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Close Election Shows Maturing Democracy, Ghanaian Analysts Say

Ghana's election was seen as generally free and fair by observers, Dec 7, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)

Ghanaians re-elected President Nana Akufo-Addo this week in a close contest against former president John Mahama. But Mahama’s National Democratic Congress party gained seats in parliament, and political analysts say the election shows Ghana has a strengthening democracy.

Supporters celebrated on the streets of Accra after poll authorities declared President Nana Akufo-Addo the winner of Monday’s election.

He beat his opponent, former president John Mahama, by a margin of 51 to 47 percent.

Voters watch on at a station in Accra as votes are compiled, Dec 7, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)
Voters watch on at a station in Accra as votes are compiled, Dec 7, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)

In a post on his Facebook page, the president spoke Wednesday night after the Electoral Commission announced the results.

“The Ghanaian people through the results have made it loud and clear that the two parties, the NPP and NDC, must work together, especially in parliament, for the good of the country,” said Akufo-Addo.

Final results in the parliamentary vote are yet to be announced, but it’s possible that Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party may lose its majority. Some lawmakers who also held ministerial titles have lost their seats.

Nonetheless, Mahama’s National Democratic Congress party has called the vote “flawed” and indicated they would appeal.

While Ghanaian police say there were scores of violent incidents during the election that left five people dead, election observers say the vote was largely free and fair.

Election officials and observers start the process of vote counting on Dec 7 in Accra. (Stacey Knott/VOA)
Election officials and observers start the process of vote counting on Dec 7 in Accra. (Stacey Knott/VOA)

Political analysts say the mixed results show Ghana’s democracy is maturing.

Maame Adwoa Gyekye-Jandoh is head of the University of Ghana's political science department. She says there is a growing trend of split-ticket voting for the president and lawmaker from opposing parties.

“It shows that the electorate is quite mature," said Gyekye-Jandoh. "They can see when you do work in the constituencies and do not forget about them, they reward you.”

Emmanuel Akwetey is executive director of Ghana’s Institute for Democratic Governance.

He says the results should also prevent one party from pushing through laws with little debate.

“I think with the new situation we have, they will be forced to discuss a little bit more, and accommodate the opposition views a little bit more,” said Akwetey.

Over 13 million Ghanaians voted in the election, surprising some analysts who were expecting lower numbers due to voter apathy and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christopher Fomunyoh is regional director for Central and West Africa at the Washington-based National Democratic Institute.

In Ghana to support domestic election observers, he says the turnout shows a commitment to democracy.

“As long as we see this citizen engagement it means all the tenants of Ghanaian democracy - that includes civil society advocacy, civil society monitoring of the electoral process, legislative oversight - that those other tenants will come out strengthened by the level of citizen engagement that we have seen,” said Fomunyoh.

This election was the third, and presumably final time, that Akufo-Addo and Mahama will face off for the presidency.

Ghana’s constitution allows presidents a maximum of two, four-year terms.

Mahama bested Akufo-Addo in 2012 but lost in 2016.