Ghana: Election run-off kicks-off

Voting began on time in the West African nation of Ghana as it goes into an election run-off on Sunday to elect a new president. Long queues formed at polling centres hours before voting opened at 7am. The new president replaces incumbent Kufuor who voluntarily steps down after two terms in office.

The two main presidential contenders – Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and Professor John Evans Atta-Mills of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) – wrapped up their campaigns on Friday with mammoth rallies.

Ghana – the new face to join the league of oil producing countries in Africa – went to the polls on December 7 but none of the presidential candidates amassed the constitutionally required 50% +1 vote. Nana Akufo-Addo, a former foreign minister under the Kufuor administration polled 4,159,439 representing 49.13% of total votes cast while Prof. Atta-Mills trailed him with 4,056,634 representing 47.92% of total votes cast.

International election observers have praised the processes and conduct of the first round which went peacefully without any major glitch. However, this second round has been characterized with counter allegations of irregularities and insults by both parties that have generated terse tension in the country.

Unlike the first round where only the Ghana-Togo border was closed down, this time all three major borders, Ghana-Cote d’Ivoire to the West, Ghana-Burkina Faso to the North and Ghana-Togo to the East have been sealed days ahead of the election. The Gulf of Guinea covers the southern part of the country with a population of over 22 million. The police and the military are on high security alert and have deplored more personnel to vantage locations to avert any possible clash.

Crucible of hope

Ghana represents a more optimistic side of Africa. During the continent’s post-independence history, Ghana has often been a crucible of all Africa’s hope according to the Reuters news agency. It was the first sub-Saharan African nation to gain independence from its colonial ruler, Britain, in 1957. Its first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was also a lead figure in the pan-African nationalist movement.

However, Nkrumah was ousted in a military takeover in 1966 and the country has had four more coups since then, two of which installed Jerry John Rawlings as president. Multi-party democracy returned in 1992 and Rawlings handed over power in 2001 after his candidate and then Vice President Atta-Mills lost to incumbent Kufuor.

Since then, the economy has boomed, by 6.7% last year as opposed to 3.7% in 2002, and inflation has fallen from 32.9% to 10.7% in the same period. A consensus has developed on the big questions such as liberal economics, and efforts to alleviate poverty.

Regardless of who replaces Kufuor out of the two leading candidates – Nana Akufo-Addo, 62 and Prof. Atta-Mills, 62 – neither is expected to initiate radical change. However, both candidates have put forward plans to safeguard the expected billions of dollars in oil revenues which should start to flow into the country’s coffers after 2010.

My organization – AfricaNews – is giving a minute-by-minute account of Ghana’s election on its twitter account

Video credit: Africanews

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December 2008

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