Elections 2012: A Heated, Yet Peaceful Campaign Expected
Oil revenues are flowing in, inflation is down to single digits, and foreign direct investment has increased fivefold over the past year, but the question of who will be administering Ghana’s new-found wealth after the general election in December this year remains entirely open. The main contenders, President John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Akufo-Addo, the leader of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), have consolidated the hold on their respective political machines and will now turn their attention to what is widely expected to be a tight presidential race.
Mills faces an uphill battle converting the good fortunes of the economy into solid electoral support as oil revenues have yet to make a tangible contribution to job growth and disposable income of Ghanaian households. Case in point, the government looks unlikely to achieve its flagship project, an offshore pipeline linking the Jubilee oil field on the western coast with a processing plant at Bonyere in the Western region, in time for the elections. Built by China’s Sinopec and funded by a $3 billion loan from China Development Bank, the plant was expected to secure tens of thousands of jobs (and votes) in the Western region, while providing energy for new gas-powered industries.
At the same time, the opposition accuses the government of giving away generous terms to its Chinese partners at the expense of ordinary Ghanaians. The NPP is well-funded, supported by business groups, and set for a determined push to oust Mills from power. Late last year Akufo-Addo re-appointed Mahamudu Bawumia as his running mate, in a repeat of the 2008 NPP team that narrowly lost the polls to Mills. Bawumia, one of the main financiers of the party, served as the deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana prior to the nomination and will help Akufo-Addo to bolster the NPP’s campaign case for better economic management.
Although the stakes are high, Ghana remains remarkably calm in this crucial election year, in stark contrast to riots over cuts in fuel subsidies in Nigeria and violent anti-government protest in Senegal over President Abdoulaye Wade’s plans to stand for a third term. The maturity of political institutions, moderately higher living standards and a general perception – among the urban middle classes at least – that the country is moving into the right direction will limit the potential for political violence and social unrest.
GHANA’S RISK ASSESSMENTS
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