, 'who will win?!' Unfortunately, in this year's election, it is still too close to call. Many people have been working on the assumption that the ruling NDC will win easily due to the internal problems and lack of finance within the NPP. However, recent polls have both parties winning the polls. It is also worth noting that Paa Kwesi Nduom of the PPP may yet play a role in deciding the election with polls giving him between 3-6% of the vote3.

Written by Songhai Advisory Analyst, Kobi Annan, with input from colleagues based in Accra, Takoradi, Ho and London.

Footnotes

1 http://www.ec.gov.gh/medias/events-calendar/eventsbyday/2016/12/9/20.html"

2 http://eibelections.com/view/politics/1228/Nana_Addo_commends_EC_for_%E2%80%98free_and_fair%E2%80%99_polls_so_far

3 https://www.ghanastar.com/news/election-2016-polls-its-nana-54-mahama-41/

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