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Despite having ten other contestants, Ghana’s presidential poll was a two-men horse race

Quainoo Reuben

ACCRA-Same old main political parties. Same old faces. Same old rivalry rekindled.

This aptly describes Ghana’s just ended eighth plebiscite, which was won by the incumbent president Nana Akufo-Addo (76) of the  New Patriotic Party (NPP) who polled 51 percent of the vote against 47 percent won by his main challenger and former president John Dramani Mahama (62), the flag bearer of the biggest opposition party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC).

Although ten other political parties participated in the elections, it is the two main contenders-the NPP and the NDC-as well as the same candidates-Akufo Addo and Mahama-who stole the thunder.

Not even the wife of the late former President Jerry Rawlings, Nana Konadu Agyeman, of the National Democratic Party (NDP), stood out or managed to capitalise on the sympathy of her hubby’s recent death, as she garnered only 6 549 votes (0,05 percent). Rawlings died last month aged 73.

The NDC’s Mahama was president from 2012 to 2016 before being unseated by Akufo-Addo. Akufo-Addo won a second term in this week’s polls. This is the third time that the two have battled it out in presidential elections.

There has been a recurring trend where the party that wins the presidency has always had the majority in parliament, which has 275 seats spread across the 16 regions.

Ghana is celebrated as a torchbearer of democracy in Africa, and the recent elections, though marred by isolated spates of violence that led to five deaths, partly attest to that.

Many elections in Africa lead to bloodbaths, reruns or boycotts by the opposition. The Tanzanian, Malawian and Ivory Coast polls held this year quickly come to mind.

Predictable elections

But analysts say beyond the veneer of Ghana’s democracy lies a worrying trend where the winner is always predicted to be either of the two main political contenders and their parties.

Senior lecturer and political scientist at the University of Ghana, Dr. Seidu Alidu admitted that Ghana’s political landscape is one characterised by a de facto two-party system.

“For me I don’t see the possibility of a third force coming up. Most of these small political parties are manipulated by the two main contenders,” he said.

According to him, Ghanaians tolerate the two main political parties because of the electoral processes and principles that they undertake.

Ghana has never missed an election since 1992 when it returned to multi-party democracy.

Dr. Alidu noted that although there are multiple political parties in the country, only the NPP and the NDC have, as per the pattern over the years, ganered up to 75 percent of the votes in the country’s elections.

Head of History and Political Science Department at the Kame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Dr. Samuel Adu Gyamfi, says the two parties and their presidential candidates’ continued contest deprives the country of political diversity.

“They continued to be elected to manage the affairs of the country because they are well marketed, well networked and have deep pockets to sustain the rigorous presidential campaigns. However, I believe this has weakened other party members interested in contesting for the same position who might even have better resources than the two candidates,” Gyamfi said.

To bolster Ghana’s democratic process, Dr. Alidu called for a review of the country’s electoral system, especially at the parliamentary level.

“We should introduce a new electoral system that is able to give the opportunity to smaller political parties to be elected, especially in areas where they have stronger majority or are popular,” he suggested.

Ghana operates the usual 50%+1 rule for a candidate to be declared winner of a presidential vote while the first past the post is used to determine a winner in all of the parliamentary contests.

It seems the de-facto two party system is there to stay, if victory remarks by president-elect Nana Akufo-Addo are anything to go by.

“The Ghanaian people through the results have made it loud and clear that the two parties must work together for the good of the country. Now is the time for each and every one of us, irrespective of our political affiliations, to work hard and place Ghana where we want it to be.”

Akufo-Addo promised to deliver on the promises he made to Ghanaians in his campaign for a second term.

“Just as I have been doing since 2017, I give you my word, that I will continue to work very hard  to build a prosperous and progressive Ghana for which we yearn. The size and margin of this election victory constitute for me an endorsement of the policies and programs initiated by my government.”

But the NDC says it will not accept the poll results.

Speaking at a press conference, a leading member of the party, Haruna Iddrisu, said the NDC has “overwhelming” evidence that proves that the party’s candidate, Mahama won the election.

“As a party, we have had extensive consultations and detailed analysis of the outcome of the elections as announced by Jean Mensa, the Electoral Commission chair.”

“We have come to only one irresistible conclusion that this was a flawed, discredited election. Therefore, we reject the presidential result without any reservations,” he said.

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