7 December 2012

Ghana: 13 Million Ghanaians Vote Today

About 13 million Ghanaian registered voters above 18 years thronged polling stations since this morning to elect a president and 275 members of parliament. Ghana's electoral authorities will for the first time use a biometric system to confirm voters' identities.

According to reports from Accra, Ghanaians hope the election will confirm their country's status as a rare beacon of democracy and stability in the West Africa sub region.

Media reports suggest a closely fought contest between John Dramani Mahama, who took over as president after the death of John Atta Mills in July, and Nana Akufo-Addo, the son of a former president.

Since the end of decades of military rule in 1992, Ghana has won praise as a model democracy, crowned by being one of Africa's fastest growing economies, thanks to its recently tapped oil reserves.

Their 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 wins more than 50% of the vote.

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.

There are eight candidates, but only President John Dramani Mahama of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) are seen as having a realistic chance of winning.

President Mahama, 54, is seeking his first full term in office after succeeding President John Atta Mills, having been elected Mr Mills' vice-president in 2009.

Mr Mahama campaigned under the slogan "A better Ghana"; he lists economic growth, better energy supplies, improved access to education and political decentralization as being among his priorities.

He hails from the Gonja ethnic group in northern Ghana, where he was born in 1958 to a well-off family. His father was a member of parliament. His education included a stint studying in Moscow in the 1980s.

Mr Akufo-Addo, 68, narrowly lost the 2008 election to John Atta Mills in the second round, after leading in the first round.

His slogan is "Change Now. Move Ghana Forward", and his manifesto focuses strongly on education as a "key to individual and national development".

Known as a champion of free-market economics and liberal democracy, Mr Akufo-Addo promises to kick-start an "industrial revolution", extend coverage by Ghana's National Health Insurance Scheme and fight corruption.

Born to a prominent family in eastern Ghana - his father, Edward Akufo-Addo, was a chief justice and later president of Ghana. Mr Akufo Addo was a founding member of the NPP and served as foreign minister in 2002-7 under President John Kufuor.

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