Ghana: Election Fever Grips the Nation

Ghana has extended voting in its presidential election into a second day, officials said, after technical problems prevented thousands of people in ... ( Resource: Ghana Extends Voting After Technical Glitch

With D-day for Election 2012 barely 24 hours away, voters across the length and breadth of Ghana yesterday, began feverish preparations to be part of the four-yearly thumb revolution to either endorse their sitting president and parliamentarians, or to appoint new ones.

For this year that golden opportunity falls tomorrow, Friday December 7, 2012, eight candidates are vying to occupy the mint-fresh Jubilee House seat of the Ghanaian Presidency, while there are a total of 1,199 vying for the 275 parliamentary seats.

Our nationwide network of reporters indicate that voters took time off to look for where they had hidden their voters cards, and to bring forward appointments earlier scheduled for Friday to yesterday, or today.

Election fever seems to have gripped voters in the Ashanti Region, as they look forward to Friday, when the Ghanaian electorates go to the polls to elect a president and parliamentary candidates for their constituencies, reports Sebastian R. Freiku from Kumasi

Though the atmosphere seems calm, the air is filled with party songs, as party vehicles blast music while party colours, in the form of posters, billboards and flags, meet people everywhere.

Taxi drivers are identifying with one party or the other by hoisting flags on their vehicles, amid tooting of the horn to draw sympathy from the public.

With the approach of the day, the lorry parks are jamming with passengers, mostly voters who are travelling to the various constituencies, to make sure they are at their constituencies early enough to exercise their franchise on polling day.

While voters, and for that matter followers of the various political parties, are anxious about what the results would be in the face of political messages of the presidential candidates, parties and their candidates are putting finishing touches to arrangements to ensure victory is certain.

A common feature of group discussions is the prediction of who carries the day on Friday.

It looks like Friday's elections is between the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP), and that voters would vote as to whether they go in for free SHS education by Nana Akufo-Addo, or wait till the next 20 years, as proposed by President Mahama when the NDC would be adequately ready for free SHS education.

At the party level, old guards of the NDC have, since the beginning of the week, been holding series of meeting at the Residency to assert the party's position on the elections.

Mr. Frederick Fredua Antoh, Regional Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), has announced the party's readiness to go to the polls, and expects that it would be peaceful.

He was, however, apprehensive about what he terms "too many stories" (rumours) doing the rounds that strangers had infiltrated the constituencies in the region, with the intention of stealing ballot boxes.

Mr. Antoh said the rumours had given credence to the alleged intentions of the NDC National Organiser, Mr. Yaw Boateng Gyan, to deploy thugs to destabilise the polls, as captured on tape recently.

The NPP party chairman indicated that in spite of assurances by the security agencies that everything was under control, he feared that they could not be relied upon for the sanctity of the polls.

His fears were premised on the fact that the police had, in previous elections, given assurances that they were in control, and yet incidences had always proved the police wrong.

In the circumstances, Mr. Antoh would want party supporters to be vigilant and protect the ballot boxes. He expects party sympathisers and agents to work within the confines and provisions of the law though.

The Ashanti Regional Secretary of the NDC, Mr. Joseph Yamin, stated the confidence of the party in security agents in ensuring peaceful, free and fair elections.

He said the NDC was fully prepared to enter the race and win more seats. According to him, the NDC was targeting 30 plus percent of the total votes in the region to push NDC to maintain power.

In a random interview for opinions about presidential candidates for the 2012 elections, most of the interviewees expect that besides attitudes, leadership qualities, exuberances, personality, as well as the experience of presidential candidates, campaign messages would play a crucial part in the outcome of the 2012 general elections.

Mr. Kwame Asamoah Boateng, Ashanti Regional Deputy Secretary of the NPP, said Nana Akufo-Addo had, on a number of occasions, represented the country in the absence of former president John Agyekum Kufuor on the international scene.

He said Nana, as a foreign minister, initiated many development projects, which the country was currently benefitting from.

The former District Chief Executive (DCE) of Jacobu, again, said he believed that Nana Addo had the ability to perform as president more than any of the other presidential aspirants.

He also said politically, Nana Addo was more experienced and far ahead of the other contestants. Mr. Alex Sawyer Attivor, Ashanti Regional Vice Chairman of the NDC, believed that the Professor Mills/Mahama administration had brought a different dimension to politics, following unprecedented development across the length and breadth of the country.

According to him, people appreciated President Mahama more than Nana Addo, because Nana Addo was violent and always inciting people.

Messrs Kwabena Sarfo and Yaw Adu, all traders at Adum, believed Nana was a good leader and has the ability to lead the country, and charismatic and more experienced when it comes to politics.

The Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwabre East, Kofi Frimpong, said he was satisfied with the arrangements by the Electoral Commission (EC), and hoped it would not go contrary to the rules and regulations of the game.

He also expected the EC to be punctual and provide efficient machines for a smooth polling. According to him, the punctuality of EC staff and polling agents was important for the success of the exercise.

In the Bekwai constituency, the NPP candidate, Mr. Joseph Osei-Wusu, who has announced satisfaction with the arrangements by the Electoral Commission, says the NPP would win the seat.

From Bolgatanga, William N-lanjerborr Jalulah reports that the general atmosphere in the Upper East Region among potential voters, ahead of the Friday's general elections, was calm, with voters divided over which one of the two leading presidential candidates to vote for.

They are torn between the flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, and the incumbent President and flagbearer of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), John Dramani Mahama.

Though this year's elections did not attract showy political activities like it happened in 2008, the last few days have witnessed vigorous door-to-door campaign strategies adopted by the two main parties. Most of these campaigns are usually done in the night, and there accusations by some NPP supporters that their NDC opponents were dolling out money and cloths to induce voters.

Examples are cited in the Talensi and Nabdam constituencies. Meanwhile, most of the people whose views were sampled by The Chronicle stated categorically, that although they would take any forms of incentive politicians give them in an attempt to induce them, they would collect, but if such politicians were not their choices, they would never vote for them.

However, some of the people, mainly floating voters, said they were divided over whether to vote for the NPP's Nana Addo or NDC's John Mahama, because they had both presented good programmes and policies for the development of the country.

Those who claimed they would vote for the NPP said they would do so, because most of the major promises the NDC made in the run up to the last elections were not fulfilled, and so, renewing their mandate would mean more unfulfilled promises ahead.

They mentioned the Bawku rural electrification project, refurbishing of the regional hospital, Bolgatanga Polyclinic, provision of dams, and reshaping of some feeders roads as some of the major promises the NDC had failed to fulfill.

On the other hand, those who said they would vote for the NDC also claimed that as compared with the achievements of the party in its four years in power, it had outperformed the NPP in its eight years. They also claimed that unlike the John Mahama, whose campaign was issues-based, Nana Addo had nothing to offer, and was therefore, attacking the NDC and President Mahama at the least opportunity.

On security, the Ghana Police Service in the region, headed by DCOP Bright Oduro, had identified 438 flashpoints, and arrangements made to deploy adequate personnel to man those areas.

He hinted most of these flashpoints were in Bawku, with the rest dotted in the remaining constituencies. There are also 706 non-flashpoints in the region, which were all being taken care of.

In order to professionally control any unforeseen circumstances on voting day, the Regional Police Command has also put in special patrol teams strategically assigned to each constituency.

DCOP Oduro gave the assurance that the Police Service, in strong collaboration with partner security agencies, would adopt all legitimate tactics and means at their disposal to ensure voters and ballot papers were protected on voting day, until the final declaration of the results by the EC.

He, however, appealed to members of the public to assist the security agencies by providing accurate and reliable information, should there be any distances at any polling stations.

On his part, the Regional EC Director, Mr. Bruce Ayisi, told reporters that his office had received all the electoral materials for onward distribution to the various constituencies.

At a workshop for the media on the theme "Deepening understanding of the voting process for enhancement of the integrity of the electoral process", Mr. Ayisi explained the various processes involved in the biometric voting, and urged practitioners to continue with public education on the new voting system.

An ace computer technician and Proprietor of Rans Computer Systems based in Bolgatanga, Mr. Ransford Tettey, led a facilitation on how the Biometric Verification Device worked, and what was expected of the voting public.

From Koforidua, Isaac Akwetey-Okunor says residents in the Eastern Region, like any other Ghanaians who are 18 years and above, and in sound mind and body, would tomorrow march to their respective polling stations to exercise their franchise, in what political pundits in and around the world have termed "historic elections".

A total of 1,429,682 registered voters are expected to participate in tomorrow's general elections, the sixth since the promulgation of the 1992 Constitution which launched the Fourth Republic, in all 33 constituencies across the Eastern Region.

About 14,805 trained Electoral Commission (EC) officials would have oversight responsibility in 2,961 polling stations in the 33 constituencies, with a total of 152 parliamentary candidates vying for 33 seats in parliament.

Arguably, Ghana, which has earned the accolade as the beacon of democracy, after coming out clean on five consecutive times in her bid to enthrone the democratic culture in the country, would, once again, offer the opportunity to its citizenry elect the next president of the country.

Even though there are eight political parties contesting in this year's elections, it appears the contest is between the ruling NDC and the leading opposition NPP.

A few pockets of misunderstandings leading to clashes have ensued between supporters of the two political giants in the last two to three months, creating political tension in the country ahead of tomorrow. The clashes occurred as supporters of each party tried to out-stage the other's sound or unreasonable arguments.

The relative calm political atmosphere took a different dimension last Monday, when the NPP presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, visited the region for the party's regional rally at the Jackson Park, Koforidua, which outdid all others in the Eastern Region, since the introduction of multi-party democracy. He is an indigene of the region.

The mop-up regional rally was heavily attended by almost all the parliamentary candidates in the region, national, and regional and constituency executives among other big shots of the party.

As early as 7:00 a.m., Koforidua was filled up with people from all walks of life, in preparation of the greatest-ever organised political rally in the region, as the capital was painted with the colours of the NPP.

The massive attendance led to both human and vehicular congestion, as there was virtually nowhere to pass, a situation which almost brought the usual busy activity that characterises Monday market to a halt.

Almost all shops were closed, as shop owners and other market women abandoned their commercial activities and dressed up newly-admitted Senior High School (SHS) students, lugging their chop boxes, student mattresses, and walking all over the market.

Those who could not get access to the venue took to the roofs of nearby buildings to catch a glimpse of the NPP candidate, to ascertain whether he was truly hale and hearty, following his accident at Kumasi, a day earlier, where his platform collapsed.

The ruling party's efforts to neutralise the unprecedented rally, by organising a regional rally a day after the NPP's, turned out to be a disappointment, as President Mahama swerved the teeming supporters in the region, amid accusations of deliberate obstruction by NPP supporters.

Some people in the region saw the situation as a clear indication of the chances of the NPP in the region in tomorrow's elections.

Supporters of the NPP in the region have expressed optimism over the party's chances of winning the elections, irrespective of the intimidation, provocation and electoral irregularities.

On the other hand, supporters of the NDC in the regional capital were also hopeful about their party's chances in the elections.

Some of them, who spoke to the paper on condition of anonymity, said despite the massive infrastructure development dotted across the country, the inability of the government to release money into the system would have a heavy toll on the elections.

They hoped, however, that the NDC would be given another four years, in order to put the country on a sound economic path.

A visit by this reporter to some restaurants in the region revealed that even though people were there primarily to eat, the elections were more or less their bone of contention, as they tried to find out from among themselves, especially those from the same party, their chances.

Drinking spots were not left out, as they were reduced to discussion centres for the elections.

Meanwhile, there were long queues at the various lorry stations in the region, particularly Koforidua, yesterday, as prospective voters travelled to their respective areas to cast their vote.

POSSIBLE FLASHPOINTS

Unfolding political tension that was gradually engulfing the Abuakwa South, North and Suhum constituencies in the region could make them possible trouble areas tomorrow.

Stories maybe told tomorrow, with special reference to those areas, if the seemingly troubles coming from there are not addressed immediately.

This political tension may not be unconnected to the fact that the NPP flagbearer, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, comes from those areas, and the residents maybe bent on recording a massive vote for their leader, in solidarity with his ambition to be elected president.

This has reduced the areas to security threats, as supporters of the two leading political parties, the NPP and NDC, are poised to meet one another in what could be described as "war".

In what could be termed as a dress rehearsal for tomorrow, supporters of the two political parties last Saturday clashed in Kyebi, the capital of the East Akyem Municipality.

In the process, two persons, including Kwame Ahmed (35) and Wahab Abdulai ( 24) of the NDC, received cutlass wounds and are currently receiving medical treatment at the Kyebi Government Hospital.

Information pieced together by the paper from Kyebi further indicated that some supporters of the NPP also sustained various forms of wounds in the said clash.

The situation was not different at Abuakwa North Constituency, where the Eastern Regional Minister, Mr. Victor Smith, who is running on the ticket of the NDC, battles it out with Mr. Joseph Boakye Dankwah-Adu, popularly known as JB, of the NPP.

It appears there is no shortage of bragging rights that have engulfed supporters of the two political gurus in the constituency, with the two candidates issuing instructions from the touchline.

Mr. Smith, the former spokesperson for the Rawlingses, is alleged to have vowed to win the seat at all cost, while Danquah-Adu, his political opponent, on the other hand, is reportedly ready to call the Regional Minister's bluff.

According to information reaching The Chronicle, the obsession of Mr. Smith, former ambassador to the Czech Republic, to win the seat, has led to all manner of electoral irregularities, such as buying of voters.

To counter the moves, the NPP's Danquah-Adu is allegedly ready to use force to stop any electoral malpractices, ahead of the elections.

However, the threat of violence in the two constituencies cannot be compared to Abuakwa South, where the electorate are determined to score 100 percent for Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

But, the move by the electorate, who are largely made up of the NPP, to record 100 percent for the NPP, would face a serious political challenge, as the handful of the NDC supporters in the area have indicated their readiness to nip any attempt to perpetrate electoral irregularities in the bud.

The situation is becoming highly disturbing, as the security agencies appear to be helpless in the heat of events.

In an interview with the paper, the National Deputy Secretary of the NDC, Mr. George Lawson, has sent out a strong warning to the security agencies to live up to expectations, before, during and after the elections.

Speaking shortly after a team of national and regional executives of the party had visited the victims at the hospital, he said that the NDC was tired of the way supporters of the NPP were subjecting their people to wicked acts.

He warned that despite the party's commitment to peace, if nothing was done about the situation, the party had no option but to protect them. Questioned as to what they would do, he would only say, "We will defend ourselves when we get there."

SECURITY AGENCIES' READINESS

However, assuring the people on behalf of the Eastern Regional Security Election Task Force, the Deputy Eastern Regional Police Commander, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) James Azumah Aba-Abass, has reiterated readiness of the security to die for the country on Friday and beyond.

"We are ready to die for his country on Friday, in order to ensure peace, before, during, after the elections," he stressed.

Speaking at a press conference to outline some measures put in place ahead of tomorrow, the former head of National Police Training School said: "The security agencies in the region, and in the country, are poised on putting their lives on the line for the sake of Mother Ghana."

According to him, the Regional Security Election Task Force would deploy a total of 3,865 personnel, made up of 1,969 police personnel, and 840 personnel from sister agencies.

He disclosed that his men were ever-ready to defend the flag of Ghana, and were well resourced to control any political violence and misunderstandings, come election day.

Even though he was not specific, he acknowledged that there were a few flashpoints in the region, and that his office would deploy and provide tight security to withstand any violence that may arise there.

He has warned any person or group of persons who have thought of using motorbikes to cause mayhem in the elections that they would have themselves to blame, since his men were up to the task.

He further advised the electorate to stay about 200 metres from the polling stations, adding that anybody who defied that directive did so at his or her peril, since the police would not spare anybody.

The Public Relations Officer of the Regional Police Command, ASP Yaw Nketia-Yeboah, also advised the media to be circumspect in their reportage to make the election violent-free and fair.

Edmond Gyebi reports from Tamale that even though even though political parties in this 2012 general elections were supposed to be wrapping up their campaign activities, the political atmosphere in Northern Region continues to be charged up, with all the parties, especially the ruling NDC and NPP, still crisscrossing the region.

The display of giant and flamboyant billboards, banners, flags and posters of the parties, which has become the talk of the nation, was not what was making the magic, but rather the intensification of the famous "door-to-door" campaigns.

Unlike in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 electioneering seasons, when major rallies were the order of the day, the various political parties in the 2012 elections are relying largely on their basic communication skills and the media to propagate their gospels to the electorate.

As a result of their direct visitation and interaction with the electorate in their homes, there have been a series of accusations of monetary and material inducements, involving all the parties, especially the NDC and NPP.

However, the atmosphere has been generally peaceful and calm, without any form of violence. Tamale, Yendi, Bimbilla, Gushegu, Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo and Buipe are all described as flashpoints, but there have been no violent incidents.

In an interview with the Northern Regional Police Commander, DCOP George Tuffuor, he said that he had been very impressed about the way and manner the people of Tamale and the region had conducted themselves throughout the electioneering period.

According to him, there was every indication that the Northern Region would be adjudged the most peaceful region in Ghana after tomorrow's polls.

"I must commend the chiefs, imams and the pastors for their commitment to peace anytime they address their followers. This has sanitised the system, and peace is beckoning everywhere in the region."

On the other hand, DCOP Tuffuor announced that the Police had received all the necessary support and logistics from the government to ensure the smooth and peaceful conduct of the elections.

He noted that additional men had been deplored from Accra to beef up those in the in region to ensure efficient operations.

The Regional Police Commander also revealed that his outfit was further ensuring that there was nothing left to chance, and that he had formed a Quick Response Unit, which would swiftly respond to violence in trouble areas, and also complement the work of the security personnel at the polling stations.

The Northern Regional Director of the Electoral Commission (EC), Sylvester Kanyi, also told The Chronicle that all was set for the elections on Friday.

According to him, the region had received all the necessary electoral materials, and even in excess.

He indicated that the EC had provided life jackets for officials and security personnel who would operate in the overseas areas, where they have to rely on canoes.

Mr. Kanyi was confident that with the level of training given to the electoral officers, there would not be any cause for alarm. He defused the fears of many Ghanaians about the reliability and durability of the Biometric Verification Machine batteries, saying, "The machines are operated with dry cells, and EC had given backups at all the centres."

The Regional Chairman of the NDC, Awudu Sofo Azorka, and his Regional Treasurer, Tanko Rashid Computer, told The Chronicle in separate interviews that they were satisfied with the preparations so far, and were hoping to win not less than 28 out of the 31 parliamentary seats.

Mr. Tanko Computer insisted that the electorate had fully bought into the campaign message of the NDC, and would do nothing than to vote massively for the party.

Efforts to speak with the NPP Regional Chairman and the Secretary, Alhaji Haruna Tia and Dr. Clifford Braimah respectively, failed, as they excused themselves from granting the interviews.

And from Ho, the Volta Regional capital, Correspondent Samuel Agbewode reports that the region, which is known as "World Bank" of the ruling NDC, was currently very peaceful, as the electorate were seriously preparing towards the 2012 general elections to cast their votes to choose a president for the nation and members of parliament for the region.

The political atmosphere in the region is still high, as the awareness for qualified voters who registered to cast their votes are eagerly awaiting tomorrow to cast their votes for their respective candidates to represent them in parliament and the president of the nation.

The two main political parties in the region, NPP and the NDC, seem to be putting an end to their political activities, as open rallies are no longer popular, as compared to previous elections, but have rather opted for house-to-house campaigns.

As at yesterday, with barely two days to the general elections, the supporters of the NDC and the NPP in the Volta Region were still wearing their party T-shirts, alongside motorbikes, taxis, commercial vehicles and private cars which were also draped in party colours.

The various radio stations in the region also continued to play their roles in educating the public on the need to obey the electoral rules and regulations, as well as leave the polling stations after casting their votes, and radio stations like Volta Premier Radio, US FM, Volta Star Radio, Dela Radio, Radio Tongu and Jubilee Radio all continue to intensify their activities.

One significant development in the political scene in the Volta Region is that all the political parties recognise the need to avoid any violent activities on elections day, because, as the electioneering of the various parties intensifies, all the political parties, including the NPP, NDC, Convention Peoples Party, PNC and the NDP, organised various peace walks across the region.

The latest of such peace walks that involved all political parties took place in the Ho West Constituency, at the district capital at Dzolo-Kpuita, where the members put on their party T-shirts and walked through the major streets, singing and dancing.

The beauty of the peace walk was that all the members of the NDC, NPP, and others parties in their party shirts, carried placards some of which read "We need peace; we are all one people with a common destiny; choosing our leaders will not lead us to war; and we have no better place called Ghana than where we are, and let us protect ourselves," among others.

The Volta Regional Director of the Electoral Commission (EC), Madam Laurentia Kpatakpa, gave the assurance that electoral materials for the elections in the Volta Region were available for the exercise, and stressed that one verification machine for each of the 2,283 polling stations in the Volta Region, as well as back-ups, were already in the regional office in Ho.

The Volta Regional Public Relations Officer of the Regional Police Command, Chief Inspector Joy Afagbedzi, said the Command was ready to ensure peaceful elections, as the necessary security measures had been put in place across the region, and gave the assurance that the police would bring their expertise to bear on the 2012 general elections, to ensure a peaceful process.

Chief Inspector Afagbedzi said the Volta Regional Police Command, ahead of the general elections, had strategically positioned police personnel at border communities such as Aflao, to ensure that there would be total law and order, further noting that the Command would largely rely on intelligence gathering that would help address any issue ahead of election day, and on the day of the polls itself.

Mr. Afagbedzi disclosed that the police had identified 123 flashpoints in the region, including Aflao, Nortrh-Tongu and Jasikan, and that the police authorities would position personnel at all the flashpoints, as well as all the polling stations, to ensure peaceful elections in the region.

The Volta Regional Police PRO added that the regional police administration had already taken proactive measures, by making available accommodation and feeding for five days for the police personnel who would be assigned to take responsibility in ensuring peace during and after the elections in the region.

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