Parliamentary Elections

Ghana Table of Contents

The PNDC indicated that it intended to proceed with parliamentary elections with or without the opposition parties. In a gesture to its opponents, however, the PNDC extended the deadline for all parties to register independent candidates, but opposition party officials threatened to deal severely with any party member who ran as an independent candidate. Amid sporadic political violence--some of it linked to the opposition, arrests of members of opposition groups by state security officers, and accusations of PNDC intimidation and harassment by the four opposition parties boycotting the elections, parliamentary elections were held on December 29, 1992, without participation of the opposition parties.

Ironically, in boycotting the parliamentary elections, the opposition offered the PNDC the continuity it had been vigorously campaigning for and undermined any possibility of multiparty parliamentary democracy in the first term of the Fourth Republic. At the close of nominations for the elections on December 1, the NDC was unopposed in fifteen of the 200 constituencies. Only five candidates from the four main opposition parties had registered. According to the Interim National Electoral Commission, of the 7.3 million registered voters, more than 2 million voted on election day. The supporters of the four opposition parties stayed away, as did many NDC supporters, who felt that an NDC landslide victory was a foregone conclusion. The number of registered voters excluded twenty-three constituencies where the candidates were elected unopposed, so that the turnout represented 29 percent of voters in 177 constituencies. The NDC swept the board, winning 189 of the 200 parliamentary seats, including the twenty-three who were elected unopposed. Two other parties allied with the NDC in what was called the Progressive Alliance--the National Convention Party and the Every Ghanaian Living Everywhere Party--won eight seats and one seat, respectively. The remaining two seats were captured by two independent women candidates, part of a group of sixteen women elected to parliament, the largest number ever in Ghana.

In the presidential election, almost 4 million out of nearly 8.3 million registered voters had cast their votes in all 200 constituencies combined, for a turnout of 48 percent. The total votes cast in the parliamentary elections represented 51.5 percent of the votes cast in the presidential election. The opposition parties were quick to ascribe the low turnout to the effectiveness of their boycott. But the low turnout was also explained in part by the absence of real issues and the fact that many people chose to stay at home to enjoy their Christmas holidays.

Rawlings and the NDC won the elections because the opposition was divided for the most part and failed to present a credible alternative to the PNDC. The programs on which the opposition campaigned did not differ substantially from those the PNDC had been implementing since 1983. The opposition parties, for example, advocated a free enterprise economy, political decentralization, rural development, and liberal democracy, measures already on the PNDC agenda.

When internal and external pressures in line with political reforms occurring elsewhere on the continent persuaded Rawlings to return to multiparty democracy at the national level, he could do so without taint of corruption. Despite a record flawed by widespread human rights abuses in the early years of the Revolution, he had demonstrated genuine concern for the well-being of the people of Ghana.

Rawlings also won because, as head of state for more than a decade, his name had become a household word, and he was able to exploit the advantages of incumbency. He had won favor with a wide range of interest groups, influential chiefs, and local leaders. Rawlings had behind him a well-established nationwide network of CDRs, the 31st December Women's Movement, other so-called revolutionary organs, and dedicated district secretaries and chiefs for the propagation of his message. All these bodies and groups had been active long before the fractious political parties, the rival leaders of which were hardly known beyond the major cities, had struggled into existence. Finally, Rawlings won because of widespread belief in his personal sincerity and integrity.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress