It's one week to the US elections, and the world is waiting with baited breath as Americans both home and abroad cast their votes for the next leader of the United States.
As an expatriate I sent in my ballot last week.
As a foreigner in Ghana, I find it amazing that so many people watch the U.S. elections so closely. I stayed up for each and every debate, and more times than not, other Ghanaians watched as well.
I can find Obama bumper stickers and T-Shirts here. MTN, one of the mobile phone carriers and Joy FM have created a text message subscription service that offers customers US election news for just one Ghana Cedi. I signed up and told my other friends about it as well.
But with one week to go until one of the biggest elections in recent global history, all I can say is that Americans on both sides of the political divide are nervously biting their nails.
An article from MSNBC describes this widespread what I would call "Pre-Election Syndrome", evidenced by symptoms of loss of sleep, addiction to television and internet updates on poll numbers, and a penchant for getting into heated political debates with all those who come within three feet. (See article)
Let's face it, Americans feel deeply invested in this election. As the article states, "elections generate so much stress because we [Americans] vote out of a very, very core place in our personalities...it has to do with their existential view of how the world works and the fear is that a candidate who shares a different worldview is rattling." To many people, they cannot even imagine what the world would look like if their preferred presidential candidate happened not to win. A loss for their preferred candidate, in a winner take all situation, resembles a life-or-death type of game.
I know I exhibit some of the symptoms of Pre-Election Syndrome.
Between NPP and NDC
But what about Ghana? What are the symptoms of Pre-Election syndrome in Ghana? Is it evidenced by higher sales of political newspapers? Higher listenership to radio stations? Are citizens with access to television finding themselves glued to it? Are political discussions around the dinner table more heated? As most of us know, an unfortunate symptom of Pre-Election Syndrome here is the potential for violent confrontations between party supporters at rallies.
Regrettably, within the past week, there have been several instances of clashes between the NPP and the NDC parties. Additionally, PES comes with extra political sensationalism in the media, rumor-mongering, heated rhetoric from candidates and loud arguments over the radio airwaves between party leaders. All of these factors help to raise the temperature of the nation as a whole.
But as an outsider, what I fail to understand in Ghana is where the heat is coming from. Sure, the Ghana elections are a "first past the post" 50+1 contest as I understand it. But in terms of ideologies, I wish someone could tell me what fundamentally distinguishes the NPP from the NDC, the two major players in the race.
For instance, Republicans in the United States are known to ideologically favor small government regulation in individual affairs, while Democrats favor funding large government projects and regulation. I'm speaking broadly here, but on social issues, Republicans tend to be socially conservative, with objections to gay marriage, and abortion, while Democrats favor inclusiveness concerning marriage and civil unions, and supporting a woman's right to choose. But in the case of the NPP and NDC, what are the basic differences between the parties, besides the personalities? I would welcome comments.
As for my vote........Obama/Biden 2008!!!
Credit: By Karen Attiah