- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

Democracy in Ghana

The ambassador from Ghana is celebrating a presidential election this month that many observers agree proves the West African nation is now a mature democracy.

“Ghana has long laid claim to its historic status as Africa’s first independent democracy. This election proves once again that this claim is not merely historical or cosmetic. It is something substantial,” said Ambassador Fritz Kwabena Poku.

President John Kufuor was re-elected Dec. 7 to a second term with 52 percent of the vote. His first election in 2000 marked the country’s first peaceful transfer of power since Ghana gained its independence from Britain in 1957.

Mr. Kufuor’s New Patriotic Party also won 129 out of 230 seats, giving it a solid majority in parliament. The National Democratic Congress of defeated presidential candidate Atta Mills won 88 seats, making it the primary opposition party.

The ambassador, in his analysis of the election, said voters endorsed Mr. Kufuor’s economic programs that have cut inflation dramatically. Mr. Kufuor promised to improve the average income in Ghana, where 40 percent of the country’s 20 million people live in poverty.

“Under Kufuor’s leadership, Ghana’s inflation rate has dropped to 12.5 percent from 40.5 percent, bank lending rates have more than halved, foreign-exchange reserves strengthened and a slide in the currency has slowed,” Mr. Poku said.

“President Kufuor has been an effective agent of change by combating corruption, economic stagnation and social injustice. By every measure, the life of Ghana’s people has improved since President Kufuor took office, and the election confirmed this as true in the eyes of Ghanaian voters.”

Warning Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan must end political trials and release opposition leaders if it hopes to lead Europe’s main human rights group, U.S. Ambassador John Ordway said yesterday.

Mr. Ordway told reporters in Almaty, the largest city in the former Soviet republic, that Kazakhstan “is perfectly free” to pursue the 2009 chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe but will not get U.S. support without political reforms.

“Our position is well known. Any chairman-in-office has to exemplify the fundamental characteristics of the organization,” he toldReuters news agency.

He called on President Nursultan Nazarbayev to release opposition leader Galymzhan Zhakiyanov, who is serving a two-year jail sentence in a remote part of the country.

“Clearly, the conditions under which he is currently being held are not good, and we would like to see this end as soon as possible,” Mr. Ordway said.

The ambassador criticized the government for conducting politically motivated trials.

“We would like very much to see that when there are trials which appear to have been motivated by political means, that they be resolved as quickly as possible and people involved be able to resume their normal lives,” he said.

Observers to Ukraine

The National Democratic Institute is sending a team of observers led by a former U.S. appeals court judge and a former foreign minister of Poland to monitor the new presidential election in Ukraine.

Judge Abner Mikva, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Colombia from 1979 to 1994, and Bronislaw Geremek, foreign minister from 1997 to 2000, will lead a team of 30 observers for the Sunday election. The Ukrainian Supreme Court declared the Nov. 21 presidential election invalid because of fraud after tens of thousands of opposition supporters demonstrated for several days in the capital, Kiev.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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