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Ghana’s elections: Dare Africa hope?
As Ghanaians get set to elect a new president and parliament on Sunday, there seems to be as much attention on what a new leader will mean for Ghana as on what message Ghana will send the world about the state of Africa today. After a dismal year with elections rigged or marred by violence in Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently Nigeria, to name but a few, Africa could do with a pick-me-up.
Despite some wobbles and sporadic violence in northern Ghana where several people were killed in the early stages of the campaign, preparations for Sunday’s elections have gone relatively smoothly.
Sure, there have been arguments over voter registration, and worries voter lists may not be perfect. But politicians, civil society groups and even local hip-life artist Obour have joined a campaign against violence and to ensure electoral disputes are dealt with by the courts.
Yet some people worry too much power has been concentrated in the presidency under the administration of John Kufuor, who is standing down after the maximum two terms in office, and fear the capacity of the courts to judge electoral complaints impartially may be compromised.
These will be the fifth national elections since the charismatic former coup-leader Jerry Rawlings introduced multiparty democracy in 1992. They follow Ghana’s celebrations last year of 50 years of independence and hosting this year of the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament.
A successful election, free from violence and in which all candidates accept the result, would be a further boost for Ghana as it hopes for more rapid economic growth once offshore oil fields start pumping in late 2010.
So what does it mean for Ghana? And what does it mean for Africa? Would good elections here make a difference to the rest of the continent? Tell us what you think.