Monday, December 24, 2012

What The United States Could Learn From Ghana About Elections

In case you missed it, we had a presidential election in the US last month. After a seemingly endless campaign, President Barack Obama defeated his challenger Mitt Romney in a race that wasn't all that close – Obama won just over 50% of the vote to Romney's 47.3%. Of course this didn't stop the opposition from alleging that Obama “stole” the election: Romney himself claimed that Obama only won by promising lower-income voters undefined “free stuff”. Meanwhile, groups of Americans across the country (but primarily in the South) responded by starting petitions encouraging their respective states to secede from the Union, with the Texas petition gathering more than 100,000 signatures.

Perhaps that's why with piece on the BBC last week about reactions to another hard-fought presidential election, this time in the African nation of Ghana, stuck with me.  In Ghana, incumbent President John Mahama of the NDC party defeated opposition leader Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP.  Even though Ghana is one of Africa's most stable democracies, the election was marked by technical glitches which caused long delays at some polling places.  This, in turn, led the NPP to allege that the election was “stolen” from them.

That's where the BBC piece comes in.  The BBC interviewed five Ghanaians, including supporters of the NPP. What's noteworthy is that rather than join in their party's call to contest the election, the NPP supporters seemed rather embarrassed by the party's stance, with both saying that the party should just accept the results of the election and one voter questioning whether he made a mistake voting for the NPP if this was the way they were going to react.  Another voter explained that the reason the NPP lost was not due to fraud, but because of the party's inability to realize their message wasn't resonating in several of the country's key swing states (and doesn't that sound like an explanation that could apply to the US Republicans as well?)

It was refreshing to see voters not blame their political party's loss on some poorly-defined notions of fraud, or call for unrest, but to accept the results of the election and to blame the loss on the shortcomings of the losing party.  Perhaps the United States could learn a thing or two from the way that Ghanaians practice democracy.
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