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Mahama in London I: Our Electoral Commission is no longer neutral

John Dramani Mahama tells African Arguments and Asaase that moves by Nana Akufo-Addo to place NPP supporters on the EC have left the Commission skewed

John Dramani Mahama has lashed out at President Nana Akufo-Addo, describing his tenure as unprecedented in the Fourth Republic for interfering with institutions of state. He further accused Akufo-Addo of packing the courts and skewing the Electoral Commission.

Mahama shared his thoughts in an exclusive, wide-ranging interview at the London School of Economics with Parselelo Kantai, the Nairobi-based politics/society editor of the Royal African Society’s African Arguments platform, and Nana Yaa Mensah of Asaase.

I am for strengthening state institutions, and I believe that over the years, from President Rawlings … considering that he was the first president after the promulgation of the 1992 constitution, he did well to start to build up those institutions,” Mahama said.

“President Kufuor came; he’s a known democrat and I don’t think that there were those tendencies.

“President Mills, who was an alumnus of this university, was a perfect democrat. I came and I did my best. I never, ever interfered with the judiciary in any way; I never interfered in the working of state institutions. But unfortunately I can’t say the same for the last seven and a half years.”

Problematic EC appointments

Mahama singled out the Jean Mensa-led EC for criticism.

“We’ve had an electoral commission that has been a model for the whole of Africa because of the innovations that we have introduced at every stage of the way … And because of that, it has created some of the best electoral processes that Africa has,” the former president said.

“Unfortunately, you get a government that comes in that appoints people who have a known partisan record on to the Commission.

“You as much as possible want to appoint people who are credible, who are respected, who everybody knows would be neutral. But this is a government that has a record of appointing NPP people on to the Electoral Commission,” the former president said.

John Dramani Mahama in London/London School of Economics (LSE), 27 March 2024

“Indeed … sometimes it falls out of their own mouths. One of the commissioners said that our party [the National Democratic Congress] is the biggest existential threat to democracy in Ghana. And he’s a member of the Commission! We know that he was a patron of the NPP student movement on campus …

“There’s even another one who was part of the manifesto writing committee of the NPP,” Mahama said.

“When you have people like that being appointed on to the Commission, then you begin to wonder: ‘Should we change the mode of appointment of these people? Should the appointment be taken away from the president and given to some other, independent body?’”

“NPP apparatchiki”

The former president painted a dim picture of the EC’s management of the 2020 election and said law-enforcement officials were unwilling to respond to complaints by the National Democratic Congress about flaws in the voting.

“[The running of an election] a very complicated process and it needs a lot of stakeholder engagement; it needs level heads – level-headedness – to be able to encourage the EC to do its work, so that we all are satisfied with the integrity of the election.

“Recently there was an announcement of recruitment of returning officers, and the information we have is that ministers and DCEs [district chief executives] and others were asked to write the names of party apparatchiki and present them so that they would be appointed as the returning officers. Are these people going to be neutral?”

However, the former president, who sounded upbeat about his prospects in this year’s presidential election, expressed a quiet belief that Ghana has the resilience to work through negotiations between the political parties in the run-up to 7 December 2024.

“These are things that beginning to [hobble] us,” Mahama said of the perceived EC bias. “And I think that Ghana has the shock absorbers to be able to go through these processes and debate the necessary reforms.”

“Akufo-Addo wants to dominate the courts”

Mahama was just as critical of President Akufo-Addo’s relations with the courts.

“From time to time you’ll get a government and a leader who comes who takes things back,” he said. “We’ve been trying to build up the institutions – the judiciary and all the other state institutions – and then suddenly you come with a president who packs the courts with people who have known party affiliations.

“Even though there’s no cap or ceiling on the number of Supreme Court judges … there comes a president who appoints the most judges in history … just because you want to dominate the courts.

“We have problems with our judiciary’s neutrality.”

John Dramani Mahama in London/National Democratic Congress (NDC), 27 March 2024
At the LSE: (left to right) Joyce Bawah Mogtari, Dr Omane Boamah, Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the former president, Prosper Bani, Obuobia Darko-Opoku


The RAS/Asaase interview took place on 27 March in the lead-up to Easter as Mahama led National Democratic Congress representatives on a trip to London.

Among other members of the high-powered delegation were Professor Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang, the NDC’s running mate for the 2020 election who is also on the ticket for 2024, the former communications minister Edward Omane Boamah, the former chief of staff and interior minister Prosper Bani, the former presidential staffer Stan Dogbe, the journalist Obuobia Darko-Opoku and Joyce Bawah Mogtari, the special aide to the former president.

President Mahama later that evening delivered a lecture at the London School of Economics on the role of technology in transforming growth in Africa in the 21st century.

John Dramani Mahama in London/London School of Economics (LSE), 27 March 2024
The audience in the LSE’s Wolfson Theatre for the lecture, with LSE and King’s College students and academics

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