According to http://www.allafrica.com, newspapers across Ghana are in a contest for the most exciting elections headlines. “Election Fever Grips the Nation” roars the Chronicle while the Daily Telegraphic leads with “’Morrow is D-Day.” Fourteen million voters are anticipated to cast their votes for one of the eight men wanting to be the President of Ghana.
Yes. Eight Presidential candidates.
At least not all 23 registered political parties have a candidate on the ballot.
A winner will be declared only if he gets 50% + 1 of the popular votes. If there’s no winner, a run-off election between the top two candidates will be on December 28.
Although all eight candidates and their followers are hopeful, most Ghanaians view the contest as having two candidates: incumbent President John Mahama of the National Democratic Party and the New Patriotic Party’s candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Like American hopefuls a month ago, the politicians are reminding residents that “the stakes are high” and “we need your support” to move the country in the right direction. The two major parties staged massive rallies in Accra today.
Smaller towns throughout Ghana held rallies over the last several months as candidates criss-crossed the country. President Mahama drove through Jumbo six weeks ago escorted by 20 SUV-type vehicles and a bevy of motorcycles. Horns blared. Music blasted. People cheered. I waved from the side of the road at the motorcade; I’m sure the President smiled and waved back from whatever dark-windowed vehicle he happened to be riding in.
The President spoke at a rally at Kpassa, my market town, but I didn’t attend. Peace Corps encourages us NOT to participate in or attend political rallies or demonstrations. Remaining neutral makes it easier for us to support our communities.
The polling spot for Jumbo is the primary school near my house. I walked to the school this summer during voter registration. Long lines of people chatted as they waited for their thumb-prints to be entered and their voter ID cards to be printed. Ghana uses biometrics – thumb prints – for voter identification.
Many Jumbo residents don’t anticipate long lines tomorrow – because they have decided not to vote. Multiple villages declare “No light. No vote.” with hand-painted signs along the road. Their threat: “If we don’t get lights (electricity) before the election, we won’t vote.” But Jumbo has lights. They aren’t staying away from the polls to protest no electricity. They are abstaining because they feel they are in the wrong district. (It’s like residents in a small American town not voting because they think they should be in a different county.) Last week Jumbo residents held a demonstration to protest their current district assignment and to generate awareness of their decision not to vote.
By this time tomorrow, the polls will be closed. The 24-hour news stations won’t be broadcasting up-to-the-minute election results like they did on November 6. If you’re an astute observer, you may see a snippet on the news declaring the winner of the Ghana Presidential race – or announcing the run-off election. But you probably won’t see the results of the 275 parliament seats being decided today.
Over 1,300 candidates (only 10% female) and their supporters representing 14 different political parties will be elated or disappointed at the Ghanian election results. I wonder how Jumbo residents will assess the results – even though they they didn’t contribute to the outcome.