Ghana’s presidential and legislative elections set for 7 and 28 December 2012 respectively, will be extremely close and come at a significant time given the region’s instability. The opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has again selected Nana Akufo Addo as its presidential candidate and aim to regain power after its 2008 defeat. Akufo Addo was defeated by less than 1% of the vote in the final run-off – just 40,500 votes. The ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate, President John Mahama, is campaigning to convince voters that he and his party are fit to continue in office.
The credibility of the process will be key. Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the wife of the controversial and outspoken former president, Jerry John Rawlings, has been barred on technical grounds from running in the presidential election. Although she never really stood a serious chance of winning significant votes, this has focused attention on the impartiality of the Electoral Committee, whose perceived independence will be essential if the result of this expected tight election is to be peaceful. We have seen in other elections in Africa in recent years how partisan electoral commissions have been triggers for protest and violence.
The management of the economy has been the main battleground on which the candidates have fought. Mahama promises to improve living standards, tackle inflation and boost infrastructure development. Corruption scandals have hurt the ruling NDC’s reputation, but the NPP’s record in office was also far from clean. Both parties know that by the time of the next election in 2016, a projected oil and gas production boom will favour the then incumbent.