Ghana: Focus turns to election race
26 July 2012, 09:25
Accra - Ghana has seen a smooth transition of power
after the sudden death of its president, but as the nation mourns
attention is already turning to who will replace him as the ruling
party's candidate in a December vote.
Vice-President John Dramani
Mahama was sworn in hours after the announcement of the death through
sudden illness on Tuesday of 68-year-old President John Atta Mills.
ensured that the West African oil, gold and cocoa producer, a former
British colony once known as the Gold Coast, avoided the kind of messy
political transitions that have plagued other states in a coup-prone
Ghanaians congratulated themselves on the seamless
handover. Mahama, 53, a historian, former minister and communications
expert, is expected to bring a steady hand to a fast-growing economy,
one of Africa's newest oil producers.
But questions over who will
now step into Mills' shoes as the candidate to keep his governing
National Democratic Congress (NDC) in power in December's elections will
inject some uncertainty into the political outlook.
this could drive down the Ghanaian currency, which has lost about 17%
against the dollar this year as the country's oil-fuelled boom sucks in
capital and consumer imports and drives up demand for dollars to pay for
Traders said the cedi was relatively stable on Wednesday at 1.9550/1.9600 to the dollar.
disruption is likely to be internal and will focus on who is the NDC's
presidential nominee," said Azim Datardina, Ghana analyst at Africa Risk
Mills, seeking a
second term despite having suffered for years from undisclosed health
problems, had already won his party's nomination to run against the
opposition New Patriotic Party's Nana Akufo-Addo, defeating a divisive
challenge from the wife of still influential former president Jerry
"This was certainly the wrong time for him to go
considering that we have elections right around the corner," Rawlings
told the BBC on Wednesday.
"Quite frankly, had he been advised
and done something wiser earlier, I think he could have survived for
another six or seven months," he said.
Some analysts expect Nana Konadu, Rawlings' wife whom Mills crushed in the NDC primaries, to claim an automatic nomination.
Alban Bagbin, Ghana's health minister and a member of the NDC legal
team, said the party would hold an extraordinary meeting to pick a new
candidate for what is expected to be a tight race for the presidency.
likely is a new nomination contest with a number of high-profile
challengers who earlier balked at opposing Mills. A likely candidate is
John Mahama," said Africa Risk Consulting's Datardina.
Ghana "lost a father"
flew at half mast on Wednesday as the nation began a week of national
mourning for Mills, who had served as president since winning a 2008
presidential contest that won plaudits for going down to the wire but
"I am personally devastated - I've lost a
father, I've lost a friend, I've lost a mentor and a senior comrade,"
Mahama said in his first comments after being sworn in before a sombre
parliament on Tuesday evening.
"The fine gentleman that he was,
President Mills rightly earned the title 'Asomdwehene' [King of Peace].
He brought a distinctive insight to Ghanaian politics. He remained
humble, honest and modest throughout his years in public service."
That sense of loss was shared by ordinary Ghanaians too.
didn't know him personally but he's everybody's father and a
peacemaker," said Peter Fiave, a 70-year-old who went to parliament to
witness the swearing-in of Mahama.
Tributes poured in from around
the globe from heads of state including US President Barack Obama, who
had feted Ghana under Mills as a model and "good news story" for Africa.
were quick to praise the nation's handling of the sudden loss. "We are
showing a maturity that must encourage all Ghanaians," said opposition
NPP Chairperson Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.
fresh from a US tour to promote a recently published personal memoir on
Ghana's history, is widely expected to maintain current policies in his
Yet, amid the plaudits for his predecessor, he
will inherit the same struggles Mills had faced in managing Ghanaians'
high expectations over the flow of crude from the country's Jubilee oil
field since 2010, and in tackling corruption scandals that have dogged
the NDC administration.
"Given the above, recent momentum has
favoured the NPP. Ghanaians also have a history of evicting the ruling
party at the ballot box in favour of the opposition," Standard Bank said
in a research note on Wednesday.
"Much will hinge on the manner
in which the NDC is able to swiftly elect a replacement presidential
candidate. Infighting already poses a significant threat to party unity,
and any signs of an exacerbation of these tensions will favour the
opposition," it said.
Former president Rawlings offered a glimpse
of the kind of bad blood that exists within the party when he appeared
to criticise Mills' achievements in office in the BBC interview.
that the cancer affected both his eye and his ear, he couldn't sustain
more than three hours per day. So it was naturally going to affect his
performance," Rawlings said.
Ahead of Mills' death, most analysts
had expected a year of election spending testing Ghana's reputation for
improved economic management. The government last week sought
parliament's permission for extra spending.
"We think heightened
uncertainty will result in some foreign investors taking a wait-and-see
stance, which would imply a slowdown in FX inflows, which in turn would
be negative for the already troubled cedi," Renaissance Capital said.
"We think another 5-10% depreciation is likely by [the end of 2012]," it said.