A new constitution, based on the US model, was approved by national referendum in April 1992. Ghana is a unitary republic with an executive presidency and a multiparty political system. The national legislature is the unicameral Parliament, whose 275 members are elected by universal adult suffrage every four years. Parliament was enlarged from 230 to 275 members before the elections of 7–8 December 2012.
The President, who is head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, is elected by universal suffrage for a maximum of two four-year terms. If no presidential candidate receives more than 50 per cent of votes, a new election between the two leading candidates must take place within 21 days.
The President appoints a Vice-President and nominates a council of ministers, subject to approval by the parliament. The constitution also provides for two advisory bodies to the President: a 25- member council of state, composed mainly of regional representatives and presidential nominees, and a 20-member national security council, chaired by the Vice-President.
Ten regional ministers, one for each region, are each assisted by a regional co-ordinating council. There are 138 administrative districts, each having a district assembly, headed by a district chief executive. Regional colleges, which comprise representatives selected by the district assemblies and by regional houses of chiefs, elect a number of representatives to the council of state.
After 19 years at the helm, President Jerry Rawlings was barred by the constitution from seeking another term of office in the December 2000 presidential election. For the first time in Ghana’s history there was a democratic transfer of power, after National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate Vice-President John Atta Mills was defeated in the second round of the presidential contest by New Patriotic Party (NPP) leader, John Kufuor. The NPP also won the parliamentary elections held on the same day in December 2000 as the first round of the presidential election.
Kufuor won the December 2004 presidential election gaining an outright majority in the first round with 53.4 per cent of the votes. His main rival, Atta Mills of the NDC, received 43.7 per cent and the turnout was 83 per cent. In parliamentary elections on the same day the NPP took 128 seats, the NDC 94, People’s National Convention (PNC) four and Convention People’s Party (CPP) three. Kufuor promised to make reducing poverty his priority in his second term.
The parliamentary and presidential elections in December 2008 were very close. The NDC won the general election but just fell short of an overall majority; the NDC took 115 seats, NPP 108, PNC two, CPP one and independents four. In the second round of the presidential election, the NDC’s Atta Mills (50.2 per cent) narrowly beat the NPP’s Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo (49.8 per cent), reversing the first-round result of Akufo-Addo 49.1 per cent and Atta Mills 47.9 per cent. Commonwealth observers were present.
Following the death of President Atta Mills on 24 July 2012, Vice- President John Dramani Mahama was sworn in as President, in accordance with the law.
At the December 2012 elections, when turnout was more than 80 per cent, the NDC won 148 of 275 seats in the enlarged Parliament and the NPP 123. The NDC’s candidate, the incumbent President Mahama, won a very close presidential contest in the first round with 50.7 per cent of votes cast, the NPP’s Akufo-Addo securing 47.7 per cent and the other six candidates the remaining 1.6 per cent. The elections were conducted in the presence of Commonwealth observers led by former Lesotho PM Pakalitha Mosisili, who said that the election had been generally peaceful but that the level of women’s participation as candidates, and thus as representatives, was very low.