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A one year old baby boy was dancing on his mother’s back beside me in a taxi this morning as if he was celebrating the pending third consecutive handover from one democratically elected official to the next along with his fellow citizens throughout the country.
The atmosphere throughout Ghana is as jubilant as the post-Ghana victory celebrations against Nigeria in the Africa Cup, only now it is two days before the legislative and presidential elections.
Masses of party supporters are taking to the streets in their respective party colours – red/green for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and red/blue for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) – and celebrating the way Ghanaians celebrate: dancing en masse along the streets, stopping traffic in every direction.
I see a twenty-something woman dressed in tight jeans and an NPP t-shirt heading to an NPP rally in Accra dancing on the side of the main highway by herself, head down, lost in a private reverie while the crowds stream by.
Other supporters are hanging out of buses, honking car horns and hitting bells with sticks as they dance along the streets.
While the t-shirts are not emblazoned with “Ghana” in red, green and gold, as they were during the football, the fact that individuals can freely rally and demonstrate their support for their party of choice in whatever colours they like, without fear of arrest or intimidation amounts to the same thing: “Ghana - we are free and fair!”
Ghanaians don’t grumble about having to go out and vote. They are climbing aboard lorry buses and traveling one, two or ten hundred kilometers to ink their index finger and cast votes, even if it means waiting in line from midnight the night before, which some will. They don’t take it for granted.
As the most peaceful nation on the continent, and the most stable nation in the West African region, that Sunday’s election progresses without serious violence is crucial not only for the continuous improvement of Ghana’s international standing, and for the well being of its citizens, but also to remain the anchor of regional stability. Ghana is a beacon of hope for West Africa and, indeed, the rest of the continent.
Campaigns urging “Peace” and “Peaceful elections” flooded television, radio and print media as early as August and have continued daily since.
Today, Friday 5th of December is National Farmer’s Day, a public holiday celebrating the contribution that farmers make to the country, and many Christians have attended church services that will not be held on Sunday – election day. I asked a well-dressed church-goer on Friday morning where she was headed and she said, “To church, to pray for peaceful elections…”
I asked one Muslim gentleman what he was doing today and he responded, “Praying to Almighty Allah to deliver all Ghanaians through a peaceful election…we are peace-loving people…”
The peace-loving tag is appropriate, but I asked him if he thought partisan tensions might erupt
in the old hot-spots like Tamale or Bawku in the north. “Of course,” he responded, “we may see some fighting in these places, some trouble will surely pass, but as for the entire country, it will not happen…” What he means is that there is likely to be pockets of fighting or scuffles, but the nation as a whole will remain calm.
The Presidential voting requires the Presidential candidate to win 50% +1 vote, however the two leading parties’ candidates – the incumbent NPP and the opposition NDC – are too close in the polls to call. Expert analysts suggest a “run-off” election is likely on 28th December. That is, they predict that neither of the leading parties will attain the required 50% +1 vote as dictated by the Constitution so the two leading parties will go to the polls again to determine the winner.
Ghana’s stability, or, if viewed another way, potential vulnerability will be put to the test if the result requires a run-off – tension between to the two rival parties will be high. We can only hope that the tolerance and acceptance between different religions is shown between political supporters of the two main rival parties.
If so, the tag “peace loving” will be truly valid and Ghana will remain the star of Africa.