With two old rivals facing off in Ghana‘s presidential election on Dec. 7 amid familiar economic woes, many voters are paying more attention to a new element in the political mix – the first-ever female vice-presidential candidate for a major party.
West Africa’s second-largest economy has one of the highest levels of women-owned businesses in the world, yet just 13% of parliamentary seats are held by women.
Former education minister Jane Naana Opoku-Agyeman hopes that the decision of Ghana’s main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to nominate her as its candidate for vice-president will inspire other women to enter politics.
“Many are those who are now more energised to vote, thanks to the momentous decision,” Opoku-Agyeman, 69, said on the campaign trail in July after her nomination, promising to hold the door open for other women.
She and the NDC’s presidential candidate John Mahama, a former president of Ghana, are running against the incumbent, President Nana Akufo-Addo, and Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia, a former banker, of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Some commentators saw her nomination as a politically astute move by the NDC to gain an edge in the race, a view boosted by a poll conducted in October by Ghanaian market research firm MSI-ACI showing over 70% of people canvassed approved of her candidacy.
“It’s a win, regardless of whether she wins,” said 35-year-old tech entrepreneur Kafui Anson-Yevu. She and her friends in Accra hope the nomination is just a starting point for women entering national politics.
Three women are also among the 12 presidential candidates, although voters generally choose between the NPP and NDC, who have alternated in power since 1992.
Ghana will also hold a parliamentary election on December 7, but the main parties are fielding fewer female candidates this year than in 2016, so the number of women deputies is likely to fall, according to a report by US pro-democracy groups.
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