Keeping the Peace in a Tense Election, Ghana, 2008
Focus: Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition, Elections
Topics: Peace councils, Voter Registration, Voter Education, Vote Counting, Election Security, Dispute Resolution
Type: Case Studies
Author: Lucas Issacharoff
Keywords: election commission, election management body, parallel vote tabulation, vulnerability mapping, registration, National Peace Council, transparency, peace councils
In 2008, Ghana held a peaceful run-off in a hotly contested presidential race, breaking the pattern of violence that had afflicted elections in Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and several other African countries during the same period. Since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992, Ghana had held three consecutive elections that observers regarded as relatively free and fair. However, the 2008 presidential race generated concern. Previous elections had revealed substantial ethnic block voting, raising allegations of misbehavior by the two major parties both during the campaign and on polling day. Tensions were increased further in 2008 by the closeness of the initial ballot, which forced the country's first run-off in which the outcome was genuinely uncertain. This case study analyzes the measures taken by the Electoral Commission and other bodies to reduce the likelihood of violence, including an emphasis on transparency as a way to build trust. With the help of other groups, the commission also organized a system for identifying potential trouble spots, mediating, and building cooperation. In large part because of these efforts, Ghanaians experienced a peaceful transfer of power.