Ethnicity on Ghanaian Elections
In developed states, it is assumed that individuals base their electoral decision on rationality, and as such, they select their political leaders based on their ideologies, as well as the goals and objectives that they are to achieve. In developing states, on the other hand, the voting behavior of an individual is highly determined by tribalism and ethnicity. It is a result of this fact that the electoral process of most African states is usually regarded as an ethnic census.
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However, there are African states such as Ghana whose voting patterns are not entirely determined by ethnicity. This paper will thus critically analyze the election trends of Ghana since 1992 to determine whether ethnicity is the key determinant of electoral trends.
Ethnicity and Political Environment in Ghana
Like many African nations, Ghana is made up of numerous ethnic group that can be subdivided into the following 5 major groups:
|Ethnic Group||Composition (%)|
Even though there are regions that comprise a high proportion of one ethnic group, there is no region in Ghana that is ethnically homogenous. After the 1992 referendum in Ghana, a new constitution was enacted that has played a critical role in discouraging and eliminating ethnicity in Ghanaian politics. For instance, it is a mandatory requirement for all political parties to develop a national character.
Parties are also not expected to base their membership on ethnic, religious, or regional affiliations. Political parties are also expected to have branches in every region of the state, and at the same time, their committees should comprise of members from all the regions of the nation. These are key provisions as they ensure that the support of political parties come from all the regions of the state. Furthermore, these provisions also ensure that the visions, goals, and objectives of political parties have a national interest and not the interests of specific groups or regions.
Historically, the foundation of political parties in Ghana was based on factors other than ethnicity. For instance, the United Gold Coast Convention (UGGC) founded in 1947 aimed at emulating westernized ideology in a bid on ensuring that control of the government is under the people of Ghana through legal and constitutional means. This party was mainly comprised of businessmen, merchants, and intellectuals. Founded in 1949 was the Convention People’s Party (CPP) that was led by Kwame Nkurumah in a bid to fight for the rights of workers, women, and students in the nation.
From a critical point of view, it is evident that the main purpose of the early political parties was first to ensure that Ghana is an independent and sovereign state in addition to achieving political, economic, and social stability. It is as a result of lack of achieving these goals that this nation has experienced four successful military coupes and rules under one-party until when the constitution was amended in 1992 that led to the reintroduction of multiparty politics in the nation and the springing up of new political parties such as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Ghana’s Fourth Republic.
As discussed earlier, the constitution of Ghana has developed provisions that discourage the operation of political parties in Ghana along ethnic lines. However, this does not deter voters from voting along ethnic lines, especially with regards to the presidential elections between 1992 and 2008. Much more specifically, it has always been assumed that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is dominated by the Ewe while the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is dominated by the Akan/Asante group where they gain a lot of support in the Volta and Ashanti regions respectively in the elections between 1992 and 2004.
This trend was mainly because the Volta region is mainly dominated by the Ewe and the Ashanti region by the Akan/Asante group. It is perhaps due to this fact that voting in the African States is always considered as an ethnic census exercise.
Even though the voting trends seem to indicate that voter behavior in Ghana is ethnic driven, there is numerous evidence that shows otherwise. Running for the presidency under the People’s National Convention (PNC) party during the 1992 elections, Dr. Hilla Limann, who was the president during Ghana’s Third Republic, failed to gather majority votes from the Upper West, Upper East, and Northern regions even though he had strong cultural and linguistic connections with these regions.
Furthermore, NDC lost the monopoly it had in using the media and state facilities for conducting campaigns that led to very close election results during the 2008 elections after winning only by 40,000 votes from a total of 9 million cast votes nationwide. This is attributed mainly to the fact that the opposition, led by NPP used radio stations and other forms of media to air their grievances towards the NDC regime, hence acting as a favorable alternative for voters.
This paper has clearly shown the voting behavior in Ghana since 1992. While the presence of ethnicity in voter decisions cannot be overlooked, it is evident that the decision of voters in Ghana is determined by other socio-economic issues such as economic stability, employment rates, social development, and good governance. Therefore, voting in Ghana should not be considered as ethnic censuses as a process through which voters exercise their democratic rights to choose leaders who will build and bring positive change to the nation.