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Since 2000, elections in Ghana have been lauded by observers both internally and externally as being “free and fair.” The losing political party, however, has consistently contested the election results. After the 2004 presidential election, three key opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) members challenged the results announced by the Electoral Commission (EC), suing the EC to publish detailed data from the election. Similarly, at the end of the closely contested 2008 presidential election and the subsequent run-off, leading NDC members accused the EC of trying to manipulate results, and their frustrated supporters invaded the EC head office in Accra.
When the NDC was eventually declared the winner, the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) accused the NDC of rigging the election. Again in the aftermath of the 2012 presidential election, the opposition NPP accused the winner – John Dramani Mahama and the NDC – of rigging the election, boycotted the inauguration of the president, and asked the Supreme Court to overturn the official results declared by the EC.
These objections to electoral results by losing parties run counter to the findings of international and domestic election observers. In the 2012 election, for example, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Commonwealth mission, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), and the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) considered the election “free and fair.”
According to Nadeau and Blais (1993), a key factor that influences individual assessment of the freeness and fairness of an election is whether the political party that the individual supported won or lost. Is there a “winner bias” in the Ghanaian political environment? Are there other factors that also explain citizens’ assessments of elections? If so, what are the implications for the development of strong democratic institutions and practices in Ghana?
This paper uses Afrobarometer survey data from 2008 and 2012 to examine whether Ghanaians’ assessment of the “freeness and fairness” of elections depends on how their own party fared in the election, on their level of trust in election-related institutions, on their level of consumption of news from different media, and on their level of education.
Afrobarometer is an African-led, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues across more than 30 countries in Africa.
Five rounds of surveys were conducted between 1999 and 2013, and Round 6 surveys are currently under way (2014-2015). Afrobarometer conducts face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples of between 1,200 and 2,400 respondents.
The Afrobarometer team in Ghana, led by the Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), interviewed 1,200 adult Ghanaians in March 2008 (a sample of this size yields results with a margin of error of +/-3% at a 95% confidence level) and 2,400 adult Ghanaians in 2012 (margin of error: +/-2%). Previous surveys were conducted in Ghana in 1999, 2002, and 2005.
Perceptions and party affiliation
Afrobarometer asked respondents in Ghana to rate the freeness and fairness of the most recent national election (2004 election in the 2008 survey, 2008 election in the 2012 survey). Large majorities of Ghanaians considered both elections “free and fair” or “free and fair with minor problems.”
However, the percentage of respondents who believed the election was “completely free and fair” dropped sharply from the 2004 election (61%) to the 2008 election (39%), an indication of a downward shift in public perceptions of the efficacy of Ghana’s elections (Table 2). This decline appears to have gone into swelling the numbers of those who felt there were minor challenges with the 2008
elections, although they still believed that it was “free and fair.”
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Source: By Sharon Parku | Afrobarometer Policy Paper No. 15 | November 2014