Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Third Peaceful Transfer of Power and Democratic Consolidation in Ghana

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Third Peaceful Transfer of Power and Democratic Consolidation in Ghana

Article excerpt


Ghana is seen as a model of democracy in Africa (Ayee, 1997; Gyimah-Boadi, 2001; Daddieh, 2009; Abdulai & Crawford, 2010; Gyimah-Boadi & Prempeh, 2012; Gyimah-Boadi, 2015). In this regard, many democracy watchers across the globe were not surprised when the 2016 General Elections ended peacefully. The incumbent government that lost the elections (2) handed over power peacefully to the leader of the main opposition party. This marked the third smooth transfer of power from a ruling party to the opposition in a manner that demonstrates some determination on the part of Ghanaians to climb higher the ladder of democratic progression. (3)

Earlier works on elections, democracy and democratic consolidation in Ghana like that of Gyimah-Boadi (1991) discussed Ghana's transition to constitutional rule. Other scholars such as Ayee, (1997); Ayee, (2002); Smith, 2002b; Daddieh, 2009; Gyimah-Boadi, 2001, 2009; Alidu, 2014) have also examined the 1996, 2000, 2008 and 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections respectively. Some other works have also highlighted the role of the Ghanaian media, civil society and state institutions in Ghana's drive towards democratic consolidation (Whitfield, 2003; Arthur, 2010; Gyampo & Asare, 2015). A few others have also focused on the role of third parties and their abysmal electoral performance in Ghana since 1992 and its implication for multiparty democracy in Ghana (Yobo & Gyampo, 2015). More so, some other scholarly works have looked at ethnicity and electoral politics in Ghana and highlighted its positives and dangers to Ghana' fledgling democracy (Frempong 2001, 2004, 2006; Arthur, 2009).

Clearly, Ghana's thriving democracy has received considerable scholarly attention (Abdulai & Crawford, 2010; Agyeman-Duah, 2005; Arthur, 2010; Ayee, 2011; Ayee, 1997, 1998, 2002; Boafo-Arthur, 2006; Bob-Milliar, 2012a; Brierley & Ofosu, 2014; Daddieh, 2009; Debrah, 2016; Gyampo & Asare, 2015; Gyimah-Boadi, 2009; Oquaye, 1995; Smith, 2002; Yobo & Gyampo, 2015). However, not much has been discussed on its recent third turnover of political power which occurred on 7 January 2017. This is a significant and topical phenomenon which deserves scholarly attention. This paper therefore contributes to the body of knowledge by examining the extent to which Ghana's democracy has been consolidated after a third peaceful transfer of political power. It does so within the framework of the minimalist and the maximalist conceptualization of democratic consolidation (Linz 1990; Huntington, 1991a, Huntington, 1991b; Beetham 1994; Diamond 1997). In terms of structure, the paper theorizes democratic consolidation; examines the practical extent of democratic consolidation in Ghana since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1992; and draws some useful conclusions.

Theorizing Democratic Consolidation

There emerged a strong authoritarian tendency, a decade after the 1960s when many countries in Africa obtained independence from colonial rule. The nationalist movements that led many African states to independence quickly moved to undermine or abolish opposition parties. These ruling groups had the resources to co-opt opponents to extend and consolidate their support base (Sandbrook, 2000, p. 16). As a result, democracy was in short supply in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa where out of forty-seven countries only three - Mauritius, Botswana and Gambia - retained multiparty democracy for twenty years or more. Nonetheless, circumstances changed globally in the 1980s, with many economic hardships in these countries, which discredited authoritarian regimes. This gave birth to the democratic wave in the 1990s forcing the authoritarian regimes to embrace democracy. This is what Huntington, (1991b, 1991a) referred to as the "third wave of democratisation."

The concepts of democracy, democratisation and democratic consolidation defy a universally accepted definition. …

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