(Reuters) - Ghana has seen a smooth transition of power after the sudden
death of its president, but as the nation mourns attention is already
turning to who will replace him as the ruling party's candidate in a
Vice-President John Dramini
Mahama was sworn in hours after the announcement of the death through
sudden illness on Tuesday of 68-year-old President John Atta Mills.
ensured that the West African oil, gold and cocoa producer, a former
British colony once known as the Gold Coast, avoided the kind of messy
political transitions that have plagued other states in a coup-prone
themselves on the seamless handover. Mahama, 53, a historian, former
minister and communications expert, is expected to bring a steady hand
to a fast-growing economy, one of Africa's newest oil producers.
questions over who will now step into Mills' shoes as the candidate to
keep his governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) in power in
December's elections will inject some uncertainty into the political
Analysts say this could
drive down the Ghanaian currency, which has lost about 17 percent
against the dollar this year as the country's oil-fuelled boom sucks in
capital and consumer imports and drives up demand for dollars to pay for
Traders said the cedi was relatively stable on Wednesday at 1.9550/1.9600 to the greenback.
disruption is likely to be internal and will focus on who is the NDC's
presidential nominee," said Azim Datardina, Ghana analyst at Africa Risk
Mills, seeking a
second term despite having suffered for years from undisclosed health
problems, had already won his party's nomination to run against the
opposition New Patriotic Party's Nana Akufo-Addo, defeating a divisive
challenge from the wife of still influential ex-president Jerry
Some analysts expect Nana Konadu, Rawlings' wife whom Mills crushed in the NDC primaries, to claim an automatic nomination.
Alban Bagbin, Ghana's health minster and a member of the NDC legal
team, said the party would hold an extraordinary meeting to pick a new
candidate for what is expected to be a tight race for the presidency.
likely is a new nomination contest with a number of high-profile
challengers who earlier balked at opposing Mills. A likely candidate is
John Mahama," said Africa Risk Consulting's Datardina.
GHANA "LOST A FATHER"
flew at half mast on Wednesday as the nation began a week of national
mourning for Mills, who had served as president since winning a 2008
presidential contest that won plaudits for going down to the wire but
personally devastated - I've lost a father, I've lost a friend, I've
lost a mentor and a senior comrade," Mahama said in his first comments
after being sworn in before a somber parliament on Tuesday evening.
fine gentleman that he was, President Mills rightly earned the title
'Asomdwehene' (King of Peace). He brought a distinctive insight to
Ghanaian politics. He remained humble, honest and modest throughout his
years in public service."
That sense of loss was shared by ordinary Ghanaians too.
didn't know him personally but he's everybody's father and a
peacemaker," said Peter Fiave, a 70-year-old who went to parliament to
witness the swearing-in of Mahama.
poured in from around the globe from heads of state like U.S. President
Barack Obama, who had feted Ghana under Mills as a model and "good news
story" for Africa.
quick to praise the nation's handling of the sudden loss. "We are
showing a maturity that must encourage all Ghanaians," said opposition
NPP Chairman Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey.
fresh from a U.S. tour to promote a recently published personal memoir
on Ghana's history, is widely expected to maintain current policies in
his caretaker role.
Yet, amid the
plaudits for his predecessor, he will inherit the same struggles Mills
had faced in managing Ghanaians' high expectations over the flow of
crude from the country's Jubilee oil field since 2010, and in tackling
corruption scandals that have dogged the NDC administration.
the above, recent momentum has favored the NPP. Ghanaians also have a
history of evicting the ruling party at the ballot box in favor of the
opposition," Standard Bank said in a research note on Wednesday.
will hinge on the manner in which the NDC is able to swiftly elect a
replacement presidential candidate. Infighting already poses a
significant threat to party unity, and any signs of an exacerbation of
these tensions will favor the opposition," it added.
of Mills' death, most analysts had expected a year of election spending
testing Ghana's reputation for improved economic management. The
government last week sought parliament's permission for extra spending.
think heightened uncertainty will result in some foreign investors
taking a wait-and-see stance, which would imply a slowdown in FX
inflows, which in turn would be negative for the already troubled cedi,"
Renaissance Capital said.
"We think another 5-10 percent depreciation is likely by (the end of 2012)," it added.
(Additional reporting by Ed Cropley
in Johannesburg; Writing by David Lewis
; Editing by Pascal Fletcher