Magazine article Business Credit

Hot Spots: Ghana

Magazine article Business Credit

Hot Spots: Ghana

Article excerpt

Although the opposition boycotted the inauguration of President John Dramani Mahama, who narrowly defeated his rival in a December 7 election, this country is not about to lose its reputation as one of the politically more stable in Africa. Arguments about the fairness of the balloting will be settled by the courts and Mahama will reach out to opponents. The most challenging task facing him will be to keep the fast-growing economy on an even course and to see to it that the poorer segments of the population feel they are participating in the increasingly oil-driven expansion.

Ghana is unusual in Africa as it has seen five peaceful and constitutional transfers of power since its last coup in 1981. It was able to hone its reputation last July, when President John Evans Atta Mills died after a battle with cancer and then Vice President Mahama, a 53-year-old Christian from the mostly Muslim north, took the oath of office only hours after the announcement, without drama and as required by the constitution. He headed a caretaker government until elections were held on December 7, and he won this poll--admittedly only narrowly--with enough votes to avoid the need for run-off balloting.

The nation's electoral commission said he had garnered 50.7% of the vote against his opponent Nana Akufo-Addo's 47.7%. Voting was fraught with delays after hundreds of newly introduced electronic fingerprint readers failed, forcing some polling stations to reopen on the following day to clear the backlog, but the nation's own, non-partisan Coalition of Domestic Election Observers along with monitors from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States declared the contest to have been free and fair.

This notwithstanding, Akufo-Addo, the leader of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), filed an action at the Supreme Court seeking to overturn the election result on the grounds that there were "irregularities." He and his people boycotted the inauguration of Mahama, ignoring appeals to end the dispute. The president took the oath of office without incident in Accra's Black Star Square, however, and it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will overturn the outcome of the poll, or that the opposition will seek to use "street power" to accomplish this.

By African standards, Ghana is a remarkably democratic country. Elections have been run by a genuinely independent commission and have repeatedly been deemed to be free and fair. The army is out of politics and judges rule frequently against the government. Accra has more than 100 radio stations and more than half a dozen daily newspapers which during elections dispatched journalists to report from virtually all of the tallying centers and from many of the stations where ballots were counted by hand in plain view of representatives from both leading parties.

President Mahama has reached out to his defeated rivals and has urged them to join him "as partners" to tackle the challenges that lie ahead. The Supreme Court is virtually certain to decide in his favor and this will, likely, be the end of the controversy, leaving Ghana's reputation as a pillar of democracy in a troubled region untainted. During the campaign, both Akufo-Addo and Mahama had pledged to build schools, roads and housing and use money from the 2010 startup of oil production from the promising Jubilee field to boost the country's manufacturing industries and help create jobs. …

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