8 December 2008

Ghana: Election Too Close to Call

Even before the result of last Sunday's presidential and parliamentary elections in Ghana are announced, the world appears to be literally standing up for its credibility, recommending the Ghanaian example for other countries in Africa.

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Observer Mission, which was in the West African country, ahead of the election praised the country's government for exhibiting a high level of political will to deliver on democracy.

Meanwhile, results of the election, which continued to arrive from the country's 230 constituencies, indicate that the presidential election could go to either of the two main contenders, Nana Akufo Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) or Professor John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress, a too-close to call situation.

But most political pundits believe that a run-off is quite imminent, as none of the candidates would be able to muster enough votes to ensure outright victory in the first ballot as to occupy the Golden Jubilee Palace , the mint presidential lodge built by outgoing President, John Kufor.

As at the time of filing this report, tentative results in the presidential election indicate that the NPP is leading with a very thin margin of 48.63 per cent as against the NDC, which has 48.43 percent, while in the parliamentary elections, which reflects that both parties are making strong inroads into the opponent's areas, the NPP has been able to grab 51 per cent of the seats to the 46 percent of the NDC.

Like Nigeria, all results are not authentic until the Electoral Commission of Ghana (ECG) says so, thus even though the candidates are believed to have the full results, they are keeping it to their chest in compliance with the electoral laws.

Washington reacted by asking other African nations to emulate Ghana in the conduct of free and fair elections.

The State Department said the peaceful nature of the ballot is a testimony of the will of the Ghanaian people to freely chose their leaders "unlike what obtains in other countries, such as Nigeria."

Areas where the early results have been announced include Volta Region, Northern, Asoase in Kumasi, Angloga, Ablekuma, and Greater Accra.

Monday was a public holiday and people were glued to their radio and television sets as the results trickled in.

A number of Ministers have lost their seats in the Parliamentary elections.

Poll officials reported a huge turnout, and monitors hailed the exercise as a shining example of democracy in action for Africa.

Kufuor, 70, is stepping down in January after serving the maximum two terms.

The main contest is between NPP and the NDC, which was in power until eight years ago.

The winner could be known today although the Electoral Commission has until tomorrow afternoon to release the final official results.

The ECOWAS group led by former Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, praised all stakeholders in the election.

"The mission wishes to commend the government, the electoral commission, political parties and the people of Ghana for their determination and commitment to the electoral process as a basis for consolidating democracy, peace and security in the country and in the region as a whole," he said.

Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana, Musiliu Obanikoro, maintained that "Nigeria must borrow from what Ghana has done."

Former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, who is also monitoring the election under the auspices of the Carter Institute, said Ghana has demonstrated an example that ought to put some African countries sticking to anti-democratic practices to shame.

Seven Presidential candidates are in the race but the other candidates failed to attract much support.

There is little love lost between the NDC and the NPP, which dominated the outgoing Parliament with 128 of the 230 seats.

Parliamentary results so far showed that the NPP, a centre-right party, has lost at least half a dozen seats to the NDC, including that of the Information Minister.

Nonetheless, the Convention People's Party (CPP), which ushered in Ghana's independence from Britain in 1957, is hoping to surprise the two main parties if its candidate, Paa Kwesi Nduom, secures enough votes to prevent any leading candidate from achieving a first-round victory.

The vote was free of the intimidation and violence that have marred other recent African polls, according to local and international observers.

Valerie Amos, a former British Minister who is leading a 23-nation Commonwealth observer mission, said Sunday had been "a good day for Africa."

The election is important not just for Ghana, but also for the continent, where bloodshed and claims of fraud have dogged polls from Kenya to Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

Ghana was the first African state to gain its independence in 1957, but was plagued by coups until the return to multi-party democracy in 1992.

It is the world's second biggest cocoa grower and Africa's number two gold miner.

By Sunny Igboanugo, Rafiu Ajakaiye (Accra) And Chinedu Offor (Washington, DC)

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