Late Attah Mills
Paul Ohia with agency reports
Five months after the death of the former Ghanaian President, John Attah Mills, Ghanaians will head to the polls today to elect a president. Attah Mills died in office on July 24.
The citizens will also elect members of the country’s parliament.
Former President Oluesgun Obasanjo will be leading the ECOWAS monitoring group, which is expected to oversee the conduct of the elections.
The main contenders in today’s election are President John Dramani Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), who was Mills deputy and took over after his death, and Nana Ado Dankwa-Akufo of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
Other presidential candidates are Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), Dr. Abu Sakara of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), Mr. Hassan Ayariga of the People’s National Convention (PNC) and Dr. Henry Lartey of the Great Consolidated Popular Party (GCPP). The rest are Mr. Akwasi Addae of the United Front Party (UFP) and Mr. Jacob Osei Yeboah, an independent candidate.
For the parliamentary election, 230 seats are up for grabs by the many people contesting for a seat in the parliament.
Ghana, it seems, has shown greater political maturity in the sub-region given the ease with which they have organised their elections for about two decades. Not only have the outcomes of their elections been adjudged free and fair, they have been conducted without violence and drawn out legal challenges.
Pundits point to the fact that when Attah Mills died, the smooth transition of power to his erstwhile deputy, Mahama, signified the coming of age of the democracy in Ghana. This scenario conflicts sharply with Nigeria before the death of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. Indeed, so much fuss, drama and intrigues heralded the ascension of President Goodluck Jonathan to the presidential dais.
Accordingly, the Ghanaian electoral commission has introduced a biometric system to stamp out incidents of double registration. It is also meant to remove ghost names, which were discovered to be in a previous registration exercise.
Analysts believe that the election is all about affirming two straight terms of four years each for the ruling party or voting another party into power after just four years, which would be the first time this would happened since 1992.
After the election of former President Jerry Rawlings in the 1992 elections, the second poll in 1996 saw him returning to the state house and this was repeated in 2004 when former President John Kufuor won a second term under NPP.
But political pundits believe this could be threatened since the charisma exhibited by Mills is absent in Mahama. Moreover, Dankwa-Akufo has been seen as having built strong political structures, having earlier run for the post of president in the past.
The implication is that Mills' demise has contributed to changing the political landscape, in which an incumbent had a better chance of being re-elected. In addition to this game changer, the formation of two new parties, NDP and Progressive Peoples Party (PPP), which are offshoots of NDC and CPP, has been seen as a new development that could throw up a surprise.
Moreover, the introduction of Biometric Voter Identification Card and the electronic verification equipment at the polling stations would reduce the likelihood of rigging by the political parties.
Preparatory to the polls, international observers have arrived Ghana, with former President Olusegun Obasanjo leading the team from ECOWAS. On his arrival in the country, he was quoted as predicting that the election will be free, fair and credible judging from the preparation.
Obasanjo has held several meetings with key stakeholders, which convinced him that all is set for landmark free polls in Ghana today. He said his team was satisfied with the plans made by the judiciary, police and the Electoral Commission for the elections.
Before his arrival, members of the country’s security services had already cast their votes to enable them provide security during the polls. He was also informed that 13 million voters were registered for the election, which would be the sixth uninterrupted general elections since 1992.
If a candidate fails to emerge after the first round of the polls, which result would be announced on Sunday, a runoff would be organised for December 28.