More Than Good Elections: Ghana's Presidential Handover, 2007-2009


The January 2009 presidential transition in Ghana, the West African country’s second democratic transfer of power between opposing parties, was a significant step in the nation’s democracy. A contentious handover eight years earlier had widened political divisions and hindered policy continuity. In the aftermath, leaders in government and civil society tried to create new norms and practices that would ease transitions. Ahead of the December 2008 election, the Institute of Economic Affairs, a Ghanaian public policy think tank that promoted good governance, led major political parties in talks aimed at setting rules for the presidential transition process. At the same time, a policy unit in President John Kufuor’s administration worked separately to improve the government’s procedures for transferring power. Although a tight timeline and political complications prevented both groups from achieving all of their goals, their work helped ease Ghana’s political tensions and improved the quality of information exchanged between the outgoing and incoming governments. The new government, led by President John Atta Mills, benefited from improved transition reports prepared by civil servants and aides who had taken part in the Institute of Economic Affairs talks. The changes helped the new administration organize, identify priorities, and maintain focus on effective projects and programs.

Robert Joyce drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Accra, Ghana, during July and August 2015. Case published in November 2015.

presidential transition
political business cycle
president's office
civil service
democratic transition
political dialogue
transition law
Focus Area(s)
Centers of Government
Critical Tasks
Donor coordination
Improving cabinet efficiency
Core Challenge
Capacity (capability traps)
Credibility (trust)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Robert Joyce