Peace and development at stake in Ghanaian vote

07 Dec 2012

Ghanaians will vote for a president and members of parliament on December 7 in an important test for the country’s long democratic tradition.

Building on twenty years of uninterrupted growth, Ghana, now a middle-income country, is also known for its expert management of elections. The country’s last elections in 2008 for instance, led to a peaceful transfer of power despite a less than 0.5% margin of victory in a highly politicized environment.

In a sign of democratic maturity, the death of President Atta Mills in July 2012 saw his successor, John Mahama, assume the presidency smoothly and without controversy.

Speaking of the upcoming elections, Ms. Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Ghana, said “it matters less which party wins”. “Once the elections are peaceful, everyone wins,” she added.

In 2012, UNDP supported the electoral process with a USD 2.2 million programme focusing on increased participation, gender equality and conflict prevention.

UNDP helped Ghana’s Electoral Commission to register 14 million Ghanaian voters, working with the commission to develop a text messaging system that allowed an estimated 700,000 voters to check their registration details from their cell phones.

UNDP also helped train 40 female parliamentary candidates and political leaders, almost a third of the number of women running for election. Training sessions covered public speaking, fund raising, campaign management, debating, policy analysis and communication with constituents and the media.

In addition, electoral staff, police officials and religious and community leaders were trained in mediation, conflict management and analysis.

In a novel initiative that aims to reduce the likelihood of contested results, UNDP – in partnership with the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), a regional organization operating in ECOWAS countries, – has established a monitoring initiative involving five  political parties. Through this initiative, they will use mediation to resolve any differences in polling station results obtained from their respective agents.

The UN system lent support to the electoral process through cooperative interagency initiatives that promoted gender equality, social issues, youth and women participation and peace.