Ghana's President Holds Narrow Lead As Election Goes to Second Day

Saturday, 08 Dec 2012 11:02 AM


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ACCRA, Ghana — Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama had a narrow lead in provisional election results as some voters returned to polls Saturday after breakdowns of machines used to verify identities led to long lines and delays.

Mahama had 50.6 percent of votes from 111 of Ghana’s 275 constituencies, according to figures on the website of Joy FM, a closely held, Accra-based broadcaster. Opposition candidate Nana Akufo-Addo had 47.9 percent, the data from Friday’s election show.

Equipment to scan fingerprints failed in 18 percent of the country’s voting centers, according to the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, which had 4,500 poll-watchers. Half of the centers were open 15 minutes after the scheduled start Friday because of delays in providing voting materials, the group said in an e-mailed statement. There were 413 stations open Saturday, or 1.6 percent of the total, according to the Electoral Commission. Polls close at 5 p.m.

Even with the delays and breakdowns, the election “met regional, continental and international standards for credible and transparent elections,” Ahmed Issack Hassan, Kenya’s election chief and leader of an observer mission with the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, told reporters in Accra.

Mahama, 54, of the National Democratic Congress is compaigning against New Patriotic Party leader Akufo-Addo, 68, for the presidency. Six others are also vying for the position. Mahama came into office in July after the death of John Atta Mills, who defeated Akufo-Addo by less than 1 percentage point in 2008.

Oil Production

The winner will face mounting calls from Ghanaians to spread wealth from oil production that began in 2010. Spending promises made during the campaign may be hindered by a widening budget deficit and slowing economic growth in a nation where 18 percent of the population has formal employment.

Both Mahama and Akufo-Addo pledged to build schools, roads and housing, and use money from oil exports to boost the country’s manufacturing industries and create jobs, according to their manifestos.

After expanding 14.4 percent in 2011, the fastest pace in Africa, Ghana’s economy is projected to grow 8.2 percent this year and 7.8 percent in 2013, according to the International Monetary Fund. In the nine months through September, the fiscal gap widened to 7.3 percent of gross domestic product from 1.9 percent a year earlier, according to the Bank of Ghana.

Mahama, a former communications minister who was Mills’s deputy, urged people to be patient after he voted at his constituency in Ghana’s Northern region.

Leading Democracy

“This election is going to consolidate Ghana’s democratic credentials once and for all,” he said according to remarks broadcast on radio. “There will be no doubt, no question, about the fact that Ghana is the leading democracy in Africa.”

After voting in the Eastern region, former foreign minister and attorney general Akufo-Addo said Ghanaians were “comporting themselves in the best of manners.”

Ameya David, a 24-year-old worker at a plastics factory, said his friends wouldn’t let him discuss the election because he hadn’t been able to vote.

“I was really upset and disappointed yesterday,” he said as he lined up to vote Saturday with about 100 other people in the Accra suburb of Nungua. “I am happy I had the chance to vote now. I expect my president to make education affordable so poor ones can afford it.”

\Provisional results showed Mahama’s NDC winning 55 of the 275 Parliament seats, with the NPP taking 46, according to Joy FM’s website.

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