General elections in Ghana took place on December 7 as the West African nation held its eighth uninterrupted polls in 28 years to choose a president and lawmakers. Election officials say results may be known by the middle of the week although there was an earlier promise to declare the winner of the presidential race in 24 hours.
The electoral process was described by local and foreign observers as free and fair even though minor pockets of violence, including the gunning down of a ballot box snatcher, occurred in a few places.
In spite of Ghana reveling in the envy and praise showed to the country by others in Africa and the rest of the world, not everyone in the capital city Accra and beyond felt proud about Monday’s feat. The people of the small rural town of Bimbagu South in the region of North East were not even in the least inspired to take part in the election.
According to local reports that emerged during Monday’s polls, residents of Bimbagu South, a largely agrarian community, refused to vote after complaining that their local and national government had turned deaf ears to pleas for infrastructural development. The elections of 2020 were therefore boycotted in other to attract attention for the plight of the people.
Nationally-syndicated radio station Joy FM reported that on Monday morning, election officials were pictured sitting idly with no resident bothering to pass by to vote. Empty ballot boxes remained as they had been set up between 7 am and 5 pm local time.
The news of this boycott managed to arrest the attention of a considerable number of Ghanaians in bigger and better-developed cities. This was in spite of the omnipresence of information about key legislative races in more vibrant parts of Ghana.
Bimbagu South’s rebellion was praised by many including an Accra-based social activist who tweeted: “Yes, a vote strike. One of the boldest political statements in the last decade. They are expanding our political imagination. Now watch out for the bourgeois condescension that’s going to emanate from Accra.”
Ghana runs a mixed presidential and parliamentary system of government where elections are held every four years. Members of Parliament (MPs), who represent what Ghanaians call constituencies, are not legally responsible for infrastructural development although they have to lobby the executive for this.
However, the promise and expectation of such infrastructural development on the part of MPs, have come to be part of the country’s political culture. The people of Bimbagu South would have cried over the last several years to the MP who represents that electoral area to attend to the bad roads and the lack of potable water and the lack of infrastructure for education and healthcare.
According to Joy FM, the residents of the area made their intentions to boycott December’s elections known in October. But this was largely dismissed as Ghana’s politicians have become used to what they see as attempts at blackmailing them into providing for their constituents.
On the analyses of how Bimbagu South was able to maintain strictly zero turnouts, it was revealed that the northern town holds barely 2,000 people with only a little more than 400 registered to vote. In the scheme of the overall constituency, this was not much, however, that did not seem to bother the principled poor folks.