AFRICA

Ghanaians head to the polls in country’s symbolic elections

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15.8 million Ghanaian voters will head to the polls to vote in 28,992 polling stations across the country. The 2016 polls is shaping up to be one of the country’s most competitive elections in recent years.

It’s only the third time opposition candidate, Nana-Akufo Addo is running for president, but the elections this year is critical for the opposition candidate. This will be his last shot at the presidency and the three-time candidate will not go down without a fight, another loss would be disastrous for him and his party

The ruling party, NDC has the edge but the main opposition party, NPP has gained momentum and are using the incumbent’s President John Mahama’s, unpopularity as leverage to appeal to the ruling party’s supporters.

Both candidates are running strong campaigns and targeting voters in rural and urban areas. The NPP has been accused of being an elitist party  in the past, but they’ve redesigned their strategy by campaigning in the grassroots and crossing over to the ruling party’s strongholds.

What to look out for:

Parliamentary elections

The contentious presidential elections has taken attention away from the significant parliamentary elections on the same day. As well as a new president, 275 members of parliament will be elected. Politics at the local level has become increasingly important in Ghana’s political landscape. Local level politics have become increasingly influential.

Electoral violence

The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) released a pre-election survey, which revealed 54 per cent of Ghanaians believe political parties will use violence in the December polls.

Clashes between party loyalists have resulted in conflicts, destruction of property and riots. The security agencies have identified hotspots across the country and will be actively tracking these incidents and responding to them before they escalate.

Ghanaians are generally peaceful people and tons of peace campaigns have been organized to promote peaceful elections. The candidates have also committed to promoting peace and controlling their supporters by accepting the outcome of the elections in the spirit of democracy.

Digital technology

Ghana’s youth population is growing rapidly and the upcoming elections provides a window for digital strategies to be employed in engaging mobile subscribers.

Digital technology is enabling organizations working on election projects and Ghana’s electoral commission to engage, create access, and disseminate information at a lower cost, greater speed and a wider scale.

These tools are available for citizens to utilize and to harness the power of these channels effectively.

They can monitor and track election results and irregularities, make informed choices and mobilise positive action during the electoral process.

A civic tech organization, Penplusbytes, has developed several digital platforms, and a software called Aggie, which aggregates information about the elections from various sources and escalates incidents to the relevant authorities.

The project team works with the electoral commission for administrative issues, and the Election Security Task Force for security-related incidents, so problems are solved in real time.

These strategies are geared at enhancing the quality of the elections, through supporting free and fair processes. They will track false reports and disseminate them on social media to prevent false information from spreading in order to prevent fraud or violent outbreaks.

“Social media is now playing an important role in our daily lives including politics. For Ghana’s Elections 2012 we deployed the Social Media Tracking Center which went a long way to help the electoral process. For Ghana’s 2016 elections, giving the backdrop of the growth of social media in importance as a tool for electoral engagements, communications and ideas sharing, the implementation of www.africanelections.org/ghsmtc has grown in value and an indispensable factor in our elections”-Executive Director, Penplusbytes- Kwami Ahiabenu.

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