Tension high as Ghana waits for run-off result

Tension was high in Ghana on Tuesday as electoral authorities prepared to announce the result of a close presidential run-off vote.

Tension high as Ghana waits for run-off result

Tension was high in Ghana on Tuesday as electoral authorities prepared to announce the result of a close presidential run-off vote in which local media have predicted victory for opposition candidate John Atta Mills.

Police fired shots into the air late on Monday to disperse hundreds of Mills' supporters who besieged the electoral commission in Accra after it announced provisional results showing their candidate was ahead of his rival Nana Akufo-Addo.

The protesters, chanting "We want change", demanded that the commission declare Mills, the candidate of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), the winner of Sunday's run-off vote in the world's No. 2 cocoa producer.

Electoral commission chief Kwadwo Afari-Gyan is scheduled to give a news conference at 1200 GMT on Tuesday on the run-off, which followed an inconclusive Dec. 7 first round.

Provisional results released so far by the commission, with votes counted from 200 of the country's 230 constituencies, show the NDC's Mills leading with 52.1 percent against 47.9 percent for Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Akufo-Addo's NPP, the ruling party of outgoing President John Kufuor, has denounced a prediction made by Ghana's leading private independent broadcaster Joy FM, which had collated certified results from polling stations, that Mills would win.

A victory for Mills and the NDC would end eight years of NPP rule under Kufuor, who is stepping down after serving two consecutive terms, the constitutional limit in the West African state, which has become a favourite with foreign investors. The country, also a gold producer, will start pumping oil in 2010.

NPP Chairman Peter Mac Manu condemned the Joy FM projection as "highly speculative and premature" and said his party would challenge what it considered flawed results from some regions.

There were some reports of violence and disorder in Sunday's vote. But many are hoping that the Ghana election can help salvage the battered image of constitutional democracy in Africa, tarnished by flawed elections in Kenya and Zimbabwe and military coups in Mauritania in August and in Guinea last week.

In a preliminary verdict on Sunday's elections, an observer mission from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS described them as "free, peaceful, transparent and credible". But it said complaints should be challenged peacefully and legally.


Economic challenges

In a news conference on Monday, Mills predicted he would win but urged his supporters to stay calm.

"This victory will be a victory for all Ghanaians and Atta Mills, if he should be declared winner, will be a president for everybody," Mills said.

Eurasia Group risk consultancy, in a briefing note by Africa analyst Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, called Mill's lead "tight but insurmountable" and predicted he would be a "narrow electoral winner without a strong governing mandate".

Analysts say that whoever wins, the new president will take over at a time when economic growth is expected to slow as a result of the global downtturn. He will have to deal with a growing budget and current account deficit, high inflation and unemployment and falling remittance and aid levels, they say.

"The election results are extremely close and the results are likely to be decided by less than a percentage point," the domestic election observer coalition CODEO said. It called on the electoral commission to swiftly resolve any complaints.

Presidential rivals Mills and Akufo-Addo are both foreign-trained lawyers and both are 64. They have vowed to maintain the stability and growth which have made the former British Gold Coast colony a magnet for investment.

In the first round, Akufo-Addo finished with just over 49 percent, more than one percentage point ahead of Mills, but he failed to gain the more than 50 percent of votes needed to win.

Sunday's vote follows the NPP losing its majority in parliament in legislative elections on Dec. 7.

Reuters

Last Mod: 30 Aralık 2008, 14:01
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