That the election was peaceful and transparent is all the more remarkable because the stakes were so high – revenue from reserves of 1.8 billion barrels of oil is expected to flow in 2010 – and the margin of victory was wafer-thin. Nine million votes were cast yet, only 41,000 – less than half a percent – separated Mr. Mills of the center-left National Democratic Congress (NDC) from his opponent Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling center-right New Patriotic Party (NPP).
The winner was conciliatory in victory. "There is no NDC Ghana, there is no NPP Ghana .... There is one Ghana," Atta Mills told cheering supporters after official results were announced this past weekend. "I assure Ghanaians that I will be president for all," he added.
America's 2008 presidential election loomed large over Ghana's poll. Supporters of the two main parties talked of their dreams for an "Obama" – here meaning a first-round win – and analysts hoped that the loser would follow Sen. John McCain's example by conceding quickly and graciously. This Mr. Akufo-Addo did.
Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development described the "mutual loathing and distrust" between the political rivals, yet it did not erupt into violence.
So why has Ghana succeeded where others so spectacularly fail?
Ghana's multiparty democracy is youthful but entrenched. Its unlikely progenitor was Jerry Rawlings, a serial coup organizer and military ruler. But in 1992 Mr. Rawlings reestablished multiparty democracy and there have been four elections since.