Ghana goes to the polls today in a run-off presidential election that will decide who leads the West African nation into an era of oil production.
Neither Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) nor John Atta Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) were able to score a decisive victory in the first round early this month.
Akufo-Addo scooped marginally more votes than Atta Mills, but the other six candidates polled enough to prevent him from crossing the 50 percent mark.
The NDC complained about irregularities in voting in the first round, which had a turnout of around 70 percent.
However, the EU’s election monitoring team hailed the poll as a credit to African democracy, which sorely needs a boost after electoral chaos in Kenya and Zimbabwe and coups in Mauritania and Guinea this year.
The run-off is expected to be a close-fought affair, with both candidates in with a strong chance of victory.
The NPP lost its parliamentary majority in elections held at the same time as the first round of the presidential poll.
The NDC holds 114 seats to the NPP’s 108, with two seats still to be declared.
Analysts are warning that the small parliamentary majority could cause problems for the future president.
“The next president of Ghana — whether from the NPP or the NDC — is likely to face a hostile and acrimonious parliament that his party won’t be able to easily control,” Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, West Africa analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group, wrote.
Atta Mills and Akufo-Addoe are vying to replace John Kufuor, who must step down next month after serving two terms.
Kufuor has revived the Ghanaian economy by bringing pro-market reforms and political stability. Economic growth has been strong, and the NPP campaigned on a platform of continuity.
However, despite the growth and the fact that Ghana is the second-largest cocoa grower in the world and Africa’s second-biggest gold producer, there is still widespread poverty among ordinary Ghanaians.