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November 23, 2012

Ghana Prepares for General Elections

by Joana Mantey

The National Democratic Congress, or NDC, has been at the helm for four years now, after wrestling power from the New Patriotic Party, or NPP, in the 2008 general elections.

NDC leader and interim President John Mahama is asking voters to choose him for president based on sound management of the economy under his party’s leadership. The former vice president became interim president in July, after the sudden death of President John Atta Mills.

Amin Joseph is the ruling party’s secretary in the Ashanti Region.  He said the NDC wants to retain the office to solidify economic gains. “You don’t change a winning team.  Looking at the developments that have gone on in the country, it is clear that the NDC should be given another chance to continue with whatever development [projects] it has started,” Joseph said.

He said one project includes the construction of schools for classes currently being held under trees. And he cites construction of a water project and hospital in the Ashanti region.

The NDC - a Social Democratic Party - held power from 1993 to 2001. It lost power to the rival New Patriotic Party in the 2000 general election, but regained control in 2008 under the leadership of the late President Mills.

The December general elections will be the sixth consecutive democratic polls in Ghana since it adopted a new constitution in 1992, ending years of instability and military coups.

Seven political parties and one independent candidate are vying for president.  Three parties were disqualified, including the National Democratic Party, or NDP, an offshoot of the ruling NDC. This time around the ruling party’s main rival, the New Patriotic Party, said it is sure of winning.

Nana Akufo Addo, a lawyer and former minister of foreign affairs, is the NPP’s presidential candidate.   He trailed the late President Mills by only a very slim margin in the last general elections.

Mike Ocquaye, a legal practitioner and legal secretary for the party, said the NPP introduced social programs such as mass public transit, school feeding and health insurance to Ghana.   And he argued the NPP’s presidential candidate Nana Addo offers people a better choice.

“We want to come into government to help the people of Ghana.  Our party is known as the party that brought in social policies that helped the masses in the previous government.  We are looking forward to doing more to aid the masses,” he said.

The Convention People’s Party, CPP, will also be competing in the December polls. It was originally formed by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, who led Ghana to independence.

Other political groups in the race include the Progressive People’s Party,  Ghana Consolidated Popular Party and the People’s National Convention, which says it closely follows the more socialist Nkrumahist tradition.

Paa Kwesi  Plange is the executive director of non-profit organization Investigative Report Ghana. Plange said it would be better if all parties that espouse Nkrumah ideals presented a united front at the polls.

“There is a lot of belief that the formation of the NDC weakened the Nkrumahist [front].  And a lot of people including the son of Kwame Nkrumah are advocating a sort of merger between the CPP and other Nkrumahists for the CPP to have some relevance in modern Ghana politics,” he said.

Meanwhile, vigorous campaigning continues with each political party confident of winning.

Listen to a report on upcoming Ghana elections