I’m in Cambridge, MA today at a Berkman Center conference on Internet and Politics, an event that seems to roll around every four years as a review of how internet and community technologies were used in the US presidential campaign. I’ve come prepared to discuss the internet and politics with a copy of BBC’s Focus on Africa under my arm, a reminder that there are, in fact, other elections taking place this year, some of which are exciting and newsworthy as well.
With almost all votes counted, the election is apparently headed towards a run-off. The ruling NPP party candidate, Nana Akuffo Addo has received 49.13% of the vote, while NDC’s candidate, Professor John Atta Mills, which ruled the country from 1981 – 2000 received 47.92%. Since no candidate will receive a majority of votes, the election will head to a run-off on December 28th between the two leading candidates. While third-party candidates like Kwesi Nduom of the CPP haven’t attained a large share of votes, they may find themselves in a powerful political position, encouraging their supporters to vote for one of the candidates. (As the leader of a socialist-aligned party, we’d expect Nduom to side with the center-left NDC, but it’s hard to predict what he might do in this situation.)
Should Addo prevail in this next round, he’ll face an interesting challenge – a divided government. While NPP had firm control of the National Assembly for the past eight years, NDC made huge strides, winning at least 115 seats in the 230-seat legislative body. While competitive, free and fair democratic elections are unfortunately rare in sub-Saharan Africa, divided governments are exceedingly rare. It will be fascinating to watch if Addo has to compromise with his Assembly on ministerial appointments and annual budgets. (Okay, maybe you’re not fascinated, but I am.)
There’s lots to feel proud of in this election thus far. Former Botswanan president Ketumile Masir, monitoring the election with the Carter Center, noted, “Ghana is becoming a model of democracy in the region and abroad.”
Nana Oye Lithur, a Ghanaian gender activist, argues that a divided, “discering” electorate is the sign of something that’s especially powerful in Ghana, a free, diverse and energetic press. Everyone who cares about this country, and the continent as a whole, is holding their breath that the next round of the election is as free, fair, smooth and peaceful.