Since its transition to multi-party democracy in 1992, Ghana has been a success story, and it has been a natural assumption of those who follow African development that Ghana will continue to prosper. However, Ghanaian prosperity hinges on maintaining a successful democracy, and in the coming year Ghana will face a difficult series of political and economic challenges. Much like other former stars of African development and growth, Ghana risks falling from grace unless some steps are taken.
Historically, Ghanaian governance was a strength. A democracy since 1992, Ghana has experienced two strong presidents in Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor. Rawlings originally came to power in a coup in 1981, but then successfully managed the democratic transition winning two contested elections in 1992 and 1996. President Rawlings of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), a former air force second lieutenant, set a high bar for Ghanaian presidents; in beginning his leadership, he put an end to a series of violent coups that had lasted over a decade. President Kufuor of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), elected in 2001, participated in the first peaceful transfer of power between democratically elected leaders since 1957. Since Kufuor left office in 2009, two presidents have been elected – John Atta Mills and John Dramani Mahama, both of the NDC.
The political climate in Ghana has lately been plagued by corruption and uncertainty. The Mo Ibrahim award for “Achievement in African Leadership” rewards good governance with five million USD paid over ten years to support government programs. The award was not issued in 2009 or 2010 despite that Kufuor was widely considered a frontrunner. This snub was seen by Ghanaian news sources as a criticism of corruption in several of Ghana’s recent administrations, as well as a reaction to allegations of a flourishing cocaine trade in Ghana.
Voter registration issues are hallmarks of Ghana’s past elections. Several protests, led by the Let My Vote Count Alliance (LMVCA) which advocates for fair elections and a new voters registry, ended in violence when police shot rubber bullets and tear gas canisters into the crowd, beat protesters with horsewhips and batons, and arrested those who did not disperse.
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