Ghana ruling party picks VP Bawumia as presidential candidate

FILE PHOTO: Ghana's Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia is sworn in at the Independence square in Accra

By Maxwell Akalaare Adombila

ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana's ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) on Saturday picked Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia as its candidate for the December 2024 presidential election, teeing up a contest with former president John Mahama.

The 60-year-old economist and former central banker has served as second-in-command and the face of economic policy throughout the presidency of Nana Addo Akufo-Addo, who is due to step down in January 2025 after serving the constitutionally mandated eight years.

He won 61% of votes cast in the second stage of the primary - a victory widely expected after coming first in the first stage in August.

In his acceptance speech, Bawumia promised to rebuild the crisis-hit economy if elected as president.

"I want to lead a nation that improves and unleashes the talents of our youth and offers good jobs with good pay and sustainable growth with macroeconomic discipline," he said.

Although Ghana’s ruling parties are often considered favourites to win presidential races, no party has ever won more than two consecutive terms. Voters may also question Bawumia's track record as the West African country struggles to emerge from its worst economic crisis in a generation.

The oil, gold and cocoa producer has had to turn to the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion bailout after its already strained finances buckled under the economic fallout from COVID-19 and Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"With Bawumia as vice (president), one would have expected that the economy would be doing well, especially as he is the head of the economic management team, but not much has been achieved," said Said Boakye, researcher at Ghana’s Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Bawumia's selection also comes as the NPP pushes for greater diversity. He is the first Muslim to lead a major party in Ghana since 1992 and also the first person outside the dominant Akan-speaking ethnic group to lead the NPP.

(Additional reporting by Christian Akorlie; Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Daniel Wallis)