Death of Mills leaves ruling party in Ghana vulnerable

2012-07-28 16:28

The ruling party in Ghana will not have an easy task retaining its ­majority come December following the death of president John ­Atta Mills.

Mills passed away on Tuesday due to throat cancer, which affected his speech and sight, but his ­illness was a long-time rumour that was never confirmed because of fears that he and his party would lose power.

Mills’ death comes at a bad time for his party, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), because he was in a strong position to ­secure a second term in the country’s election, due to take place in December.

Mills clinched the top job in 2009 during his third attempt at the presidency.

It was a narrow win.

The first round of voting was won by the New Patriotic Party (NPP), but they could not get a majority, which prompted another round of voting in which Mills won by 23 000 votes.

The Obama effect is said to have boosted Mills. Ghanians were caught up in the change rhetoric that came with the election of US President Barack Obama, who also made Ghana his first stop on his post-election African tour.

Ghana has a steady tradition of changing leadership every eight years, after the incumbent has been in office for two terms.

Mills would have been campaigning now for his second term.

As a protégé of former Ghanian president Jerry Rawlings, Mills ­insisted on forming alliances with factions within the party, leaving a legacy as a more unifying figure than Rawlings or Ghana’s founding father, Kwame Nkrumah.

A few hours after the death of Mills on Tuesday in Accra, his deputy, John Mahama, was sworn in as president.

This is a far cry from the time in April when the same tragedy struck Malawi and the state went to extraordinary lengths to delay the swearing in of Bingu wa Mutharika’s deputy, Joyce Banda.

Mahama is, according to Ghanian analysts, been tipped by the NDC’s national executive committee to run as the party’s presidential candidate for December’s election and a sympathy vote for Mills might give him a boost.

The opposition NPP suspended campaigning to mourn Mills, but will set their sights on Mahama once the mourning period is over.

According to Ghanian analyst Andrews Atta-Asamoah, the ­opposition is expected to dig up dirt on Mahama and the party in order to discredit the NDC at the ballot box.

“Because Mills was ill most of the time, Mahama was in charge of government and the scandals of government will be linked to him by the opposition,” he said.

Mahama will also face internal pressure as Rawlings has made it known he wants his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, to be the presidential candidate.

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