Overview of Ghana’s 2012 Presidential Election


On Friday Ghana will hold its Presidential Election.  Ghana presidential elections are on the same 4 year cycle as the United States, though the election is in December rather than November.  Presidents are limited to two terms, same as the United States.  This is the sixth presidential election since the end of military government.  Twice an incumbent loosing party has peacefully turned over power to the incoming winners of the election.  

The most respected pollster in Ghana, Ben Ephson, predicts that John Dramani Mahama of the NDC will win on the first round of balloting, and that the NDC will maintain a majority in parliament.

Below is a sample presidential ballot for this election. 

Sample ballot for Ghana’s 2012 Presidential election

You can find more information about each of the candidates at Ghana Decides. Click on the picture of a candidate and you’ll more information about that candidate. And you can follow news and commentary from Ghana Politics from GhanaWeb

There are a number of active political parties fielding presidential candidates, the main contest is between the NPP and the NDC. The NPP’s strongest area of support is in the Ashanti region, and the NPP candidate is Nana Akufo-Addo. The NDC’s strongest support comes from the Volta Region, although its presidential candidate, John Mahama, is originally from the Northern region. There is more information on Ghana’s regions here.


Both parties have supporters throughout Ghana. Below you see totebags with the symbols of these two largest parties.

NDC and NPP tote bags for the 2012 Ghana Presidential Election

Savvy and enthusiastic young internet users in Ghana have carried on an active get out the vote effort on Facebook, BloggingGhana, BloGh, on Twitter #GhanaDecides, and Ghana Decides on Youtube. AlJazeera featured this internet presence in an article Turning Likes Into Votes.

A candidate they call “The Facebook president,” another who trended worldwide on Twitter, and a third who is speaking directly to voters via Google hangout. With only 10% internet penetration in a country with more than 14 million registered voters, what role will social media play in Ghana’s upcoming presidential election? And will online support for the candidates translate into offline votes?

In the days and months leading up to Ghana’s December 7 elections, candidates and civic organisations are using social media-savvy techniques to engage the Ghanaian electorate to get out the vote.

From #GhanaDedides comes word map of keywords used by the candidates, about the issues, and in news stories about the election.

2012 Ghana election keyword map

2012 Ghana election keyword map

Ghana has begun using biometric identification for voting. I have serious reservations about this, but will watch to see how it works. My question is who has access to this information, and who will gain access over time. We know the US government wants to collect biometric information on African political figures and activists based on the Wikileaks cables. We know the Pentagon is expanding its spy network in Africa.


Some electoral backstory


In 1992 Jerry John Rawlings ended his tenure as military leader of Ghana and was elected president. He was the flagbearer of the NDC party, which he founded. He won reelection in 1996, serving 8 years, which is the Ghana Constitutional limit, just like in the US. In 2000 he peacefully turned over power to the NPP and newly elected President Kufuor. Rawlings remains very popular but has bitter enemies as well, whose enmity he has earned. In 2000 his Vice President, John Evans Atta-Mills ran as the NDC candidate against John Kufuor, the NPP candidate. Many people thought it was time for a change, that the NDC had been running things long enough. Kufuor is a very likable guy, and he and the NPP won the 2000 election and were reelected in 2004.

Unfortunately the NPP leadership chose to work on enriching themselves rather than the country. Corruption has always been a problem, but Kufuor and the NPP leadership institutionalized corruption to new levels. They sold off Ghana’s assets and land to themselves and to foreign interests, and pocketed the profits. Money for public projects disappeared with nothing to show for it. Kufuor spent much of his terms in office traveling at taxpayer expense. In 2007 it was officially announced that significant deposits of offshore oil would be coming into production for Ghana from the Jubilee field. Kufuor arranged with Barclays Bank to set up Ghana with tax haven offshore banking.

In my observation, the NPP is very similar to the Republican party in the US. It is a party that wants to reward and advantage existing elites. Many of its leaders come from the families of people who were elites before colonialism, and enjoyed privileged status during the years of colonialism. Many of them opposed independence and then opposed the projects that would help Ghana become economically independent, such as the building of the Akosombo dam and Tema harbor. I think if the NPP had been able to dial down the corruption a bit, and produce a bit more, it would have stayed in power. The battle for votes and battles over counting the votes were fierce in the 2008 election, which went to three rounds. John Atta-Mills finally won the 2008 election. It was decided by one constituency, Tain, in the Brong-Ahafo region. Rawlings campaigned energetically for Mills. Rawlings had helped some to build up the area, but it had been mostly ignored during the tenure of the NPP. Roads were neglected and farmers could not get their cocoa to market to sell.

John Atta-Mills was distinguished by his rare degree of wisdom and honesty. That was not necessarily the case with the people around him. He was good natured and people worried he might not be a strong enough leader, though he could be tough. Rawlings wanted to continue running things through Mills and Mills quietly did not let him. Rawlings frequently railed against Mills from the sidelines throughout the 4 year term. Mills also successfully resisted the persuasions of US AFRICOM to send Ghanaian soldiers into Ivory Coast as US proxies in January 2011.

In July 2012 President Mills died suddenly and unexpectedly, though he was known to have health problems. In another democratic triumph, Ghana moved smoothly and quickly to swear in Vice President Mahama as President, following prescribed Constitutional procedures and without incident. At the time he died Mills was a very popular figure and the entire country mourned his passing. Mahama then became the NDC nominee for President and has shown himself to be knowledgeable and able.

In the NPP, Akufo-Addo, who was Kufuor’s Vice President, and who had run for President in 2008 was nominated again. In 2011 in a speech in Koforidua, speaking about his intentions for the election, in a voice shaking with intensity he said three times “all die be die”, meaning that violence is entirely acceptable if needed to win, deaths are an acceptable price for electoral victory. Akufo-Addo has shown himself prone to violence before, as when his bodyguards beat and killed fellow NPP member Seth Michael Ahyiah. Akufo-Addo has tried to weasle out of the meaning of all die be die, but has never withdrawn the words. Many are afraid he will stir up violence if he does not win. Soon thereafter the wild talking NPP member of parliament, Kennedy Agyepong saidif we do not win, Ghana will become like Rwandaand

… he has declared war on all Ewes living in the Ashanti region, and that the NPP activists in the region should attack Ewes with machetes and cutlasses. He warned that any security personnel who will try to keep the peace in the region will be lynched.

This did get Kennedy Agyepong in trouble with the law, as it should. And there are more recent reports of danger: Akufo-Addo’s all-die-be-die militants unmasked. NPP supporters are not the only source of danger and potential violence, but with “all die be die” they have been the most overt.

Most of the politicians and parties are urging peaceful behavior during the election, and that is a major message of the online electioneering. There is a strong push for peace and respect for the law from all parties.

I have dealt mainly with the political history and maneuvering here, without sufficient attention to the issues. For an understanding of the issues, you might do best listening to the IEA, Institute of Economic Affairs debates, which are on YouTube: IEA Debate in Tamale (30-10-12) [Full], and the edited IEA Final Presidential Debate (21-11-12). Overall my impression was that John Mahama was by far the most knowledgeable with the most breadth and depth of understanding. The most visionary platform (pdf) as I see it comes from the GCPP whose candidate is Henry Lartey, who wants to build a new solar energy based economy. I know little about him or the party, though his father was highly respected.

As mentioned above, you can find more information about each of the candidates at Ghana Decides Click on the picture of a candidate and you’ll find more information about that candidate. Wikipedia has articles on Ghana’s main political parties and candidates. And you can follow election news and commentary from GhanaWeb Ghana Elections 2012


Update December 9, 2012

John Mahama wins.
Dr. Afari-Gyan, head of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, reports all the votes have been counted and all constituencies have reported. 79.43% of Ghanaian voters turned out to vote.
John Mahama is President Elect with 50.70% of the vote.
Nana Akufo-Addo received 47.74%.


Political regions of Ghana

January 3 update:
Mills declared winner of presidential run-off elections.

The EC has declared Prof John Atta Mills (NDC) as the winner of the 2008 Presidential run-off elections.

The President-elect won with 50.23 % (4,521,032) of the votes. Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP) got a total of 4,480,446 votes, representing 49.77 % of the valid votes. The total turnout of the run-off elections was 77.91 %.


From MyJoyOnline:

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan will declare the winner of the 2008 presidential run-off tomorrow at 11 a.m. [GMT] … The opposition NDC is expected to garner enough votes in Friday’s vote in Tain to consolidate its lead and eventually win the race.

NPP withdraws legal suits. The New Patriotic Party has withdrawn all legal suits from the courts relating to the 2008 presidential elections.

Dan Botwe a member of the Nana Akufo-Addo campaign team says the New Patriotic Party (NPP) will not do anything to undermine the country’s fledging democracy.

Afari-Gyan declares results on Saturday 11 a.m. [GMT]

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan will declare the winner of the 2008 presidential run-off tomorrow at 11 a.m. This follows a successful conduct of the elections in the Tain Constituency on Friday, January 2, 2009.

The Tain Constituency held the key after close presidential race between the NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo and the NDC’s Prof. Atta Mills.

The poll was so close the difference between the two candidates after last Sunday’s run-off was only 23,055 votes.

This knife-edge result made it impossible to declare a winner without the Tain results because the votes in the constituency could determine who actually wins the race.

A tiny little constituency which could not vote because of late arrival of election material became the battleground.

Although the ruling NPP pulled out of the election a day before the poll, that does not invalidate the process.

Provisional Results on Prez run-off elections from 131 out of 144 Tain constituency:NPP-1803 (9.01%), NDC-18208 (90.99%) from ghanaelections.

in fact, it is on par with, if not surpassing, elections that i’ve seen and participated in in the U.S. … everything I’ve seen today has been nothing short of textbook election procedure, from grantdobbe

The West African Elections project, African Elections Project Ghana, is aimed at developing the capacity of the media in ICTs in order for them to use it as a tool for election coverage and the provision of elections information and knowledge for planned elections in Ghana, Cote d ‘lvoire, and Guinea from 2008 to 2009. I hope this tool is continued and expanded. There is good background information there. There is also still much to add.

In the December 28th runoff Tain did not receive the election materials in time to conduct the runoff properly on that day. When the certified votes were tallied for the rest of the country, Mills got 50.31% of the vote, and Akufo-Addo 49.69%. The Electoral Commission decided this was too close to call without having results from Tain. So Tain is holding its runoff today. In the December 7th election the NDC got a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Two Twitter streams from Tain today are quite informative, grantdobbe and ghanaelections.

The NPP is boycotting the Tain runoff, at least to some extent. A VoA article by Peter Clottey had this:

[T]he ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) failed in its bid to legally restrain the electoral commission from declaring the winner of Friday’s special election and subsequently the next president of Ghana. The NPP also served notice to the electoral commission that it would not be participating in the Tain Constituency election, citing security concerns, which it claimed would significantly undermine the transparency of the election. … Bernard Morna is a leading member of the opposition People’s National Convention. … He tells reporter Peter Clottey that by citing security concerns, the ruling NPP was acting irresponsible.

“I can tell you that the security acted so professional to my amazement that all of us were asked to come down from our vehicles, including the former President (Jerry Rawlings). The vehicles were searched thoroughly and we were personally searched so as to ensure that nobody went into Tain with any weaponry or with ballot papers,” Morna noted.

“Indeed at the point of our entry (into Tain), we saw the former general secretary of the NPP whose car was searched and at that point we noticed that thumb printed ballot papers for Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufu-Addo the NPP flag bearer were found and they were taken out. And we are also informed that when the current president got to Wenchi (in the Brong Ahafo region), the Wenchi chief told him that the people of Tain were going to vote overwhelmingly for the NDC. And so the president should go back to Accra to prepare to hand over power to an NDC elected president. So, I am also encouraged by the professional manner the security agents are conducting themselves,” he said.

Morna described as irresponsible claims by NPP partisans of security intimidation.

“I hold that to be a very preposterous and strange position coming from a party and a government. The ruling party that controls the security of this nation turns around to say the security if the nation is bad then that should be the reason for which the people should vote them out because they have shown gross incompetence and gross incapability of managing the security of the nation that you can’t even assure the people of Ghana that the security of something they can rely on,” Morna pointed out.

And most sad is the appalling violence that was perpetrated in a number of places during the original runoff on December 28th and in the December 7th election. I have heard some about this in conversations back home. We have been lucky and so far my family has mostly remained safe. Koranteng has not been so lucky. His uncle, a man we need in Ghana, suffered a severe beating when he went to monitor the polls according to election protocols. Koranteng writes:

Let’s start with this: they almost killed my uncle.

I really can’t write much more than that. When I look at what was done to him, when I look at the pictures, there really isn’t much more that can be said: they tried to kill my uncle, they almost killed my uncle.

The threat had been raised in 2000 and 2004 that “There will be blood on the ground”. There was certainly violence and intimidation back then but we have seen things this time in 2008 and now 2009 that are chillingly close to what transpired in places that no one should ever emulate, in countries that people use as cautionary tales.

The cynical people who incited, who fomented, who organized the political violence are as much to blame as those who attacked, who beat, who kicked, who threw stones, who threw planks, who sprayed acid and sundry powders, who held people hostage until they signed, who chased people off, who surrounded cars that arrived in their villages and towns, who shook cars, who spat, who came with cudgels and cutlasses, who threatened to burn down our family home and many others, who stole watches from bleeding men, who searched for cement blocks to take take lives, who heeded the call to slaughter the strangers in their midst.

I have written about my uncle before in these pages, noting that he was one of three psychiatrists tending to the mental health of 20 million Ghanaians. These days he might well be the only psychiatrist in Ghana since almost everyone who trains in his discipline seems to leave the country. My favourite uncle, I don’t know a gentler man.

My prayers go out to Koranteng, his uncle, and all his family. And I pray also for the many others who suffered while trying to exercise their constitutional rights as citizens of Ghana.
_____ end update _____

Today the Tain constituency in the Brong-Ahafo Region will hold a runoff election to determine the final result of the Ghana presidential election. Tain is located to the west, near the border with Ivory Coast. With luck and the grace of God, this will provide a final, legal, and constitutional conclusion to the electoral process and the next president of Ghana may be inaugurated.

After the Dec. 28th runoff, the vote was very close. All but 4 constituencies reported and certified results. Then 3 of those last 4 came in. Only Tain was left.  The totals for the runoff were so close that it was determined that there should be a final runoff for the Tain constituency that will determine the winner for the country. Tain is generally considered NDC territory, and likely to go for John Atta Mills.

The December 28 runoff was very close. There were reports of ballot boxes stolen, others that were stuffed, plus violence and intimidation of voters, voting officials, and party observers. The most irregularities seem to be in the Ashanti region, stronghold of the current ruling party, the NPP, whose candidate is Nana Akufo-Addo. There was also a fair amount of irregularity in the Volta region which is the stronghold of the NDC, whose candidate is John Atta Mills. If you do not count either of those two regions, the vote total goes to Mills.

In the Ashanti region on the December 28th runoff there was a mysterious upsurge in the numbers of people voting. In just 4 voting discricts in Kumasi in the Ashanti region, a total of 64,149 more voters voted on December 28th than on December 7th. And equally mysteriously, they all voted for Akufo-Addo. To anyone who watches politics anywhere, these figures are obviously fishy.

There have been a number of tapes made of conversations among NPP plotters planning to steal the election. The biggest scandal broke just before the runoff.

As I understand it, all indications are that this is a genuine recording of the actual conversation, despite denials:

Another tape scandal has hit the country with some leading members of the NPP alleged to have hatched a plan to rig Sunday’s run-off, and was played on Radio Gold FM.

The tape which was given prominence by Raymond Arher, Editor of the Enquirer Newspaper, and first aired on Radio Gold an Accra based Radio Station, implicates former mayor of Kumasi Maxwell Kofi Jumah, NPP campaign Chairman, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, and Mr Hackman Owusu Agyeman for allegedly meeting an anonymous man to hatch the plan to rig Sunday’s polls.

According to excerpts of the tape which was later aired on JoyFM on Saturday, a voice purported to be that of Kofi “Ghana” Jumah promised the anonymous man and 40 others an amount of 60 million cedis if they are able to steal ballot boxes in some regions across the country

As journalist Kofi Thompson wrote on his blog:

The tapes formed the main topic of conversation on “Election Forensics” – the radio programme hosted by the brilliant Raymond Archer and produced by that intrepid news-hound Roland Acquah-Stevens. Ghanaian democracy owes Radio Gold FM a huge debt of gratitude for putting the outrageous election-rigging activities of Maxwell Kofi Jumah into the public domain.

No one who listens to those tapes will fail to be offended by the utter contempt for ordinary Ghanaians and the unprincipled manipulation of our institutions of state, displayed and engaged in, by the current Establishment, which the Maxwell Kofi Jumah tapes illustrate so perfectly.

Personally, they remind one of similar conversations by some of Mr. Maxwell Kofi Jumah’s political forebears (who also had a similar contempt for ordinary people and for democracy), which one overhead at home as a precocious 13 year-old boy – who had a keen interest in current affairs: even at that age during the immediate post-Nkrumah years.

My loathing for politicians of Mr. Kofi Jumah’s ilk stems directly from that period of my life: when I often overhead after-dinner conversations, telephone conversations and read secret cabinet files of that era. The shocking tribal-supremacist utterances of some of the figures of history from that particular period of our history, whom one encountered at our home from time to time, were a huge disappointment to even a small boy that young then.

Clearly, the minority of powerful tribal-supremacists who have hijacked and dominated the New Patriotic Party (NPP) since the party came to power in January 2001, are determined to hang on to power at all costs – regardless of what the verdict of the people of Ghana in the presidential run-off.

Although he also writes of:

… the sense of fair play that is an inherent part of the character of ordinary Asantes: many of whom were appalled by the monstrous and abominable actions of the NPP activists throughout the Ashanti Region.

The Jumah tape is not the only tape. Another tape made it on the radio about a plot to kill former President Rawlings, who has been traveling the country campaigning vigorously for Mills and the NDC. It was released to the radio by the man supposedly hired to do the killing.

There have been other tapes and accusations as well. Apparently some disgruntled NPP members have recorded and released recordings of NPP political plotting. Some of these NPP members are angry because they have not gotten what they view as their share of the spoils. And some because they may be offended by some of the anti democratic practices.

The NPP has long accused the NDC of being the coup plotting party because of President Rawlings, and the coups he made earlier in his history. But Rawlings served two terms, and performed according to the constitution, stepping down when Kufuor was elected.

However NPP actions during this election season seem designed to prevent democracy from functioning and to maintain political power.

When Rawlings was President he did a lot to bring roads, electricity, and schools throughout Ghana. Many areas such as Tain benefited. During the 8 years the NPP has ruled, almost nothing has been done, particularly in the rural areas. In some places cocoa is rotting because people can’t get it to market, and this while the international price of cocoa is rising. There have been lots of NPP government promises but no follow through. People remember this at election time. Plus there is a lot of anger about trade and other agricultural policies that have hurt Ghanaians. The professional drivers, taxi and others, are strongly for NDC. They are angry about recent creation of a special traffic court and ask, if there is a special court that fines them and puts them in jail, why are there not special courts for armed robbery and cocaine, both of which plague Ghanaians.

The NPP even made an attempt to change already certified results:

One Kennedy Agyepong, a an NPP MP, appeared at the Electoral Commission’s strong room this. By the time he left, one EC official was attempting to change certified Ashanti Region voter figures; figures which had been certified and reported late last night. And when NDC monitoring officials questioned what the official was doing, he responded that the new figures were corrected ones from Ashanti Region; figures not certified by EC personnel at the district level and figures carried into EC headquarters by an NPP MP. And the new figures were all significantly higher than the previously certified ones that were reported to the public earlier.

The NPP has made legal attempts to block the Tain runoff. To date I understand they have been denied. There were many rumblings of violence during the week, but a lot of people were working to try and cool things down. People from a number of countries were warning if the Ghana elections go seriously wrong, the effects will ripple across the whole continent.

There was talk of a power sharing agreement for awhile. I think it was a widely unpopular (and undemocratic) notion. For now at least, that seems to have been dropped.

To follow what is happening, here are some links:

Ghana election news

Ghana latest news

Ghana headline news

December 28 results

December 7 results

Say It Loud – an unmoderated, heated, exuberantly opinionated, sometimes revealing and informative Ghanaian discussion of everything touching Ghanaian life (you need a thick skin and cool head to play on this field)

Ghana Politics – Kofi Thompson’s blog, passionate, opinionated and well informed

There is an American Peace Corp volunteer who happens to be in Tain, blogging live to the world from Tain.
See: http://twitter.com/grantdobbe

ghanaelections on Twitter