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Ghana steps back from the brink

January 3, 2009

Ghana’s epic nail-biter of an election has finally ended with opposition leader John Atta Mills being declared the winner by the narrowest of margins: barely 40,000 votes out of 9 million, or less than 0.5 percent of votes from the past week’s run-off.

Virtually everybody was expecting a close race, but the contest got tighter and increasingly acrimonious as both rival camps sensed power was within their reach. As the vote went down to the wire, to be decided with delayed voting held in one final constituency on Jan 2, the ruling New National Party (NNP) announced a boycott and launched legal proceedings to postpone the poll and freeze the announcement of results
After a year that has seen electoral bloodshed in Kenya and Zimbabwe one analyst who has followed the vote closely warned that incidents of violence during the polls indicated Ghana “may be coming close to that abyss of no-return”.
Yet shortly after the Electoral Commission announced results on Saturday, Akufo-Addo conceded defeat, congratulated Mills and both candidates were stressing the need for cooperation and consensus between their two parties.

What a difference a few hours makes – although Whether they are able to make that promise a reality for the party rank and file caught up in the bitter rivalries of the past few months, only time will tell.
So what was all the fuss about? By the most alarming interpretations, Ghana has stepped back from the brink of chaos. Others say it was just healthy competition.
Some observers say the simple fact the country’s institutions, especially its Electoral Commission, were able to cope with such a tense, tight race and ensure both sides respected the results, is proof of the deep roots democracy has in Ghana. That is a point of pride for many Ghanaians aware of their country’s history as the first sub-Saharan colony to achieve independence and one of the first to adopt democratic politics under outspoken former coup-leader Jerry Rawlings, who appointed Mills as his vice-president in the 1990s.
So is the bitter wrangling between the two main parties a “slur on Ghana’s democratic credentials”, as one analyst put it? Or should the country be proud that even such a hard-fought election should end without widespread violence? Do the past month’s elections show Ghana’s democracy is alive and well, or expose its weaknesses? How does it compare with elections elsewhere in Africa? And, given many people say there is little difference between the manifestoes of the centre-right NPP and Mills’s centre-left National Democratic Congress (NDC), was the election worth the risk?

(Picture: Supporters of Mills of opposition NDC party celebrate their candidate’s win after elections in Accra. Luc Gnago / Reuters)


Ghana’s democrazy is alive and well. Just watch and see, everything will be back to normal once the president is sworned in!!!
Great report.


Ghana has once again shown that we are very open minded and capable of leading Africa.I hope other African countries will follow suit.Bravo Ghana we love u

Posted by kofi Preko | Report as abusive

Well done Ghana! It is great to have a good story coming out of Africa for a change!

Posted by W Mukori | Report as abusive

“Ghana steps back from the brink” of what? What at all does the western media want to see before they write a positive report about Africa? I’m not sure what happened in Ghana is any different from the US elections which gave Bush victory. Did any reporter wrote about US as “on the brink” during those prolonged elections which was characterised by bitter legal battles? Be fair to Africa if you don’t want us to see you as bias.

Posted by Manuel, London | Report as abusive

Close elections are held in the West and no one sees it as sending those jurisdictions to the brink. Yet look at your headline about Ghana’s election. What were you expecting? I congratulate the people of Ghana for putting the Western media to shame. Please note that Ghana is a great country, with great people. And we dont wash our dirty linen in public.

Posted by Kojo, Toronto | Report as abusive

I like the write up, although the headline and a few analysis almost suggested Western media wanted to see otherwise. That said, the reporter did a good and balanced analysis and I can’t agree more with u on the fact that a few hours can make a difference. I congratulate all Ghanaians for their maturity and comportment. Well, other African countries shouldn’t hesitate for us to fall on us to choose their leaders for them. They only have to enplane all of us and we’ll let peace prevail wherever we go. Cheers Reuters and readers.

Posted by Sam | Report as abusive

Congratulations Ghana. Kenya has a long way to go and should learn from you.By all counts these two elections were similar and specifically the tension they created. But Ghana seems to understand what democracy is all about and especially in practice.It will be sad to have any country in Africa repeat the happenings of the Kenyan election.Ghana should be an exammple we all draw from.Best wishes as you go through this phase.

Posted by maria wanza | Report as abusive

There is nowadays a great deal hunger for change in many countries in Africa, but some of the old guards will not give up easily. Change is a long run project for Africa, but in the meantime, those African leaders who have given up without driving the army in their ways should be honoured.

Posted by Philippe Mandangi | Report as abusive

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