Ghanaian incumbent John Dramani Mahama was on Sunday declared the winner of closely fought presidential polls, but the opposition alleged fraud in a nation that has been seen as a model of African democracy.
The Electoral Commission announced the result after a day of twists and turns linked to the vote on Friday and Saturday, with the stakes especially high in a country with a booming economy fueled partly by newly discovered oil.
Results compiled by local media early on Sunday pointed to a Mahama win, leading the opposition to strongly reject them, alleging fraud and claiming it had evidence that its candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, was the real winner.
According to the Electoral Commission, Mahama won with 50.7 percent of the votes cast, compared with Akufo-Addo’s 47.74 percent. With eight candidates in the race, more than 50 percent was needed to avoid a second-round runoff.
“I call on all leaders of all political parties to respect the voice of the people,” Mahama said in a victory speech in which he also urged restraint in celebrations and said he was overwhelmed.
“The voice of the people is the voice of God,” he said.
Akufo-Addo’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) said in a statement that the results announced “by the evidence do not reflect the mandate of the required majority of the Ghanaian electorate.”
Party officials are to meet today to decide the way forward, it said in a statement.
Turnout was put at more than 79 percent. Observers from the Commonwealth, West African bloc ECOWAS and local group CODEO all said the vote appeared peaceful and transparent.
However, the opposition issued a scathing statement even before the official results were announced.
“Indeed, we have enough concrete evidence to show that the 2012 presidential election was won by our candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo,” it said.
“We have noticed a pattern of fraud, where substantial numbers of votes are either added to the NDC [National Democratic Congress] candidate or subtracted from the NPP presidential candidate,” it said.
It demanded an audit of collated vote figures, as well as of data from the biometric verification machines used in the election.
In the wake of the opposition claims and before the results were announced, a crowd of about 300 NPP supporters had gathered near the Electoral Commission. Security forces fired tear gas at one point in an apparent bid to move them back.
Tanks and anti-riot police guarded the outside of the commission building for the announcement of the results. Armed police were in the room for the announcement and escorted the electoral chief out afterward.
Asked earlier about the NPP allegations, Electoral Commission spokesman Christian Owusu-Parry said: “What I know is that they are claiming there are disparities in some results and the commission has asked them to bring evidence.”
As for whether any evidence had been supplied, he said: “No, not yet.”