After two major setbacks in 2008 and 2012, Ghana’s main opposition party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) led by Nana Akuffo Addo, secured a resounding electoral victory in the 7 December election against the incumbent National Democratic Congress (NDC), led by President John Mahama. Results from 271 (out of 275 constituencies) declared by the Electoral Commission (EC) gave Akuffo Addo 53.85% of valid votes cast, against President Mahama’s 44.40%. The NPP is also set to take over the Ghanaian parliament after increasing its share of the 275 parliamentary seats by a significant margin with more than 160 seats, having won 123 seats in 2012.
The results represent a comfortable win for a party that looked set for another devastating loss just over a year ago, with internal bickering leading to the suspension of several notable party executives. During the campaign, the party’s dire financial strain became a major talking point, especially when contrasted with the incumbent’s resources, demonstrated by mega billboards of the President across the country. This is the first time that a sitting President has lost an election in Ghana’s electoral history. Against the backdrop of recent victories by opposition parties in Nigeria and the Gambia, the stranglehold of incumbents over elections appears to be waning across Africa.
Having won four elections in the past, the NDC went into the 2016 election with a widely-held perception that it is the most formidable election-winning machine in Ghana, despite its weaknesses in managing the economy. On the contrary, while the NPP is often presented as comparably better at economic management, the party elitist posturing is considered less suited for grassroots mobilization that could secure frequent electoral victory. Among its wider political economy dynamics, the 2012 election did not only challenge this long-held perception, but most significantly it signalled shifting preferences among Ghanaian voters for candidates with a demonstrable capacity and programme to “put money in peoples’ pockets.”
Post-mortem analysis has identified several reasons for the NPP’s decisive victory, foremost among them the severe drain in the country’s economic fortunes and the lacklustre anti-corruption climate under the Mahama administration. One of the main events that significantly tipped the scales against the NDC is the high-profile election petition that was filed by the NPP contesting the results of the 2012 Presidential election.