Ghanaians go to polls in presidential, parliamentary elections

Country on west African coast widely perceived as one of continent’s most democratic

Ghanaians went to the polls on Monday in presidential and parliamentary elections, as international observers praised the country for its adherence to democracy.

New Patriotic Party (NPP) head Nana Akufo-Addo (76) has been president for the last four years. His father, Edward, was one of the "Big Six" political leaders who led Ghana to independence in 1957, and are still pictured on bank notes.

His main challenger, John Mahama (62), leads the National Democratic Congress party and previously served as president between 2012 and 2017. Mr Mahama – whose father, Emmanuel, was one of Ghana's first government ministers – says he is campaigning against corruption and inequality.

This would be the final four-year term for either man under rules that prohibit a president from serving more than twice. There are ten other candidates running against them, including three women.


Ghana, a country of roughly 30 million people on the west African coast, is widely perceived as one of the continent’s most democratic. This will be its eighth election since multiparty democracy was reinstated in 1992. More than 17 million people are registered to vote.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Akufo-Addo said the country wanted to preserve its reputation. “The entire world is looking up to us to maintain our status as a beacon of democracy, peace, and stability. In this fourth republic, we have had the longest, uninterrupted period of stable, constitutional governance in our history, banishing the spectre of instability that disfigured the early years of our nation’s existence, and the benefits are showing.”

"The good people of Ghana have always impressed with their pleasant disposition towards civic duties," Goodluck Jonathan, a former president of nearby Nigeria, sad on Twitter. "I urge them to be peaceful and purposeful, as a means of deepening their enviable republican credentials and consolidating democratic experience in Africa. "

Continental background

In 2009, then US president Barack Obama chose to visit Ghana on his first sub-Saharan African trip after he assumed office. "Time and again, Ghanaians have chosen constitutional rule over autocracy, and shown a democratic spirit that allows the energy of your people to break through," he said during a speech to parliament.

The election takes place against a background of increasing concern about backsliding elsewhere on the continent, with some African presidents extending term limits, clamping down on opposition and facing accusations of vote rigging.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, which awards the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, is among many organisations highlighting these ongoing challenges. Its annual prize is meant for a former African head of state who was democratically elected and left office when their term ended. Since its establishment in 2007, it has been awarded only five times.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa