Ghana is a country where, on the surface and in comparison to some of its West African neighbours, democracy appears to be thriving. However the country faces significant challenges in ensuring a healthy democratic future, particularly when it comes to citizen participation. While Ghana scores highly on the basic measures of democracy and has been successful in holding five rounds of free and fair elections (including a smooth transition from one ruling party to another) the fact that much of the political power in the country resides with a small political elite contributes heavily towards a lack of involvement from significant parts of the population in the decision making processes that affect them.
Ghana is a multi‐party democracy but in reality the competition for overall power is between the two main parties, the National Patriotic Party (NPP) and National Democratic Congress (NDC). What has developed between the two parties is a winner‐takes‐all approach to the struggle for power and an increased risk of politically motivated outbreaks of conflict. Adding to the competitive atmosphere, the concentration of powers in the presidency and the executive branch dwarf those of all other branches of the government making gaining the top post all the more powerful.
Over the 60 years since independence, Ghanaians have witnessed violence resulting from a mix of ethnic, religious and political tensions and the manipulation of inter‐communal divisions by politicians for political gain. Politicians use elections as a time to manipulate ongoing or latent conflicts to galvanize support. Some parties and candidates will always act on such opportunities to seek political advantage in their favor and by whatever means available.