Ghana. A Stagnated Democratic Trajectory

In Leonardo R. Arriola, Lise Rakner and Nicolas Van de Walle (eds), Democratic Backsliding in Africa? Autocratization, Resilience, and Contention. Oxford University Press, 2022, pp. 112-136.

Ghana remains one of the few countries on the continent where elites have not deliberately employed legal mechanisms to restrict contestation and participation rights or to lock out the opposition from the electoral playing field. At the same time, the country’s political elites have also actively resisted legal reforms aiming to deepen democratic developments beyond holding elections. Thus, while Ghana has made steady and incremental progress toward democratic consolidation since 1992, the quality of the country’s democracy has stagnated. The chapter argues that Ghana’s political elites have sought to limit further democratization and actively worked to constrain actors promoting enhanced democratization. They have done so primarily through the strategic use of law, including a seeming unwillingness to adopt progressive legal measures that would expand participatory rights. Ghana’s political elites have resisted efforts to restrict executive power, as manifested in continued failures to implement needed constitutional reforms, and they have delayed adopting and implementing key civil liberties legislation to improve minority rights and actively attacked media pluralism and freedoms. Ultimately, this undermines the country’s democracy as elites consolidate power and as popular trust erodes in the key institutions underpinning Ghana’s democracy.