*What will Ghanaians expect from their new president?
Nana Akufo-Addo has been sworn in as the President of Ghana Saturday in Accra, the Ghanaian capital city amidst pomp and pageantry.
He took the oath of office, led by Chief Justice Theodora Georgina Wood, before several African leaders, including President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria and thousands of citizens, at the Black Stars Square.
Akufo-Addo takes over from John Dramani Mahama, who he defeated during the presidential polls on the 7th December, 2016.
At the swearing-in ceremony, Akufo-Addo, said in his speech: “This is the day the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it. I will not let you, the people of Ghana, down. It is time to make sure that there is a true separation of powers in our arms of government.
“I shall protect the public purse by insisting on value for money in all transactions. Public service is just that; it is not an avenue for making money. It is time to imagine and dream again. Ghana is opened for business again. The change we have
voted for has to start with each individual. I ask you to be responsible citizens.
“It is time to define what being a Ghanaian ought to mean. Being a Ghanaian must mean you sign up to a definable code of conduct. A new dawn has arisen in Ghana.”
What will Ghanaians expect from their new president? Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was inaugurated as Ghana’s new president after having won a majority of votes in the December elections. Akufo-Addo of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) is the fifth president to be elected under the country’s 1992 constitution. Akufo-Addo’s NPP also won an overwhelming majority of seats in Ghana’s parliament.
The 2016 election put an end to Akufo-Addo’s nearly two-decade long bid to become the country’s leader, having contested to be his party’s presidential nominee in 1998 and having served as an attorney general and foreign minister under President John Kufuor.
After Kufuor, he became the NPP’s flag-bearer, but lost in two subsequent elections, in 2008 to John Evans Atta Mills and then to John Mahama in 2012. (Akufo-Addo will be the first president under the new Republic whose first name is not John.)
Akufo-Addo comes to office with a strong popular mandate. Analysts expected the 2016 elections to be close following closely fought races in 2008 and 2012, but Akufo-Addo won 53.85 percent of the votes while the incumbent, John Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), trailed far behind with 44.4 percent.
How did Akufo-Addo win? With voters in many regions closely aligned to either one of the two major parties, alternations of power in Ghana are largely determined by voters in four swing regions: Brong Ahafo, Central, Greater Accra and Western. In 2012, the NDC won majorities in each of the swing regions, but in 2016, these regions swung to the NPP.
Unlike citizens in many other African democracies, Ghanaians saw the opposition as a credible alternative. The most recent Afrobarometer survey shows that about a quarter of Ghanaians saw economic and developmental policies as the main difference between the ruling and opposition parties.
Many also felt the opposition could do a better job than the ruling party to control inflation (32 percent ruling party vs. 43 percent opposition party), create jobs (34 percent vs. 43 percent), improve health services (37 percent vs. 41 percent) and fight corruption (34 percent vs. 37 percent).
Overall, Ghanaians had higher levels of confidence in the opposition to solve problems than citizens in any of the other 36 countries surveyed by Afrobarometer in 2014-2015. On average, fewer than 2 in 10 citizens in other countries hold these positive assessments of opposition parties.
Were the 2016 elections deemed free and fair? Both domestic and international observers judged the December polls as being free and fair and all political parties have accepted the results and sent congratulatory messages to the new president.
Saturday’s democratic alternation of power marks the country’s third since the return to multiparty elections and underscores Ghana’s reputation as an exemplar democracy in Africa. Still, Akufo-Addo has much to do to translate this consistent democratic experience with elections into meaningful developmental outcomes for Ghanaian citizens.
What do Ghanaians expect of their new president? As well as delivering on his party’s promise to create jobs for young people, Akufo-Addo will be primarily concerned with stimulating Ghana’s flagging economy.
Ahead of the elections, Afrobarometer survey data revealed widespread loss of confidence in the former ruling party’s ability to manage the economy. Ghanaian citizens were highly dissatisfied with economic conditions and had little confidence that incumbent President John Mahama was doing enough to address these concerns. More than 8 in 10 Ghanaians reported that the government was not effective in battling inflation (rates of inflation rose to over 18 per cent in 2016). The vast majority of Ghanaians also thought the government was not doing enough to create jobs (76 percent), provide a reliable supply of electricity (75 percent) or fight corruption (71 percent).
The percent of negative responses (“very badly” or “badly”) to the following Afrobarometer survey question in Ghana: How well or badly would you say the current government is handling the following matters, or haven’t you heard enough to say?
For the new government to successfully deliver better education and health services and improve public infrastructure, first they will have to combat corruption in the public sector. The corruption scandals that rocked the NDC administration have nearly all involved public procurement. Before the election, the NPP alleged that millions of dollars were lost in sole-source contracting.