Polls have opened in Ghana’s general elections as nearly 17million Ghanaians go to 39,000 polling stations across the country to elect a president and 275 members of parliament to govern them for the next 4 years.
This will be the country’s 8th consecutive election since the return to multiparty democracy in 1992, which has seen power alternated peacefully between the two dominant political parties on multiple occasions. This election is considered by many observers to be a continuation of the country’s journey towards strengthening its burgeoning democracy.
Albeit, polls opened on time in almost all polling stations in large part due to the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana’s measures to reduce time spent at polling stations; including an increase in the number of polling stations and reducing each centre to 500 voters so as to curb the possible spread of Covid19, some voters still “queued” from the night before, marking their “spots” in the line with stones and other “avatars”.
The Presidential Aspirants
Voters will have to choose from a field of 12 presidential candidates which includes 3 female aspirants. However, the real contest is seen to be between the incumbent President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (76) of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the immediate past President, John Dramani Mahama (62) of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
This will be the third straight contest between the 2 frontrunners (2012, 2016 and 2020). Both candidates share some political similarities having served decades in public office as members of parliament and also ministers of state and single terms as President. This election will therefore spell the last term for each of them should they win power.
A departure from the usual colourful and energetic mass rallies, the campaign for this year’s election was subdued in accordance with state directives to the observing of COVID-19 protocols which limited the number of people allowed to gather at any given time. Hence the campaign moved to online platforms with the aspirants sharing their campaign promises on social media using a variety of approaches including visualisations, cartoons, motion graphics etc. Also widely used were WhatsApp and SMS broadcasts as well as robocalls and direct phone calls from the aspirants.
Majority of the campaign was also done in the media especially through radio talk-show programmes and general media coverage of political party press conferences. There were some recorded incidents of acrimonious debates and sharing/trading of insults and sometimes fake content and misinformation which led to heightened tension amongst supporters of the leading political parties. However, it is worthy to note that three days before this election, the two leading candidates signed a peace-pact for good conduct and peaceful elections at a ceremony that was attended by traditional and religious leaders, as well as international observers.
According to a poll undertaken by the University of Ghana Political Science Department, corruption which usually takes centre stage in most elections only ranks 5th in the list of issues of most concern to the electorate. This year’s campaign has been dominated by issues to do with the economy, management of COVID-19, campaign messages and promises and infrastructure development within the four year administration of the two front-runners.
Data from previous elections points to the fact that for any aspirant to win the presidency – in addition to their strongholds (Volta for NDC and Ashanti for NPP) – they will have to win at least two out of the three coastal regions (Greater Accra, Central and Western Region). These regions almost always change their voting patterns in all elections and can be classed swing regions.
The National Elections Security TaskForce (NESTF) has already deployed about 63,000 security officers across the country to maintain peace and order during the electoral process and respond to any potential unrest.
Declaring Results and Runs-off
The voting which begun at 7am will close at 5pm GMT. In Ghana, the winner of the presidency is decided by a simple majority for a candidate who secures even one more vote over the 50 percent mark. A runoff election will be held within 21 days if no candidate meets the threshold of votes cast.
In contrast to previous elections, the Chairperson of the EC, Madam Jean Mensa has assured Ghanaians that the outfit will announce the elections results within 24 hours after voting around the country ends.
“We are building some efficiency into the system. We have worked with our numbers and we have a duration within which the results should be transmitted…because of the efficiency we have introduced into the processes, we should be able to declare results within 24 hours,” she said.