The incumbent Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo has held on to power following the release of official results. Tensions are rising in the normally peaceful country as his opponent calls foul play.
The Ghanaian electoral commission on Wednesday declared incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo the winner of the country's presidential election.
The 76-year-old Akufo-Addo from the center-right New Patriotic Party (NPP) beat his opponent and predecessor John Dramani Mahama of the center-left National Democratic Congress (NDC) with 51.59% of the vote. It is expected that this will be his second and final term in accordance with the Ghanaian constitution.
More than 13 million ballots were cast out of a total electorate of 17 million and across 38,000 polling stations throughout the country. Voters also chose 275 lawmakers for the national parliament.
Five people were killed in election violence. Otherwise, Ghana's poll on Monday was carried out largely peacefully — a regular achievement for the West African country unlike for some of its neighbors that have seen violence following recent elections — although the process was mired by accusations of fraud before the official results were released.
Chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Ghana Jean Adukwei Mensa praised election workers for operating the polls smoothly, and openly, despite the coronavirus pandemic.
The NDC rejected the results of the election and said they planned to appeal the electoral commission's decision, Haruna Iddrisu an MP for the party told AFP.
The results of one constituency remained disputed, however Mensa said that even if all remaining votes went for Mahama, it still would not change the overall outcome.
Long-awaited results, but carefully counted
The electoral commission took several days to tally up the votes and had urged for patience while they were "working around the clock."
Around 12,000 observers were present for polling day and reported only a handful of incidences of intimidation. "While there were some challenges, these challenges were isolated and did not undermine the process's overall credibility," a coalition of observers said on Tuesday.
Ghana has successfully carried out democratic transfers of power for almost two decades and stands in contrast to neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone where violence disrupted recent electoral processes.
The two leading candidates signed a symbolic agreement on Friday to resolve any disputes in the courts and to avoid possible violence amid the tensions of the close contest and the country's first economic contraction in decades.
Over 60,000 security personnel had been stationed at polling stations to maintain order.
Accusations of fraud
Tensions rose on Tuesday evening as the contesting Mahama warned his opponent not to "steal" the election, accusing the sitting president of using the military to intimidate voters.
"You cannot use the military to try and overturn some of the results in constituencies that we have won. We will resist any attempts to subvert the sovereign will of the Ghanaian people," Mahama said at a press conference in the capital Accra.
Akufo-Addo's information minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, was quick to condemn the accusations as false and "irresponsible."
The candidate's comments mirrored those of US President Donald Trump who lost the presidential election in November but accused his rival of stealing the election.
Failure to accept the electoral commission's results could cast a shadow over the country's democratic credentials.
Both sides claim success
Before the electoral commission came out with its tallied results, the NDC communications director, Sammy Gyamfi, told DW that the commission wasn't doing its job correctly, "but they would fail because they cannot change the will of the people. We don't want to push anyone into any early celebration. We are on course, we have 140 parliamentary seats, safe and secured."
John Boadu, general secretary of the NPP told DW of the implications of accusations coming from the NDC: "Creating insinuations creates a lack of credibility on our whole election process … We are happy to announce that for the next parliament it is obvious from the results declared across the constituencies that the NPP will still maintain a majority in parliament."
(Reuters, AFP, DW)
Ghanaians go to the polls Monday with incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo and former president John Mahama as front-runners.
Akufo-Addo’s party has campaigned mainly on his education initiatives, while Mahama’s has focused on job creation and attacking his opponent's record on corruption. But the familiar faces have also made voter apathy an issue.
Ghana's government this week announced Monday, Dec 7, would be a public holiday - to help get voters to the polls to choose the next president.
Despite more than 17 million registered voters and 12 presidential candidates, authorities are battling voter apathy with familiar front-runners from the last two elections.
Incumbent President Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is facing off against his predecessor, John Mahama of the opposition National Democratic Congress’ (NDC).
Mahama won in the 2012 election and then lost to Akufo-Addo in the 2016 election.
Kojo Asante, with the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, says there is fatigue, mainly among the middle classes.
"The first few hours is always a good indicator of whether people will eventually go out," said Asante. "If they see the crowds are behaving and then they get feedback that it is very easy to go and vote and so, then they might eventually still go out, even if they had decided not to."
Despite the challenge, Asante says their pre-election survey shows Ghanaians are concerned about issues such as improving infrastructure and employment.
The survey pointed to positive responses on the ruling NPP’s handling of COVID-19, power supplies, and education.
But the public was less impressed with Akufo-Addo’s record on inflation, inequality, and corruption. Attacking Akufo-Addo on corruption was a focus of Mahama’s campaign, along with job creation. But risk consulting group Songhai Advisory’s Kobi Annan says both men have underperformed in office.
"It's a difficult choice for a lot of people. Neither of them have performed fantastically during their terms of office, and I think it will come down to primarily sentiments around things like education, corruption, job creation. I think job creation and education in particular - those affect more people day-to-day than corruption does," said Annan.
Under Mahama’s presidency, there was an energy crisis, corruption scandals and a currency devaluation.
In 2016, the NPP won by about one million votes and with high expectations for Akufo-Addo to stamp out corruption.
But in the weeks leading up to this year’s election, the opposition NDC made corruption allegations against Akufo-Addo. Ghana’s anti-corruption special prosecutor resigned just three weeks before the election, alleging political interference.
While Akufo-Addo denies any corruption in his administration, analysts say it’s hard to know if the claims will impact the vote.
Regardless of the result, or voter turnout, analysts are expecting Ghana’s election to be fair and peaceful – as with the last two elections.
Maame Gyekye-Jandoh is head of the University of Ghana’s Political Science Department.
"Emotions may run high, but based on these past precedents, these past good precedents, I believe that the election will be peaceful, and the results will be considered credible and legitimate," said Gyekye-Jandoh.
The University of Ghana published a voter survey that gave the NPP an estimated 11% lead over the NDC with five percent of voters undecided.
The complex relationship between Africa and China has become even more complicated this year. Initially, 2018 was set to reaffirm the bond through the latest Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit held in Beijing in September.
The summit delivered its usual pageant of African leaders, side deals, and the announcement of a USD$60 billion financing package. The year also saw the recurrence of misgivings about the relationship.
The most explicit theme of this conversation was debt. Donald Trump’s US administration added fuel to smouldering anxiety, and China found itself having to defend its lending to Africa – at home and globally. At the same time, African governments are battling rumours that they are about to hand over state assets to the Chinese.
The debt debate is flawed – not least for underestimating Western contributions to African debt. Nevertheless, it is revealing. In particular, the debate reflects an anxiety that has haunted relations between China and the continent since the beginning of this century: the massive power gap between China and individual African countries.
The constant rhetoric of win-win cooperation between China and Africa has never adequately answered the simple structural question at the heart of the relationship. That is: how is an economy the size of Benin’s or Togo’s, for example, supposed to meaningfully engage with the Chinese behemoth? It’s a bit like trying to speed up your bicycle by grabbing on to a passing jumbo jet. It can take you to the next level, or it can simply rip off your arms.
The fundamental economic and power imbalance between China and African countries has led to the relationship being criticised as neocolonial. The truth, however, is that African governments exercise more agency than they are given credit for. This includes frequently playing China and traditional Western development partners off against one another.
The word “agency” is key here: to what extent is Africa able to freely make its own decisions and drive the best deals with China?
Our new research focused on this issue. We looked at two emerging areas shaping African agency in relation to China. These are reforms to the African Union (AU) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initiative involves a massive infrastructure rollout aimed at linking China to Europe and beyond. The aim is to set up a zone of shared development that encompasses Central and Western Asia and Africa.
The AU and the Belt and Road initiative
The AU has proposed a set of reforms to streamline African negotiations at events like the FOCAC under the auspices of the continental body. This could be seen as a step towards the frequently repeated goal of Africa negotiating collectively with China. But, in fact, we show that it faces significant resistance from within the continent. This comes both from powerful states worried about losing control of their bilateral relationships with China, and from smaller states worried about being excluded.
China’s BRI reveals other aspects of African agency. It’s structured by numerous bilateral agreements, but is also subject to regional as well as local pressures. The way the initiative’s projects have been pulled into national debates involving opposition politics shows that the range of actors constituting African agency is potentially much wider than national governments.
We argue that before African agency can be maximised, this aspect of relations between China and particular African governments needs to be taken into account. Thinking about the issue has so far fixated on the role of national governments, to the exclusion of other actors. The biggest include regional economic communities such as Nepad and the AU. The smaller ones comprise opposition parties, civil society, local businesses and communities. All contribute to and constitute African agency.
What is this agency, how does it work and how can it be strengthened?
Understanding African agency
We identified three key areas where African agency can be located.
Firstly, African agency is expressed in the frameworks and documents that govern bodies like the forum. For example, in the early days arrangements paid relatively little attention to the issue of industrialisation. That changed after the formal adoption in 2015 of the AU’s Agenda 2063 – its blueprint for Africa’s sustainable development. The forum held that year saw an uptick in how many times the issue was mentioned.
By 2016, African industrialisation had become a key initiative of China’s presidency of the G20. Beijing directed an unprecedented level of G20 attention to the continent.
By 2018, the Beijing summit ended with fewer declarations of intent relating to industrialisation. Instead, it had become integrated into the continental and bilateral planning processes. In particular, it features regularly in discussions on development financing. Likewise the word “training” was mentioned over 40 times and in virtually every section of the Beijing Action Plan.
This suggests there is a shift from declarations of intent to more specific engagement towards industrialisation. This doesn’t necessarily guarantee the success of Africa’s industrialisation. But it shows that China responds to African agenda-setting.
Secondly, African agency is diffused across various levels and among various actors. Any analysis of African agency has to consider the complex interactions between continental bodies like the AU, regional economic blocs, national governments, civil society, business, and local communities. Each plays a role in shaping African decision making in relation to China. Partnerships that cut across the state-business-civil society divide are as important as state led initiatives in articulating policy initiatives in relation to China.
Thirdly, it’s important to think of the changing terms of agency as African governments face growing debt burdens via such initiatives as the BRI. For instance, rumours that the Zambian government offered its national electricity supplier as collateral in exchange for a new tranche of Chinese loans have reportedly caused political division at home.
Critics have focused on debt as diminishing African agency. What they’ve ignored are the significant financial and reputational risks to China.
Maximising African agency
As Africa becomes more involved in global initiatives, and as it moves towards greater continental integration via AU reforms and the Continental Free Trade Agreement, the need increases to think harder and more creatively about what African agency means. It isn’t enough to simply reiterate the call for Africa to negotiate collectively with China – not least because this disregards the complex interactions between African governments.
Rather, it’s time for more comprehensive thinking about how African agency manifests across actors and geographic scales. Only once we have a firmer handle on this can we move towards maximising it.
Yu-Shan Wu, Foreign policy researcher and doctoral candidate, University of the Witwatersrand; Chris Alden, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Cobus van Staden, Senior Researcher: China Africa, South African Institute of International Affairs