Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, clinched a second four-year term on Wednesday, though his centre-right National Patriotic party was neck and neck with the opposition National Democratic Congress in as-yet-undeclared parliamentary elections.
The win for Mr Akufo-Addo, albeit with a reduced majority and the prospect of a more combative parliament, reflected voters’ satisfaction with certain policies, including implementation of free secondary school education and an end to the power cuts that had plagued the country previously, analysts said.
Mr Akufo-Addo won 51.6 per cent of the vote against 47.4 for his main opponent, former president John Mahama. The difference was about 500,000 votes in an electorate of 17m people. Turnout was about 78 per cent.
Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi, co-founder of the Centre for Democratic Development, said it would be a “dream” to have a president from one party and a parliament in the hands of the opposition if that turned out to be the final result. That would show a thoughtful electorate using the constitution to instil checks and balances, he said, though he conceded there could be a danger of gridlock.
A significant minority of voters split their vote, selecting a presidential candidate from one party and a parliamentary one from another in what Ghanaians call a “skirt and blouse” voting strategy. “It shows some sophistication and confirms the belief that all politics is local,” said Yofi Grant, chief executive of the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre.
Mr Akufo-Addo’s administration has been credited with relatively effective management of the economy, which grew at above 6 per cent annually until this year, thanks partly to oil, although the benefits have failed to trickle down to many poorer Ghanaians, according to economists. The government has also been praised for a credible Covid-19 response, keeping deaths to below 350.
However, despite the squeaky clean image it has sought to project, Mr Akufo-Addo’s government has failed to banish the perception of widespread corruption, say civil-society watchdogs. Ghana also remains on a World Bank-IMF watch list of countries with unsustainably high debt.
The election was largely peaceful, according to domestic and international observers, despite some incidents of violence, including five shootings. Anti-Covid-19 measures on polling day included handwashing facilities and a “no-mask, no vote” policy, as well as an increased number of polling stations to reduce lines.
Jean Mensa, chair of the electoral commission, said Ghanaians could be proud that they had held what she called the most peaceful election in their history, the first, she said, to be financed entirely from domestic funds.
It was the eighth consecutive election since Ghana returned to multi-party elections in 1992, cementing its reputation as a stable democracy.
“This has power — the thumb,” said a voter in Accra who gave his first name as Abdullah, referring to the thumbprint that Ghanaians use to vote. Explaining that if voters did not like the government’s performance, they would vote it out next time, he added: “Four years will come very soon.”
Javier Nart, head of the EU observation mission, declared the election “a success both for the people of Ghana and for the election organisers”. However, he regretted the loss of life and noted what he called a worrying “monetisation of voting”. The EU said that weak campaign finance laws remained a concern.
Peter Mac Manu, campaign manager for the NPP, brushed aside the narrower margin of victory, including the loss of some 30 parliamentary seats and defeat in Greater Accra. “In the second term, every president loses some support. I’m very satisfied — elated,” he said, adding that the presidency was “the great prize”.