8 December 2012

Ghana: Biometric Breakdown Means Second Day of Voting in Ghana

With results from 100 out of 275 constituencies counted the two main candidates in Ghana's presidential election were reported to be neck and neck on Saturday afternoon. The failure of biometric voter identifications system meant that some voters had to cast their ballots again. Meanwhile, preliminary results started to trickle in. Incumbent president John Mahama faces a stiff challenge from his main rival Nana Akufo-Addo.

"We'd like to call on our supporters who could not exercise their franchise yesterday to go out there and vote peacefully," Elvis Afriyea-Ankrah, the campaign director for Mahama's National Democratic Congress (NDC), told reporters on Saturday morning.

Ghana's Electoral Commission was forced to allow another day of voting at some polling stations on Friday when the biometric ID system broke down. Incomplete ballot boxes were stored at local police stations overnight.

An official at the commission told RFI on Saturday that 284 polling stations were continuing the vote a day after, representing just over one per cent of Ghana's polling stations.

But this figure did not include failures of the biometric kits in one region, from which officials were still waiting to receive the final figures.

Eighteen per cent of polling stations across Ghana had some kind of problem with the biometric voter devices, according to the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers. In their final report of polling day they said Greater Accra was the region most affected by biometric breakdowns, 33 per cent of polling stations had some kind of difficulty.

Ghana is one of the first African countries to use biometric identification on polling day. The mobile biometric kits were provided by a consortium of companies - STL, HSB, and Genkey.

Biometric registration of voters was carried out earlier this year.

Voters at affected polling stations on Friday were growing impatient following hours of waiting after the main machine and backup both broke down. Despite this, many were determined to cast their ballot.

"We've been here for about three hours and the machines are not working," said 51-year-old travel agent Justina at the Kingsby Hotel polling station in the Achimota area of Accra. "Until it comes back, we'll wait, no matter how long, we'll wait."

Polling officials questioned the use of technology over traditional methods and placed the blame on the equipment manufacturers.

"Of course we question it, because so many concerns were raised in the end. There wouldn't be so many hitches like this," said Kwame Asamoah, the presiding officer at the Kingsby Hotel site.

"From the way we were briefed on how the device works, the blame should go to the manufacturer of the device," Asamoah added.

Aside from the problems with the biometric identification, there were few other problems on polling day. RFI witnessed disorderly queues at one polling station and visited one site where electoral materials had arrived late. But overall polling was organised, calm and peaceful.

Ghana's presidential polls are seen by many as a test of the country's strong democratic credentials. It is likely to be a close race between incumbent president John Mahama of the NDC and main opposition challenger Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party.

The second day of voting continues until 5pm local time for polling stations affected by the biometric system problem.

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