By Ray Ankomah
For the eighth successive time, Ghana has strongly asserted herself as the beacon of democracy in Africa south of the Sahara.
The country went through the 2020 General Election albeit with the usual challenges and protests by a major opposition political party but without any major upheaval to throw the gold and cocoa producing nation into chaos and anarchy.
The two dominant political parties, the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the largest opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), as the major players, have since 2000 switched places after sometimes grueling electoral battles, with the minor political parties simply trailing them.
The Fourth Republic of Ghana that registered a break from military dictatorship continues to register more successes. While the NPP emerged from the pro-capitalist Busia-Dankwa-Dombo Tradition, the Social Democrats – inclined NDC can best be described as an offshoot of military strongman Jerry John Rawlings’ Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) and the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).
The NDC also prides itself on championing the socialist Kwame Nkrumah Tradition of the Convention People’s Party (CPP).
Jerry John Rawlings, until his death on 12 November 2020, was a former military officer and politician, who led the country from 31 December 1981 to 06 January 2001, earning the credit as the longest ruling head of state.
He led a military junta until 06 January 1993, and then served two terms as the democratically elected president of Ghana.
He is best remembered for his revolutionary zeal and promotion of the principles of probity, accountability and social justice. He exhibited a morbid hatred for corruption and other ills of society.
Rawlings ushered Ghana into the Fourth Republic and continued to be a dominant force in Ghana politics until he bowed out after running his two-term of office from 1994 to 2000, thus winning two consecutive elections.
Upon retiring from active politics in 2001, he remained a critical force with a close watch over his shoulder on the activities of the NDC and in the national political space.
John Agyekum Kufuor led the NPP, contested and won the presidential election in December 2000 after defeating Professor John Evans Ata-Mills of the NDC, who had served as the Vice President of Ghana under the second NDC Administration from 07 January 1997 to 06 January 2001.
Kufuor polled 3,104,393 votes or 48.4 per cent of the valid total votes cast, while Mills garnered 2,871,051 or 44.8 per cent of the valid votes. With none of the two candidates securing the mandatory 50 1 votes, Kufuor and Mills faced off in a re-run for the decider.
None of the other candidates managed to garner enough votes to get into contention. They were Edward Mahama of the People’s National Convention (PNC),158,419 (2.5%); Philip Hagan (CPP),104,531 (1.8%); Goosie Tanoh, National Reform Party (NRP),71,595(1.1%); Dan Lartey, Great Consolidated People’s Party (GCPP),66,439(1.0%); and Wereko Brobbey, United Ghana Movement (UGM),21,803
In the run-off held on December 28,2000, Kufuor secured an unassailable lead with 3,538,990 or 57.4 per cent of the total valid votes as against Mills, who obtained 2,627,110 or 44.8 per cent of the votes.
Kufuor was sworn in as president on January 7, 2001. In December2004, he was re-elected for his second and final term.
Under his administration, Ghana participated in the World Bank/ International Monetary Fund Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative. The country signed the Millennium Challenge Corporation, providing $547 million for anti-poverty programmes, constructed 25,000 kilometres of roads, increased the minimum wage from US$0.60 to $2.25 and introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme, among other social interventions.
The GDP growth increased from 3.7% to 6.3%, while GDP per capita grew from $262.9 to $602.5.
in 2008, Mills won the December 2008 presidential election, defeating Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the NPP, and he and John Dramani Mahama were inaugurated on January 7, 2009.
The Mills Administration implemented the Single Spine Salary Pay Policy, initiated by his predecessor to harmonise public sector salaries and allowances to ensure fairness and equity. It introduced social interventions such as free school uniforms and exercise books and expanded the National School Feeding Programme.
It provided more than one thousand schools with basic school infrastructure towards ending the “schools under trees” phenomenon. From January 2009 to January 2011, he had increased the Gross International Reserves from US$2 billion, covering 1.8 months of imports to US$ 3.5 billion of three months import cover. Inflation rates also declined continually from 18.1 per cent in December 2008 to 9.38 per cent in October 2010.
After the unexpected death of Mills on July 24, 2012, Mahama, who was serving as the Vice-President, was elevated to the presidency, just months before the end of Mills’ term.
The NDC selected Mahama to be their candidate in the December 7, 2012, election, in which he competed against seven other candidates, including Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP.
Mahama was announced the winner with 50.7 per cent of the votes, narrowly avoiding a runoff election with his nearest challenger, Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP, who polled 47.74 per cent of the total votes.
Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP, however, alleged that electoral fraud had taken place and filed a petition with the Supreme Court, challenging the results.
In August 2013, the Court dismissed the NPP’s petition and upheld Mahama’s victory.
Meanwhile, Mahama continued serving as president, having been inaugurated on January 7, 2013.
Falling global prices on Ghana’s primary exports as well as increasing public wage costs negatively impacted Ghana’s economy, as did increasing debt. Also affecting the economy were power outages, which had become an unfortunate hallmark of his administration and led to a nickname for the president that Mahama himself joked about: Mr. Dumsor, ‘dum-sor’ meaning “off-on” in the local Twi language.
The economic woes and power shortages, as well as anger over corruption scandals frustrated voters as the 2016 elections approached.
Mahama, however, was able to counter some of the frustration by pointing to his accomplishments and highlighting infrastructure projects completed under his administration, such as those in the transportation, health, and education sectors.
Mahama led the NDC to contest the presidential election that was held on December 7, 2016, facing Akufo-Addo for a second time and five other candidates.
Mahama was, however, defeated by Akufo-Addo, who won almost 54 per cent of the votes.
Mahama, who placed second with about 44 per cent of the vote, conceded and stepped down at the end of his term in January 2017.
Mahama in 2019 was selected as the NDC’s presidential candidate for the 2020 election.
Akufo Addo’s flagship achievement has been the introduction of the Free Senior School, which has seen enrolment levels up by about 70 per cent in three years. Under the Planting For Food and Jobs Programme, about 1.4 million farmers across the nation have benefitted from subsidized fertilizer, improved seeds and extension services. Food production has thus increased, with the importation of rice seeing a significant reduction.
The application of digital technology in the delivery of public services has been prioritised, while the benchmark values of import duties have been reduced by 50 per cent. The reorganization of the regional governance infrastructure has seen the creation of six new regions. The Administration has also established a Ghana Commodities Exchange and implemented the Nation Builders’ Corps to reduce graduate unemployment, among other achievements.
President Akufo-Addo won the presidential election as declared by the Electoral Commission.
The 76-year old polled 6,730,587 votes or 51.302% of the total valid votes cast, while Mahama, 62, of the NDC secured 6,213,182 votes or 47.359% of the total votes cast.
This is without the votes they both won in the Techiman South Constituency.
This is the third time the two leaders have met in elections after 2012 and 2016.
Mahama secured victory in the 2012 presidential election but failed to secure a second term in office after he was trounced by Akufo-Addo by more than a million votes.
However, a replay of the 2012 polls is unfolding. Mahama and the NDC have refused to concede defeat, claiming the election was flawed and have filed a petition at the Supreme Court for a possible recount of the presidential votes and a re-run.
The 2020 polls are arguably the hottest and closest election ever held, with both NPP and NDC at par in terms of parliamentary seats secured. Both have 137 seats each but the NPP is well-positioned to secure an additional parliamentary seat of its estranged member of Fomena in the Ashanti Region.
Even as Ghanaians await the outcome of the Supreme Court petition, Ghana can still be said to be a beacon of democracy in the West African region as it continues its democratic trajectory.
Whatever the outcome, Ghana is more likely to sail on safe waters without rocking the boat.
Its trajectory to sustainable democracy is still on course and unassailable.