Leadership (Abuja)

Ghana: As Ghana Votes...

editorial

Today, Ghanaians vote to elect a new president and parliament. Although the formal date set for the polls is today, December 7, 2012, early voting had taken place in some constituencies, in consonance with the country's operative electoral process. The Ghanaian president is elected for a four-year term, using a two-round system.

A run-off will be held on 28 December if no candidate garners more than 50 per cent of the votes cast. Also up for grabs are 275 seats in Ghana's unicameral parliament - up from 230 in previous polls. Members are elected by a simple majority in single-seat constituencies.

In the best tradition of proactive thinking, ahead of today's polls, the Electoral Commission of Ghana successfully held a biometric system of registration for the electorate from March 24, 2012 to May 5, 2012. The move by the Electoral Commission of Ghana led by Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, is to prevent double registration and to eliminate ghost names in the old register.

We commend this. About 13 million Ghanaians are registered to vote in the election, which, for the first time, will use the biometric system, now in place, to confirm voters' identities. All Ghanaians above 18 years of age are eligible to register.

West Africa's new democratic and governance model hopes today's polls will reinforce its growing status as an uncommon beacon of democracy and stability in the region. Reports suggest a closely fought contest between John Dramani Mahama, 54, of the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC), who took over as president after the death of John Atta Mills in July, and Nana Akufo-Addo, 68, of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), the son of a former president.

President Mahama is seeking his first full term in office after succeeding late President John Atta Mills, having been elected Mills' vice-president in 2009. Although there are eight presidential candidates in all, one independent candidate inclusive, only Mahama (NDC) and Akufo-Addo (NPP) are seen as having a realistic chance of winning the presidential contest.

Significantly, since the end of decades of military rule in Ghana, in 1992, the country has attracted deserved praise as a model democracy. What's more - it also has Africa's fastest growing economy, a scenario boosted by its recently tapped oil reserves.

Although, its economy has also not remained unscathed by the global economic crisis, with the currency, the cedi, losing 17 per cent against the dollar this year, but there is relative political and socio-economic stability in the country.

Today's elections are being monitored throughout the 10 regions of the country by 290 joint election observers from Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Africa Union (AU). The Commonwealth is also represented. Nigeria's retired General Olusegun Obasanjo is leading the ECOWAS mission.

The possibility of election-related violence is seen as low, although there are also fears that candidates may try to exploit ethnic and regional divisions, a common feature of African politics. But Ghana's military has 5,000 soldiers on standby to counter any violence and both leading candidates have vowed to ensure a peaceful poll.

Notwithstanding its warts and pimples, the several positives from the organisation of Ghana polls, its orderliness, demonstrable sincerity by the process managers and political elite and unfettered accommodation of foreign observers hold out hope that Africa is coming of age. Nigeria must learn from this at it prepares for 2015 general elections.

It is becoming glaringly clear that the democratic world and Nigerians themselves are running out of patience with contrived impunity during electoral exercises.

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