- Ghana is a constitutional democracy. It transited from a prolonged authoritarian military regime to multi-party democracy in 1992
- The Constitution provides for an executive president who can serve a maximum of two four-year terms in office
- To win the presidential election candidates require 50% plus one vote in the first round of polling. If this does not occur the top two candidates take part in a run-off
- Multi-party elections have been held every four years since 1992, with the contest largely between two dominant parties: the National Democratic Congress (NDC,) which has its support base in the Volta Region, and the New Patriotic Party (NPP), with its stronghold in the Ashanti Region
- There are currently 275 seats in Parliament. 148 seats are held by the governing NDC; 121 seats by the main opposition NPP; four seats by independent candidates; one seat by the People’s Convention Party (PNC); and one by the Convention People’s Party (CPP)
- The Electoral Commission (EC) has proposed 7 November 2016 for the next Presidential and parliamentary elections. This date is awaiting approval of Parliament
- Follow the elections on Twitter using the hashtags #GhanaDecides #Ghana2016
In the first three decades after independence Ghana was ruled by both civilian and authoritarian military governments. However, since 1992 the country has remained a stable, constitutional multi-party democracy.
The NDC, led by Flt. Lt. Jerry John Rawlings, a former military ruler, won the 1992 and 1996 presidential and parliamentary elections. In 2000, having served two terms as president, Rawlings respected constitutional term limits and stepped aside as leader of the NDC.
The 2000 presidential and parliamentary elections were a watershed in Ghana’s political development. In a highly competitive process no candidate was able to secure the required 50% plus one vote majority in the first round. In the presidential run-off, the NPP, led by John Agyekum Kufuor,won 56.9% of the vote to defeat his NDC rival, John Atta Mills. After 18 years in power the NDC was voted out of office, marking the first political turnover from one democratically elected party to another.
In December 2004, John Agyekum Kufuor won his second term in office, this time securing a 52.5% majority in the first round. Parliamentary elections saw the number of NPPs seats in parliament rise from 99 to 128; the NDC also increased its parliamentary presence marginally, from 92 to 94 MPs. The polls provided a further indication of the strength of Ghana’s two main political parties.
The 2008 elections marked Ghana’s second peaceful democratic transition of power in a highly contested vote. Having served two terms, incumbent President Kufuor did not compete. The NPP chose Nana Akufo Addo as its presidential candidate, while the NDC retained twice-defeated John Atta Mills. In the first round of polling, Nana Akufo Addo won 49% of the vote, narrowly ahead of Mills’s 47%. With neither man able to gain the constitutionally required 50% plus one vote, a run-off ensued. In the second round, John Atta Mills overturned the NPP’s first round advantage and was elected president at the third time of trying, winning by just 0.46%.
President Mills did not serve a full term in office, dying on 24 July 2012, just six months before the next elections. In accordance with the constitution, Vice President John Mahama was sworn in as the new president on the same day. The peaceful transition further cemented Ghana’s commitment to constitutional democracy, a process which has also benefited from its strong civil society and independent media scrutiny.
A particular concern ahead of the November polls revolves around the electoral register. On 18 August 2015, the NPP presented a petition to the EC demanding a completely new voter register before the elections. In December 2015, the EC announced that it found the argument for a new register unconvincing and would not be doing soAs has long been the case, the contest is likely to be very close, with the main parties fielding the same presidential candidates as in 2012. The acrimonious fallout that followed the 2012 elections may well be repeated in 2016.
Edem Selormey is a Senior Research Fellow at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana). She has also worked with Afrobarometer since 1999 and is currently Operations Manager for Fieldwork [Anglophone West Africa, East Africa and North Africa]. She has managed and participated in CDD-Ghana’s election support programmes for Ghana’s elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008.