Is Africa’s model democracy in danger of faltering?


GHANA2With just under two months to go before the polls, several signs indicate that, despite Ghana’s track record, problems will plague the upcoming elections more severely than in the past, note analysts Dorina A. Bekoe and Stephanie M. Burchard.

Two particular concerns are most prominent, they write for World Politics Review:

The first is the result of controversies that have damaged the reputation of two key electoral actors, the electoral commission and the judiciary. The second involves the credibility of provisions currently in place for electoral security. Either of these factors might portend a tense electoral season on its own, but taken together they paint a rather alarming picture of a country at a crossroads.

There are stark warning signs that Ghana’s elections could result in substantial violence, they caution, adding that the international community should seize any and all opportunities to encourage Ghana’s political leaders to adhere to democratic norms and to opt for a peaceful election. Given its strong relationship with Ghana, the United States can play a particularly positive role, Bekoe and Burchard suggest:

Ghana is party to several major security and development programs with the U.S., including the Security Governance Initiative, the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership and Power Africa. Governments and NGOs looking for programs to support would be best served by partnering with Ghanaian civil society to conduct parallel vote tabulation (PVT), deploy domestic poll-watchers, and engage in crisis mapping and early warning/early response exercises. These are tools that have shown positive effects in other countries, as well as in Ghana itself. In particular, an inclusive PVT process, whereby civil society, political parties and the media conduct their own exit polling to verify the EC’s results, can reduce opportunities for fraud while simultaneously increasing confidence in the outcome of the election. PVT effectively reduced suspicion during the tense 2008 and 2012 elections in Ghana, and was successfully employed in Kenya in 2013 and Nigeria in 2015.

The international community should also support local responses to rising electoral tension, they contend:

Credit: NDI

Credit: NDI

Since 2004, Ghana’s Center for Democratic Development’s Coalition for Domestic Election Observers (CODEO – right*) has trained a special subset of pre-election conflict monitors among the conventional election observers to document electoral violence, starting three months before the elections. As their reports were submitted, a specially designated committee responded appropriately and quickly, treating the incidents either as criminal matters, opportunities for mediation or more serious security concerns. In 2012, 40 such monitors were deployed to 40 violence-prone constituencies to document any rising tensions or conflict.


*A partner of the National Democratic Institute, one of the core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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