Daily Trust (Abuja)

Ghana Election Mahama in Early Lead - Tension As Opposition Makes Victory Claim

As results of Ghana's parliamentary and presidential elections began to trickle in yesterday, incumbent President John Mahama takes an early lead.

Provisional results from about 100 of the country's 275 constituencies so far declared show that Mahama of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) has secured nearly 2 million votes (or 51 per cent) of the votes counted while his closest rival, Nana Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), got about 1.8 million votes (or 48.4 per cent).

But the NPP has secured more seats in the parliamentary election results declared so far getting 51 seats with NDC securing 42.

The General Secretary of NPP Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie even told a news conference last night that preliminary figures show that Akufo-Addo has won with 51 per cent.

But Deputy Information Minister James Agyenim-Boateng condemned the statement as reckless.

It is a very tight race that makes some analysts to predict a run-off between Mahama and Akufo-Addo.

The elections have been plagued by delays after hundreds of electronic fingerprint readers -- used to identify voters -- failed on Friday and forced some polling stations to reopen yesterday to clear the backlog, Reuters reports.

"This election has been hard, but we must remember Ghanaians are one and we must love each other and remain peaceful," said Wellington Dadzie, 69, a former soldier who lives on the outskirts of the capital Accra.

Ghana's more than 30 years of peace and an oil-driven economic boom have earned it a reputation as a bulwark of stability and progress in West Africa.

Both presidential hopefuls were carrying just under 50 per cent of the ballots, according to an unofficial tally compiled from more than half the country's polling stations and published late on Saturday by local media.

The General Secretary of Akufo-Addo's party, Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie, held a press conference last night claiming he had seen figures showing Akufo-Addo had won with 51 per cent.

"We are not declaring results, but the figures we have seen as of this evening indicate that the wishes of those who supported the NPP have been fulfilled," he said, urging party faithful to wear all white today.

Deputy Information Minister James Agyenim-Boateng condemned the NPP statement as reckless and provocative. "It clearly violates the way we are supposed to do things," he said.

Ghana's election commission has yet to issue any results, but is expected to release figures today or tomorrow.

Mahama replaced the late John Atta Mills after his death in July, and has promised to use the country's growing oil wealth to boost average income and jumpstart development in a country where the average person lives on $4 a day.

Akufo-Addo has vowed to provide free education and root out graft.

Ghana has seen five elections since the end of military rule in 1992 but some analysts say the stakes are higher than ever as commercial oil production that began in 2010 is expected to expand.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is leading the observer mission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that has been monitoring the election processes. They have already given the polls a pass mark.

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