Ghana faces post-election 'gridlock' in parliament
Ghana's new parliament will be sworn in on Thursday, virtually split down the middle between the two main parties, posing the risk of gridlock with key issues on the agenda including how to turn around an economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
As President Nana Akufo-Addo goes into his second term, lawmakers from his New Patriotic Party will have 137 parliamentary seats, compared to 136 held by the opposition National Democratic Congress.
A lone independent has the remaining seat, and he has said he will vote with the ruling NPP.
The results of a number of outstanding challenges could tweak the balance, but with little effect, said Kobi Annan, a risk analyst with the Songhai Advisory group.
"Realistically it could be a majority of three or four at best, which means that if someone is sick or travelling, then any vote becomes very tight," Annan said.
Severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, the West African nation of 30 million people is expected to see economic growth plummet this year to its lowest in three decades, to 0.9 per cent according to the International Monetary Fund, from 6.5 per cent in 2019.
The government also faces the urgent task of reining in mounting debt, which surpassed 70 per cent of GDP in September.
In addition to budget negotiations, the MPs will debate a controversial public education bill and a public offering of a gold royalties fund, a deal the opposition had vowed to reverse if they had won power in December 7's general election.
The NPP lost 32 seats in the election in which Akufo-Addo, 76, squeaked back into power in Africa's top gold producer with 51.59 per cent of the vote.
Opposition NDC leader John Mahama scored 47.36 per cent, while his party brought its parliamentary strength up to nearly level with the NPP.
A full 100 members of the 275-seat parliament are taking office for the first time.
"If we don't see consensus being built, I can bet you we're going to see the NDC making life very difficult for the executive for the next four years," said Rasheed Draman, executive director of the African Center for Parliamentary Affairs.
"I foresee a situation where there's going to be a lot of gridlock and crisis and boycotts," Draman added.
With the NPP's comfortable majority evaporated, "it's not going to be a situation where the minority has a say and the majority has its way," he said.
Annan said "party politics" should be shunned in favour of seizing "an opportunity for collaboration".
"We don't want to end up in a situation where NDC has a majority and uses that to only block government activity. That's a no-win for anybody," he said.
For Draman, that could be a disaster for the people of the former British colony.