Today in History: First legislative assembly elections held in Gold Coast

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Elections for the Legislative Assembly were held for the first time in the Gold Coast on 8 February 1951.

Although elections had been held for the Legislative Council since 1925, the Council did not have complete control over the legislation, and the voting franchise was limited to councils of chiefs. 

This was the first election to be held in Africa under universal suffrage. 

Amongst growing calls for self-governance, such as the 1948 Accra Riots and unrest (which led to the arrest of the Big Six), the Coussey Committee was commissioned by the United Kingdom government. 

Its report led to the 1951 constitution, which gave the Executive Council an African majority, and created an 84-member Legislative Assembly, 38 of which were to be elected by the people, 37 representing territorial councils, six appointed to represent commercial interests and three ex officio members appointed by the Governor. 

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Those representing commercial interests and appointed by the Governor were all white.

Nkrumah’s aide and later Finance Minister Komla Agbeli Gbedemah is credited with organizing the entire campaign while he (Kwame Nkrumah) was still in Fort James prison, detained by the colonial government. 

Nkrumah duly won the Accra Central Municipal seat. 

RESULTS OF ELECTIONS 

Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party won 34 of the 38 elected seats in the assembly, claiming all five seats and nearly 95% of the vote in urban areas; Nkrumah himself winning the Accra Central seat with 22,780 of the 23,122 votes cast. 

In rural areas the CPP won 29 of the 33 seats, taking around 72% of the vote

The main opposition, the United Gold Coast Convention, fared badly, winning only two seats, and was disbanded following the elections. 

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Former members of the UGCC went on to form the Ghana Congress Party (which later became the United Party). The elections were also contested by the National Democratic Party. 

The CPP was also supported in the Assembly by 22 of the indirectly elected members, and thus held 56 of the 84 seats. 

AFTERMATH 

After winning the Accra Central seat, Kwame Nkrumah was released from prison, and was appointed “Leader of Government Business”, before becoming the country’s first Prime Minister the following year after a constitutional amendment.

Another new constitution was promulgated in 1954, followed by elections the same year, also won by the CPP. 

Following another convincing election victory by Nkrumah’s party in 1956, Gold Coast became the first sub-Saharan African state to gain independence (aside from apartheid South Africa) on 6 March 1957, changing its name to Ghana. 


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