Those of you who follow world news may have been wondering why I have not mentioned the election in Ghana. This was not because I was unaware of it, quite the contrary, but the one time I mentioned it to my parents I think I may have taken a few years off each of their lives due to worry. So the filter went back on and I have been waiting for the all clear before saying more.
Yes, I knew about the election before coming here and everything pointed at this being a peaceful situation but I also was well aware that this was the case in Kenya last year as well so you never can know what will happen. Another thing that I have learned is that when people here would say with confidence that there would be no problems surrounding the election that this was more a desire than a statement. I think that many people felt that if they voiced the possibility of violence that this would make it more likely to happen.
It really has been very interesting to be in an African country during a presidential election and I won’t bore you with all of my observations now. If you’re really interested you can buy me a Tim’s when I get home:) So just a few thoughts. People here have been extremely involved in the whole process and really for at least the past month almost nothing else has been done but prepare for the election, discuss, campaign, discuss, debate, discuss, vote, discuss, wait, discuss, etc. There have been rallies daily, all of which I have obediently avoided, and trucks driving down the street have loudspeakers blaring their message. I wasn’t 100% obedient on Sunday about staying in the house (we had to go get Mel’s wallet that had been picked the previous day, honest, it was important!) so I did have a chance to see the polls. First of all I have never seen the place so quiet. I guess everybody else just went out to vote and then stayed home too. All of the polling stations were out in the open, an important requirement, so voting took part under the mango trees at schools or other official buildings. I didn’t see any long lineups, never more than 10 or so people, and I will say that it was one of the most relaxed days I have witnessed in Wa.
It has also been interesting to watch how information is transmitted without the usual internet and tv that we are bombarded with at home. Some people up here do have tvs and there is a national tv station that plays the usual election notices that ours would at home plus a lot about the need for a peaceful election. For those without a tv there is the radio. For the past 3 days waiting for the results it seems like the whole town has been sitting around a radio at one drinking spot or another. And nobody here is isolated and therefore word of mouth is a huge way that information is transferred. I can honestly say that I don’t think there is a single person in the upper west who didn’t know about the election, the parties, the day to vote, and so on.
So, the results. First of all, just under 70% of the population voted. People were voting for two things, their parliamentary representative and the president. Basically there are 2 main parties and for president the results are 49.1% for one guy and 47.9% for the other. Talk about close. The difference in actual votes is less than 100,000. And, the real kicker is that, since neither got the 50%+1 that they needed there will be another election in a few weeks (I will be in Burkina….phew!). The need for this will seem quite obvious to Canadians at this time I would think:) So there will be a presidential runoff where people will just have the option to vote for one guy or the other, all other candidates are gone, and therefore there will be a guaranteed winner. The part that interests me the most is that 2% of all votes cast were spoiled ballots, enough to have made a significant difference in the results. The other interesting thing is that one party does have a majority of seats in the parliament, 116 of 230, and this will not change with the runoff election. (I think there were 5 seats taken by independents but not sure on that.) Right now the guy with 49.1% is NOT the one with the majority of the seats in parliament.
Sorry, more talk than I thought, especially for a girl who doesn’t like talking politics. Still so many more things to talk about, like the people I met from the EU who were here to observe the election as well as the training of election officials I listened to while lying in my bed….they were kind enough to hold this workshop in the meeting room next door and leave the door open. But all in all my biggest hope for Ghana is peace for the runoff election and the swearing in of the new government in January.