Ghana: The Ebbing Power of Incumbency

Issue Date April 2017
Volume 28
Issue 2
Page Numbers 92-104
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Despite pre-election fears, the victory of the opposition NPP over the ruling NDC in Ghana’s December 2016 elections became the prologue to a peaceful transfer of power, an outcome which suggests that the advantage of incumbency in African elections may be on the wane. Recent transfers of power in Africa have been driven by deteriorating economic conditions, opposition learning, more effective and dynamic electoral processes, and increasingly assertive voters. When leaders follow the democratic rules of the game, as in Ghana’s and Nigeria’s most recent elections, incumbents are likely to lose their seats. When they do not, as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, the result is instead greater repression, as presidents seek to insulate themselves from the rising risk of defeat. The factors that account for recent opposition victories thus also help to explain an upsurge in attacks on civil liberties across much of the continent.

About the Authors

Nic Cheeseman

Nic Cheeseman is professor of democracy and international development at the University of Birmingham.

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Gabrielle Lynch

Gabrielle Lynch is associate professor of comparative politics at the University of Warwick.

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Justin Willis

Justin Willis is professor of history at Durham University.

View all work by Justin Willis