Ghana Election 2020: Violence and Disruption Follows a Close, Contested Vote
Elections Africa Forecast Retrospective

Ghana Election 2020: Violence and Disruption Follows a Close, Contested Vote

Clay Graubard
Andrew Eaddy
Clay Graubard, Andrew Eaddy

Table of Contents

On December 7th, 2020, Ghana held its election for President and Parliament. The election has unfortunately been followed by violence and dispute.
Here's what you need to know in 5 minutes or less.

Update: 12/15

Since our update was published on December 11, 2020, there have been 3 key developments in the 2020 Ghana General Election:

1) A Change in the Official Vote Total

After we finished writing our election update but before we published it (whoops!), the Ghana Electoral Commission announced that the vote total they declared only a day prior was incorrect.

Instead of there being 13,433,573 votes cast in the 2020 election, there were only 13,119,460: A difference of 314,113 votes or 2.34% of the initial vote.

With the new certified vote totals, Akufo-Addo leads Mahama by 51.30% to 47.37% and ~515,000 votes in the Presidential race.

  • Akufo-Addo previously led 51.49% to 47.27% and ~560,000 votes.
  • Both results fall within the projections of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, the country’s leading civil election observer.

Of note: The results in the Techiman-South constituency still need to be certified and are currently contested. There were ~128,000 votes cast there.

  • Context: In 2016, 50.69% of voters in Techiman-South voted for Akufo-Addo; 48.51% voted for Mahama.

2) The European Union Election Observation Mission’s (EOM) Report

On December 12, 2020, the EU EOM released its preliminary report on the 2020 Ghana General Election, titled, “Well-conducted elections but misuse of state resources and unregulated campaign finance persist.” The report received extensive media coverage in Ghana following its release.

Some of the key takeaways from the report were that:

  1. “Voting on election day was well managed“.
  2. “Counting was transparent”.
  3. “The media reported freely on the elections”.
  4. “There are no unreasonable restrictions on the right to vote, and the principle of universal suffrage is respected”.

At the same time, however, the report also found:

  1. “The secrecy of the vote was not always ensured”.
  2. “Collation was less well organised but key transparency measures were adhered to”.
  3. “Vote-buying by both the NPP and NDC was reported by civil society to be widespread”.
  4. Misinformation was spread by the NPP and NDC.

Context: In 2016, the European Union also sent an Election Observation Mission to Ghana and found many of the same issues with Ghanaian elections.

  • For instance, both the 2016 (when Mahama was President) and 2020 reports highlight the problem of “misuse of incumbency”, aka using the Office of the President to boost one’s re-election chances, generally by announcing new policies or international developments to dominate (positive) media coverage.

3) Post-Election Morass

Post-election violence has unfortunately continued in Ghana:

  • 2 Members of Parliament-election for the NDC were reportedly assaulted in their homes.
  • In Techiman-South, where the election results are contested and remain uncertified, two people were killed and 4 others injured outside a vote collation center.

At the same time, the opposition have escalated their attacks on the election results: According to yesterday’s edition of The Daily Dispatch, John Mahama and the NDC will go to the Supreme Court of Ghana over the election results.

  • The NDC’s legal team believes they have gathered evidence that can “stand the test of time.”
  • Ghanaian Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, on the other hand, has already refuted claims from the NDC regarding military intimidation on election day, as well as victory claims from Mahama after election results were released.  

How to stay informed

To follow the election as it moves forward, we recommend checking out both BBC Africa and the Electoral Commission of Ghana’s Twitter page; for Ghanaian sources, we recommend GhanaWeb, ModernGhana, and GraphicGh.


The Election Outcome

On Wednesday, December 9th, the Electoral Commission of Ghana declared incumbent president Nana Akufo-Addo as the victor in the 2020 Ghanaian General Election.

  • Akufo-Addo defeated former president John Dramani Mahama for a second time (the first in 2016), winning 51.30% of the vote in comparison to Mahama's 47.46%.
  • Despite winning re-election, Akufo-Addo performed -2.3 points worse than in 2016, while Mahama was +2.7.

For reference: Global Guessing's prediction gave Akufo-Addo a 93.32% chance of winning more than 50% of the vote.

  • Akufo-Addo's vote share of 51.30% was what our model projected he would win–albeit on the lower-end of the spectrum.

While Akufo-Addo secured victory, his parliamentary party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) suffered a staggering loss of seats: 32.

  • By comparison, Mahama's party, the National Democratic Congress (NPP), won 30 seats.

Neither party has enough yet for a majority–138 seats.

  • Context: In 2016, the NDC lost 42 seats, while the NPP gained 46 and had a majority of 169.
Although the election largely proceeded smoothly and peacefully, had the highest voter turnout in 16 years at 79% (the 20-year average is 73%), and produced certified results in less than 48 hours, Ghana has experienced post-election violence and the NDC has called the election "fraudulent".

Post-Election Violence

In the wake of Akufo-Addo’s victory, over 60 incidents of violence have taken place in Ghana. Unfortunately, some of these incidents have been fatal with 5 people killed in Ghana since Monday’s election.

  • We were unable to find any statements from Mahama condemning the violence; Akufo-Addo has.

While the Ghanaian citizenry have voiced discontent in the past when election margins were close–as they were this year–the level of violence observed in relation to this year’s election is high.

Much of this discontent has been drummed up by Akufo-Addo’s opposition, Mahama, who has alleged that Akufo-Addo used his sway over Ghana’s military to intimidate voters at the polls to affect the outcome of the election.

  • While Mahama’s allegations align with corruption narratives that both candidates faced during the campaign, his claim has been rebuked by Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, who also declared that Mahama broke the election "Peace Pact".

Of Note: Ghana has received plaudits in the past for its track record of peaceful transfers of power.

  • The violence witnessed since the release of Ghana’s election results, and Mahama’s claims against Akufo-Addo will be a good test for Ghana’s democratic values and institutions in the coming weeks.

Very Unfair! – Tr...NDC

Akufo-Addo's certified victory has been met with severe backlash from the opposition, with Mahama and the National Democratic Congress calling the election “fraudulent” and refusing to accept the results of the election on the grounds of voter intimidation and bribery claims.

  • Context: Freedom House gives Ghana a score of 83/100, and a perfect one for its electoral process.

Although the National Democratic Congress has not technically expressed doubt regarding the parliamentary results, they have claimed victory in 141 races–which, if true, would give them absolute control of the House.

  • Official results, however, only put the NDC at 136 seats.
A tweet from the Electoral Commission of Ghana displaying the Parliamentary Results

There are also rumors that Mahama and the NDC plan to challenge the election results in court. In fact, an NDC member of Parliament said as much: "We intend to take decisive and concrete steps, both with the presidential and parliamentary results, to overturn this brazen and shameless attack on our democracy."

A challenge would not be without precedent.

  • In 2012, Akufo-Addo went to the Supreme Court of Ghana to challenge the verdict that John Dramani Mahama won the election (results gave Mahama 50.70% of the vote).
  • In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in Mahama's favor; Akufo-Addo accepted the verdict in the name of stability and goodwill.

Election Backdrop

December 7th’s election marked the third time that Akufo-Addo and Mahama had faced off in a presidential election, vying with each other for the office in each of the last three elections in Ghana.

  • Akufo-Addo won the tie-breaker, but knowing Ghanaian politics Mahama might be back to try and serve his last term in 2024.

Leading up to the election there were a number of alleged corruption claims being shared between both presidential candidates.

One of the most notable claims came in the final two weeks of the election, when Mahama disseminated a story that Akufo-Addo took $40,000 from a civil employee to keep his job.

  • Akufo-Addo has vehemently denied this allegation, describing it as baseless and calling Mahama a liar.
  • Major mainstream outlets in Ghana–including GhanaWeb, the third-most visited website in Ghana–have debunked the allegation.

What was at stake

Ghana’s balance sheet.

Now that we are reaching the final stages of this election, investors and Ghanaian citizens will expect Akufo-Addo to fulfill his promises of bringing economic prosperity to Ghana. Namely, controlling Ghana’s ballooning debt-to-GDP ratio and directing the country towards a more balanced budget will be crucial over the next four years.

  • Akufo-Addo has already promised to implement a $17 billion program to help resurrect Ghana’s post-COVID economic which hit oil and cocoa hard.

Jobs.

Akufo-Addo implemented the ‘1 District 1 Factory’ policy in 2016, during his first term, which promised to create jobs in Ghana and move the country towards greater industrialization. With more time, and ostensibly more money at his disposal, Akufo-Addo will be under pressure to deliver.

Security.

While Ghana has traditionally had a good track record with respect to terrorism activity, the non-state actor landscape has shifted in the last half-decade.

Read Our Pre-Election Prediction

Model: Akufo-Addo Highly Likely to Defeat John Mahama in Ghana General Election
Nana Akufo-Addo, the incumbent, is clearly favored to defeat ex-president John Dramani Mahama in the 2020 Ghana General Election, and is the over 58 times more likely to win the presidency in December 7th’s vote.
A link to our pre-election prediction.