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Ethnicity unlikely to sway Ghana vote: experts

Ghana's ethnic tensions have not taken a hold in politics and are unlikely to influence Sunday's presidential and parliamentary vote as they have in other parts of Africa, experts say.

Political and electoral observers have ruled out a Kenya scenario in Ghana, often hailed as a model of a stable African democracy.

"You can't have that in Ghana. This ethnicity thing is not so pronounced in Ghana as it is in other parts of Africa," said Vincent Crabbe, a retired Supreme court judge.

"Our situation is different and that is why we get up against anybody who tries to preach ethnic rivalry," said Crabbe, a former head of the country's electoral commission Electoral Commission

(1877) Commission created to resolve the disputed 1876 presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel Tilden. Tilden had won the popular vote and was only one electoral vote short of victory, but the Republicans
 in the 1960s.

Ghana goes to the polls on Sunday to pick a president and 230 lawmakers in elections followed all the more closely since the electoral crises in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe -- where put together, thousands of people died in electoral violence.

"Ghana is in an enviable but challenging position of showing the way in Africa in general, regarding peaceful and credible elections and democratic growth," said a respected network of local poll observers, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO), in a pre-poll statement Saturday.

"(It's) a chance to defy the trend of failed elections elsewhere in Africa," CODEO added.

John Larvie of Ghana's Centre for Democratic Development (CDD CDD Contrat A Duree Determinee (French: Fixed Term Contract)
CDD Community Development Department
CDD Cooling Degree Days (weather derivatives / insurance index converting temperature into prices) 
) said while some parties may be perceived as having strongholds among certain tribes, the impact on the vote is negligible.

"The ethnic card existed but it has been dissipated over the years," he said.

To illustrate that tribal and regional affiliation is not such a great issue, the two leading presidential candidates in Sunday's polls -- the ruling party's Nana Akufo-Addo and opposition John Atta-Mills Prof. John Evans Atta Mills (born July 21, 1944[1]) is a Ghanaian politician and former vice-president who has twice ran unsuccessfully for president as the candidate of the National Democratic Congress.  -- have both picked running mates Running Mates could refer to:
  • a person running for a subordinate position on a joint ticket during a political election, see running mate
  • a The West Wing episode, see Running Mates (The West Wing episode)
  • a Family Guy
 from the north.

"So the ethnicity factor has been narrowed down in this election. This election has been desribed as one that focused on issues rather than ethnicity," said Theophilus Dowetin of the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) is an international organization based in Stockholm. Its task is to promote democracy worldwide. Aims
  • Assist countries build capacity to develop democratic institutions.
 (IDEA).

In many elections, Ghanaians do what is popularly known as the "skirt-and-blouse" vote, where one can vote for a parliamentary candidate from one party and a presidential one from another -- in which case the skirt and blouse will have contrasting colours.

"That shows the levels of sophistication so·phis·ti·cate  
v. so·phis·ti·cat·ed, so·phis·ti·cat·ing, so·phis·ti·cates

v.tr.
1. To cause to become less natural, especially to make less naive and more worldly.

2.
 of our democracy," said Larvie.

"In fairness, the campaign period seems to have focused on issues. However, one will have to wait and see the final returns to determine if ethnic affinities played a role," Christopher Fomunyoh, head of the Africa desk at the Washington-based National Democratic Institute (NDI NDI National Death Index, see there ), told AFP (1) (AppleTalk Filing Protocol) The file sharing protocol used in an AppleTalk network. In order for non-Apple networks to access data in an AppleShare server, their protocols must translate into the AFP language. See file sharing protocol. .

In the run up to the vote, firebrand fire·brand  
n.
1. A person who stirs up trouble or kindles a revolt.

2. A piece of burning wood.


firebrand
Noun
 twice former head of state Jerry Rawlings was accused of trying to stoke ethnic rivalries when he addressed a rally for Atta-Mills and referred to one ethnic group dominating the country's politics.

"We don't want tribal politics in our country," the NPP's Akufo-Addo told his final campaign rally on Saturday evening.

Atta-Mills, from the National Democratic Congress (NDC NDC National Drug Code
NDC NATO Defense College
NDC National Documentation Centre (National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, Greece)
NDC National Dairy Council
NDC National Democratic Congress
), said his party was for peace.

"We in the NDC have invested in peace and we will do all we can to ensure there is peace. Let elections be free and transparent," said Atta-Mills addressing supporters at his final campaign rally in Tema, Ghana's port and industrial hub.

The country of 23 million people has had its share of pre-electoral woes, including allegations of abuse of office, concerns over bloated voters' roll and anxiety over possible vote rigging, but observers say the impact of these on the poll outcome depends on how the election is conducted.
Copyright 2008 AFP Global Edition
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Author:AFP
Publication:AFP Global Edition
Date:Dec 6, 2008
Words:598
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