Ghana: Ghana Has Decided: The Morning After The Night Before

Yesterday, Ghanaian voters went to the polls to decide whether to re-elect incumbent president John Dramani Mahama or pass the responsibilities onto Nana Akufo-Addo (his third time of attempting to lead the country).

Polling day was largely peaceful (notwithstanding pockets of disquiet/violence quelled by the security agencies. However, tensions are rising as the nation awaits the official declaration of results by the Electoral Commission (EC). As at the time of writing, the EC had certified results of only 20 out of the nation's 275 constituencies.

Headline Findings

  • Voting proceeded in a largely peaceful manner across the country according to parties and observers.
  • One constituency, Jaman North, has had to continue voting today due to security and logistical challenges
  • The Electoral Commission says officially-declared results may be issued as late as 13 Dec in part due to suspected irregularities (claims of 'over-voting')
  • The main opposition, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), has declared victory and called on President Mahama to concede though there has still been no comment from Nana Akufo-Addo himself.
  • Akuffo-Addo has been congratulated by minor opposition party leaders Paa Kwesi Nduom (Progressive People's Party), former first lady Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings (National Democratic Party), Ivor Greenstreet (Convention People's Party).
  • The ruling National Democratic Congress strongly disputes claims of an NPP victory at this stage.

Peaceful Voting Day

The "darling of democracy in West Africa" went to the polls for the seventh time since 1992 to elect parliamentarians and a president yesterday (7 December 2016). The process was largely smooth and incident-free, in some contrast to the situation last week during the 'special voting' exercise where some procedural glitches were apparent when journalists and security personnel voted ahead of time.

A number of political figures and other stakeholders expressed their satisfaction with the process throughout the course of the election day. The vice president, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur said that "the election process across the country had been quite peaceful without any major problems". The opposition presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo also lauded the efforts of the EC as he cast his vote for putting in place measures to ensure that the polls are run in a free and fair manner. These sentiments were echoed by numerous other presidential and parliamentary candidates across the political spectrum.

In addition to this, the US Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Jackson, said that "the process has been smooth. It has been transparent... there has been no sign of intimidation. I'm very satisfied that Ghana is maintaining its reputation as a beacon of democracy". The domestic observer group, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) said that "the arrangements put in place by the EC for the setup and opening of polls were adequate for most polling stations". The opinion of CODEO is key as they are seen as the most credible observer group due to their reach and independent nature. Indeed, they deployed over 8,000 observers on polling day.

There have yet to be any statements from the European Union, ECOWAS or African Union observer missions, however, they would likely have made a statement by now if they had any serious concerns.

Spill-over: Jaman North

However, there were some glitches, notably in the Jaman North constituency in Brong Ahafo. As at noon on election day, the Jaman polls had not started because of disagreements over the voters' register. The District Security Council (DISEC) in collaboration with the political parties agreed to postpone the elections to today (8 December) without the approval of the EC. In a press conference yesterday afternoon, the EC called the DISEC decision a breach of CI 941 but hours later, the earlier decision by DISEC was upheld. Currently, voting is underway in the Jaman constituency across all 92 polling stations there, reminiscent of the spillage of voting into a second day at the 2012 elections. Polls are due to close here at 17:00 today.

There were also reports of some security challenges in places like Odododiodo, Suhum, Weija, Tamale, Ablekuma among others-areas which have been associated with election-related unrest in the past. That said, the security services have still maintained peace in those areas and across the other flashpoints highlighted by the EC2.

There are yet to be any official declarations of results by the Electoral Commission. At an overnight press conference, the EC said that the delay was due to the need to input the manually collated data into a digital system for transmission to the national collation center. At the time of publishing this report, the EC had announced that it will undertake a nationwide review of results from constituency collation centres due to possible cases of over-voting in several constituencies. This is causing a further delay in the declaration of results and may still have as yet unknown consequences if any irregularities are discovered.

Who Took What?

The Two Horses

Prior to the polls, the sentiment which dominated popular discourse was that the contest would be extremely tight between the two frontrunners. However, a survey we conducted just prior to the polls, mostly among white-collar workers, suggested that the NPP would be triumphant3- the unofficial results imply the same. Deeper analysis of the results would suggest that one of the biggest losses for the ruling party came through voter apathy. Results collated by Joy FM, one of the larger media houses in Ghana, show that in the results they had at the time of writing, the NDC was some 310,000 votes down compared with their tally at the same stage in 2012. However, the NPP had only secured a gain of 31,000 votes compared to 2012. This discrepancy would suggest that many people who would be likely NDC supporters did not go out to vote, a fact backed up by the drop in turnout compared to four years ago. Figures are still coming in but overall turnout could be as much as 15% less than four years ago. Irrespective of the final tally, the NDC will have to do some serious post-election reviews in order to see where they lost so many votes.

The Third Wheel?

The PPP once touted as a viable third force with potential to decide the election outcome looks set to poll only 0.8% to 1.5% of the vote, winning no parliamentary seats, if results tallied in the press (unconfirmed by the EC) prove true. Possibly, this poor showing is due to the sentiment expressed in various quarters: this is a two-horse race between the NDC and the NPP, and a PPP vote would be tantamount to a 'wasted vote'. It is also very possible that the temporary disqualification of the party's flag-bearer, Paa Kwesi Nduom, had a dampening affect on his final election result. After challenging his disqualification in the High and then Supreme Courts, Dr Nduom was cleared to stand after 18 days of missed campaigning. As a result, there have been suggestions in the public domain to suggest that many people outside of the major cities were even unaware of the decision to reinstate him onto the ballot sheet.

Notable Parliamentary Seats

Foreign Affairs Minister Hannah Tetteh who doubles as MP for Awutu Senya constituency has lost her seat to George Andah, while another NDC MP Amadu Sorogho for the Madina constituency has also lost his seat to Boniface Sadiq. Again, former Information minister- Murtala Mohammed has also lost his Nantong seat in the Northern region. Zenator Rawlings has won the Klottey Korle seat.

Sober Judgement

As of now, there has been no official comment from the NPP flag-bearer, Akfuo-Addo. Television stations have shown the US Ambassador to Ghana entering his house for a meeting but there has been no statement as to the details or outcome of that meeting. There have been a number of press conferences by the NPP giving information from their parallel collation centre where they have said that they have a comfortable lead in both the presidential and parliamentary elections. This has drawn stiff rebuke from both the EC and the NDC. Former President J A Kuffuor has also expressed his optimism that Akufo-Addo is winning. Whilst they have not declared any results, similar comments have been coming from the NDC who have urged their supporters to remain calm as their candidate is in the lead. President Mahama himself also tweeted saying that NDC supporters should ignore the claims of the NPP. Going against President Mahama, the flagbearers of the PPP, CPP, NDP and independent candidate - Jacob Osei Yeboah - have congratulated Akufo-Addo and conceded defeat respectively. To douse anxiety among Ghanaians, the National Peace Council organized a press conference around 12:0pm entreating the EC to expedite action on releasing results. CODEO has also called on Ghanaians to keep calm as they wait on the EC to declare results.

Outlook

Tensions rise as declaration of results by the EC delay. This might lead to clashes should supporters of the NDC and NPP lock horns on the street especially in Accra and Kumasi. For now, EC claims of over voting in some constituencies make additional delays (to allow vetting of all results from the constituencies and determine the accuracy of election results) more likely. Media houses are being called on to exercise constraint so that they don't declare results. The security services are aware of potential flashpoints so the hope is that it will be prepared for any potential violence.

The EC has promised that there will be a full declaration of results within 72 hours of the polls closing (17:00 Saturday 10th December). However, it is likely that we will get partial declarations that will begin sometime this afternoon if the review of collation sheets proceeds as planned. The absolute earliest that a declaration can be made is early on Friday morning due to the continued voting in the Jaman North constituency.

NPP supporters are already jubilating on the streets in many parts of the country whilst NDC members have been much more subdued and less visible. If the provisional responses prove to be wrong and the NDC is announced as the winner or a runoff is called, we cannot rule out the possibility of supporters of the two rival parties clashing.

Footnotes

1 http://www.parliament.gh/assets/ORD_%20PAPER-5%20Aug%2016%20(Fri).pdf

2 http://citifmonline.com/2016/12/08/npps-declaration-of-results-reckless-ndc/

3 http://www.songhaiworldweb.com/need-to-know/snapshot-ghana-pre-election-sentiment

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