Tue, Dec 30, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Presidential runoff vote goes smoothly in Ghana

AP , ACCRA

Ghana’s presidential runoff vote appeared to go smoothly, observers and analysts said, even though the West African country’s ruling party and opposition traded allegations of rigging.

Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling party faced opposition candidate John Atta Mills, whose campaign maintains that the country’s economic growth has not been felt in people’s wallets.

“On the whole, the election has been peaceful, with just some queues at some of the polling stations too long and too slow,” said Kwesi Jonah, a scholar-in-residence at the Institute of Democratic Governance, an independent think tank.

President John Kufuor is stepping down after two terms in office in what is expected to be Ghana’s second successful handover of power from one legitimately elected leader to another.

Observers with the Carter Center, founded by former US president Jimmy Carter, have said the first round of vote on Dec. 7 was exemplary. Ghana is one of Africa’s few stable democracies.

Neither candidate, though, secured enough votes to win the election outright. Akufo-Addo received 49.13 percent, while Atta Mills received 47.92 percent.

During Sunday’s runoff, the opposition alleged that 33 of its polling agents had been arrested in the Ashanti region, a perceived ruling party stronghold.

“It would therefore be difficult for us to accept the figures from the region and, consequently, the entire results of the elections,” said Alex Seghefia, campaign coordinator of the National Democratic Congress.

The ruling New Patriotic Party, however, rebutted the allegation, saying the Ashanti region was its stronghold and it would not do anything to put the results from that area in doubt.

“We have also had reports of people snatching ballot boxes in order to destroy voting and we know these are not our party supporters,” ruling party spokesman Arthur Kennedy said.

The top US envoy for Africa cautioned the political leadership to handle the final stages of the runoff with care to avoid inciting people.

“In my tour of various polling stations, there have been a lot of allegations from both parties and it therefore requires the leaders of the parties to be circumspect and behave responsibly,” US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said.

David Pottie with the Carter Center said ballot counting was underway on Sunday night and that the group had been receiving partial preliminary reports from across the country. While the group had heard of “some irregularities in a few locations,” Pottie said they had not at this point received a large number of such reports.

About 5,000 security personnel were deployed across the country before Sunday’s vote.

During the first round, there were tensions between supporters of the two main parties, and isolated cases of violence at polling stations in the country’s interior.

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