“Ghana’s Graduation with Honors”: The Two Turnover Test 

​Ghana has passed the “two turn-over” test.

The “two turnover test” is a measure of democratic consolidation propounded by political thinker Samuel Huntington, where the consolidation of a democracy takes place if “the party or group that takes power in the initial election at the time of transition loses a subsequent election and turns over power to those election winners, and if those election winners then peacefully turn over power to the winners of a later election.”

Pre-election photo: President-elect Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo (Left) and Out-going President John Dramani Mahama (Right) of the Republic of Ghana. 

The question of whether Ghanaian democracy was consolidating or merely surviving has been answered with this 2016 election. 

Democratic consolidation refers to a state of irreversible democracy functioning within the conceptual framework of representative political culture.

Ghana entered it’s 4th Republic in 1992, with the National Democratic Congress (NDC) as the party in power post 1992 general elections and transition from Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) military rule. 

The coastal West African country has seen it’s fair share of military intervention in state administration with a chequered history of coup d’états and failed governments. The switch to democracy in 1992 was followed by an 8 year stay in office by the NDC headed by Flt Lt. J.J. Rawlings; a charismatic ex-milirary leader, against a constant opponent; the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Photo: Ex-President Jerry John Rawlings (1992-2000) NDC Flagbearer

 The year 2000 brought about a change in leadership of the country as the New Patriotic Party headed by  was handed the reins of power by popular election of the leadership offered by John Agyekum Kuffour. 

Photo: Ex-President John Agyekum Kuffour (2000-2008) NPP Flagbearer

The tenure of the NPP saw two terms successive term of office, handing over power to the NDC in 2008, under the leadership of John Evans Atta-Mills.

Photo: Deceased President John Evans Atta Mills (2008-2012) Flagbearer of the NDC

 The untimely demise of Atta-Mills on 24th July 2012 saw his then vice, John Dramani Mahama pick up as president. Being an election year, John Dramani Mahama was the automatic candidate for the National Democratic Congress’ flag bearer position. 
The 2012 election was won by the NDC, signalling a second term in office for the party and the first term of JD Mahama as president.  

Photo: Outgoing President John Dramani Mahama (2012-2016) Flagbearer of the NDC

It is interesting to note that the double term tenure of office reflected the swaying preferences of the nation between the two parties: New Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC).

 • The New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC)  enjoy a de-facto two party system in Ghana as parties such as the Progressive People’s Party headed by Dr. Paa Kwesi Ndoum and the Conventions People Party headed by Ivor Kobina Greenstreet are without the significant mass to form formidable opponents 

Per technical definition, the two turnover test was passed in 2008 with the NDC-NPP-NDC switch, a preliminary indicator of democratic consolidation.

 However, debate could be raised about the soul of Ghanaian democracy. Dissent and debate were conspicuously absent in the modus operandi of the Ghanaian political game with a distinct characteristic of the country’s politics being neopatrimonialism.

The phenomenon of Neopatrimonialism defined as a culture that relied on a mechanism of amassing support by a patron-client relationship where the “big man” syndrome facilitated the use of handouts to attract political validation by the masses. 

The resultant political culture has created a cycle of corruption and retarded development, an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of a political culture based on handouts and sycophancy steadily engrained in the Ghanaian political sphere

The aftermath of the 2016 elections of which Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo, three time flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party beat the National Democratic Congress’ John Dramani Mahama to win the seat of power has ushered Ghana into a new advent of politics. The parliamentary elections also saw the New Patriotic Party sweeping a majority of seats. 

The prior power of incumbency (which has noticeably influenced past elections failed the New Democratic Congress (NDC) which did indeed serve the seeming routine 2 tenure term but failed to help John Dramani Mahama who lost his bid for a second term as elected president of the Republic. 

Unparalleled mass commentary and citizen involvement throughout this 2016 election period was phenomenal. The wide use of smartphones in Ghana played no small role in this election.

• Did you know there are more smartphones than people in Ghana ?

Source: CNN.

 Social media platforms connected Ghanaians in a truly spectacular manner. From social media trends such as the #KalyppoChallenge which facilitated an unforeseen growth of affinity to the Flag bearer of the NPP and now president elect to the masses of Ghanaians, hitherto unaffiliated with the party, to mass Internet marketing by the then incumbent John Dramani Mahama’s #JMToaso team on a scale unprecedented in Ghana, to the development of election monitoring platforms and blogging movements with the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers as a prime example. 

 The exploding youth population played no small role in spearheading the citizenry as vanguards of the election through the microblogging platform; Twitter and Facebook.

● Is this an advent of a new political age, where patronage culture and neo-patrimonial political tendencies bow out to true citizen demands ? 

This remains to be seen, however the mass call for change and unanimous national celebration indicates a new breed of Ghanaian politics surviving on discerning voices stating and protecting the common interests. 

Democratic consolidation is to all appearances, on course in this West African country of smiles, gold and cocoa.  


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