So, if you've heard about Ghana in the news lately (or a recent story in The Economist) it's most likely been due to the recent national elections. Ghana is being heavily scrutinized because it is (a) one of Africa's stable, multiparty democracies and (b) the last two national elections in Africa have been tragic. Kenya's descended into violence and Zimbabwe's the systematic repression of the opposition.
Ghana's political world is primarily divided between two major parties, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) which has been in power for the last 8 years, and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which was in power for the eight years prior under Flight Lt. Jerry Rawlings, who was both Ghana's last military ruler as well as it's first elected President. There are also a handfull of smaller parties, notably the Constitution People's Party (CPP) which plays a role sort of like the Green Party in the U.S. I don't have a firm grasp of what policy proposals the parties were offering, but my Ghanaian friend and language trainer who I used to talk politics with back in training was fed up with all of them for making unrealistic promises. And they can make some promises, because Ghana is developing a modest, newly discovered oil reserve that will give the next President some serious cash to play with, a few extra billion to fund some mixture of social programmes and development agendas.
Anecdotally, it looked to us like the NPP was going to walk away with this thing, but something seemed to happen in the last couple weeks before the election (on December 7th) and it got really, really close. The NDC was able to make up some of the ground that was lost on the basis of (I THINK, it is REALLY hard to discuss politics with people when you don't have much language in common) some kind of corruption or money management scandal. Ghana's constitution stipulates that the winning party must get 50% plus 1 of the available votes, and what ended up happening was that the CPP and other small parties like the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) played a spoiler role and both the NPP and the NDC finished under 50% (with the NPP narrowly ahead).
The two major parties now proceed to a runoff election on December 28th. It's been real cool to be here during the election. It's a little bit more...spirited... than what happens in the states, but not all that different. We (Peace Corps) are being a little more cautious, so I won't be on the net much for the next couple weeks.
In closing...Allison could you please send me your email address? For some reason I can't find it....