Ghanaians went to the polls last Friday to cast their ballots for president. Widely viewed as a poster child for stability and democracy in a region that is fraught by civil war and conflict, the West African country must now decide how to invest its newly discovered oil wealth. The current elections placed the incumbent President John Dramani Mahama, 58 (@JDMahama), of the National Democractic Congress (NDC) against Nana Akufo-Addo, 64 (Nadaa2012), of the leading opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP). Mahama favors generating wealth by investing the country’s oil revenues in infrastructure, while Akufo-Addo counters that the way to raise the population out of poverty is to invest the money in free primary and secondary education. The average Ghanaian makes $4 per day, with the majority of the population yet to experience the benefits of oil revenues.
Technology dominated these elections, with candidates using popular social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to spread their messages. But it was the introduction of a biometric voter identification system that captured the most attention.
Ghana is one of the first African countries to use biometric identification for voters.
Biometric literally means life measurement; it is associated with using physiological characteristics to identify people. In this case the fingerprints were used as an identifier, with voters required to pre-register their prints and then have them authenticated by the Biometric Voting Machines (BVM) at the polling station. The Electoral Commission (EC) announced at a press conference, “Among the decisions we have taken with the political parties is ‘NVNV — No Verification, No Vote.”
But the NVNV policy was challenged when the BVMs broke down at some polling stations, causing long waits and frayed tempers. In some cases, citizens were not able to exercise their right to vote on Friday.
At polling stations where the BVMs failed, voting was extended on the following day. There were no significant protests.