Keeping the Peace in a Tense Election, Ghana, 2008


In 2008, Ghana held a peaceful run-off in a hotly contested presidential race, breaking the pattern of violence that had afflicted elections in Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe and several other African countries during the same period.  Since the advent of multi-party democracy in 1992, Ghana had held three consecutive elections that observers regarded as relatively free and fair. However, the 2008 presidential race generated concern. Previous elections had revealed substantial ethnic block voting, raising allegations of misbehavior by the two major parties both during the campaign and on polling day. Tensions were increased further in 2008 by the closeness of the initial ballot, which forced the country's first run-off in which the outcome was genuinely uncertain. This case study analyzes the measures taken by the Electoral Commission and other bodies to reduce the likelihood of violence, including an emphasis on transparency as a way to build trust.  With the help of other groups, the commission also organized a system for identifying potential trouble spots, mediating, and building cooperation.  In large part because of these efforts, Ghanaians experienced a peaceful transfer of power.

Lucas Issacharoff drafted this case study with the help of Daniel Scher on the basis of interviews conducted in Accra, Ghana, in January 2010 and using interviews conducted by Ashley McCants and Jennifer Burnett in August 2008. 

Associated Interview(s): Kwadwo Afari-GyanAlbert Kofi Arhin​, Vincent Crabbe, Ransford Gyampo

election commission
Election Management Body
parallel vote tabulation
vulnerability mapping
National Peace Council
peace councils
Focus Area(s)
Reducing Divisive Effects of Competition
Critical Tasks
Election security
Peace councils
Vote counting
Voter education
Voter registration
Core Challenge
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Lucas Issacharoff