Political risk in Ghana should be on the radar for any w. long-term interest in the country
Party political policy reversals and appointments following elections are de rigueur in Ghana, as is the preponderance of executive authority over rules or process. Dependable features of the political risk landscape since the restoration of multiparty democracy and the first subsequent change of power from incumbent to opposition (1992 and 2001 respectively). Neither side of Ghana’s two-party system has failed to take advantage. Electoral violence, though low-level, is similarly routine. Established or no, these features carry risk.
The recent by-election in Ayawaso West, an affluent Accra constituency, is indicative of the lengths to which politics can easily erode what is a general state of safety and security in the country.
Despite the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) having won the seat in 2016 with a majority of over 10,000 votes (and therefore expected to comfortably retain it), scores of party vigilantes were deployed to oversee the poll. Within a few hours of the vote beginning, a shooting incident had injured six people and numerous opposition party members had been assaulted, leading to the withdrawal of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) from the election. Police officials have insisted that they have no idea who the perpetrators of the violence were (despite many of them using police vehicles) and many videos circulating on social media show clearly uniformed police officials attempting (in vain) to intervene.
A senior NDC member in conversation with Songhai had the following to say: “this blatant interference of party interests in government business is not something that we are willing to sit down and let happen. The beneficiaries of the banking crisis were party people, the creation of new regions is a ploy to win votes and the chaos that we saw in Ayawaso West, is unfortunately a sign to come and indicative of how desperate the NPP is to hold on to power at any cost.”
We have spoken with others across different sectors making similar complaints – a branch manager at one of the top 5 banks in Ghana said: “we receive directives from the Bank of Ghana with no prior notification, consultation or information. Very often they aren’t enforced from the BoG side and are at times reversed within weeks.”
Similarly, an accounting firm told us: “for our SME clients, the fiscal landscape must be very confusing. As an accountant, I can see what the end goal of government is but the manner in which taxation is being played with is only leading to people finding more ways to avoid paying”
General elections are scheduled for 2020. There will be further local elections in 2019. Spots of violence led by ‘youth groups’ or vigilantes associated with the NPP and the NDC will likely occur. Between now and then key institutions, which would be expected to protect the process and adjudicate where necessary will have to improve on their current standing. Among them, the executive itself, the electoral commission (EC) and the security services.
On these points, we note that statements by the EC and its chairperson Jean Mensa have not assuaged concerns about Ayawaso. Together with the police, this will have to be reversed if they are to establish themselves as an independent guardians of the country’s political process. The situation may be worse for the police given video footage of what look to be officers standing by as assault took place.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo has ordered a commission of enquiry in Ayawasu by-election violence led by the Vice-President Bawumia. This can’t be judged before its conclusion. But we would be wrong to mistake its importance, despite Ghana’s general state of security and longstanding political stability.