Ghana’s ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) edged ahead in presidential elections yesterday morning as results from across the West African nation trickled in.
Early results from 18 constituencies showed that Nana Akufo-Addo had around 53 percent of the vote, compared with 44 percent for his main opponent, John Evans Atta Mills of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The other six candidates were, as expected, out of the race.
However, only a small percentage of the votes had been counted. Full results were expected within the next 60 hours.
Most analysts say the race to replace Ghanaian President John Kufuor, who must step down next month after serving two terms, is too close to call and will go to a run-off on Dec. 28.
Turnout was high in Sunday’s simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections, which passed off peacefully despite warning that there may be a repeat of the violent scenes that followed elections in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria this year.
Kufuor has revived the Ghanaian economy by bringing pro-market reforms and political stability. Economic growth has been strong, and the NPP is saying it should be given the chance to continue its work.
However, despite the growth and the fact that Ghana is the second-largest cocoa grower in the world and Africa’s second-biggest producer of gold, there is still widespread poverty among ordinary Ghanians.
The NDC points to this, saying change is due.
Both main parties are promising good governance when it comes to revenue from newly discovered oil, due to come onstream in late 2010.
Ghana’s National Petroleum Corporation expects 120,000 barrels per day initially, with that figure rising to 250,000 barrels a day within two years.
In courtyards throughout the capital, election officials late on Sunday put police tape around the plywood tables where they began sorting ballots.
Hundreds of onlookers formed walls around the counting tables, standing on chairs to get a view and whooping as the stack of their candidate of choice grew taller.
The count capped a long day in this humid capital. The election began the night before, as hundreds of voters slept on the pavement outside their polling stations in an effort to be first. Voters spoke of carrying the burden of the continent’s numerous failures as they waited to vote.
“We will never disgrace our country. We know that the whole world is watching us,” said Beatrice Mantey, a retired school teacher who spent the night on the concrete outside her polling station.
An independent coalition of election observers stationed at 1,000 polling stations nationwide reported about a dozen disturbances by the end of voting.
The most serious involved a shooting targeting the convoy of a parliamentary candidate in a town west of the capital, said John Larvie, coordinator of the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers. The others involved scuffles between voters, and the late arrival of election materials.
International observers, including delegates with the Commonwealth Observer Group, noted long lines as well as problems with voters who had recently transferred to a new location but whose names could not be found on the voter roll.
By evening, the main opposition party, which election watchers say is likely to lose by a slim margin, issued a statement pointing out the same irregularities. Still, Elvis Ankrah, the party’s deputy general secretary, urged supporters to remain calm and “not do anything that would mar this beautiful exercise.”