Ghanaians went to the polls on 7 December to elect a president and members of parliament for the sixth time since the Fourth Constitution of the Republic of Ghana was ushered in. Typical of African elections, it was not without tension and apprehension. In all, seven political parties and one independent candidate filed successfully to contest the elections, but only two political parties were considered to be real contenders: the National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by John Dramani Mahama and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo. NPP is considered to be an elite party deeply inclined to right while NDC is seen as a political party inclined to left.
Even before the nation was ushered into political peak season, the untimely death of Professor John Evan Atta-Mills, the sitting president and the presidential candidate of the NDC, threw the whole nation into a state of mourning irrespective of political allegiances.
The sudden demise of the late President was seen as ‘make or break’ for the ruling party as it meant that the party had to reorganise a new congress and elect a new standard bearer to lead them into 2012 election. In an extraordinary congress held in Kumasi on 30 August, the ruling party chose John Dramani Mahama to lead them into the election. Many observers think this was a blessing in disguise as it made John Mahama the first politician from northern Ghana to lead any major political party under the fourth republican constitution.
The nation was then ushered into full swing political campaigning. Even before NDC endorsed its presidential candidate, the NPP had started its official campaign in August, and subsequently published its manifesto captioned Transforming Lives, Transforming Ghana: Building a Free, Fair and Prosperous Society. The NDC followed suit with the launch of its official campaign and manifesto, with a theme of Advancing the Better Ghana Agenda.
The issue of education was a priority in both parties’ manifestoes. However, they differed in their approach. The NPP committed to making education from kindergarten to Senior High School ‘free, quality and accessible’ while the NDC believed that the nation has to approach the concept of free education ‘progressively’ – Mahama vehemently argued that “we should not be in haste to do what our economy cannot sustain”.
The NPP candidate, in an attempt to drum home his ‘free senior high school’ mantra, cited Kenya as an example of an African country that has successfully implemented this policy – though argued that Ghana is more resourceful than Kenya. He went further to state that “The cost of providing free secondary school education will be cheaper than the cost of the current alternative of a largely uneducated and unskilled workforce that retards our development. Leadership is about choices, I will choose to invest in the future of our youth and of our country.” NPP was not alone in this view; all the other political parties apart from the NDC also promised to make education from kindergarten to senior high school free. Up until December 7, when Ghanaians went to the polls, the battle for presidency was reduced to pro-free education and anti-free education.
On December 7, a total of 14,031,793 voters went to the polls; the NDC won with 5,574,761 votes, representing 50.70%, while NPP had 5,284,898, votes representing 47.74%. The remaining six political parties obtained 1.56% of the vote.
The NPP refused to concede and congratulate the winner; instead, they are arguing in the Supreme Court, the highest court of the land, that the elections were neither free nor fair. They alleged that major provisions regulating the conduct of public elections in the country were violated and that there were widespread irregularities which favored the incumbent president. The battle for votes has now been reduced to a battle of wits and Ghanaians are eagerly waiting for the outcome of this landmark case. Will the outcome of this case enhance Ghana’s Democratic credentials? Only time will tell…