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10/12/2008 | Close Ghana Polls Go to Dec. 28 Presidential Runoff

Reuters Staff

Ghana's presidential election will be decided in a Dec. 28 run-off between the two leading contenders after neither gained over half the vote in the first round, the country's electoral commission said on Wednesday.

 

The commission said it was still processing parliamentary results from Sunday's elections in the West African state, which were praised by observers as free and fair and a tribute to Ghana's democracy on a continent convulsed by poll disputes.

Commission chief Kwadwo Afari Gyan said that neither of the two presidential frontrunners, Nana Akufo-Addo of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) or John Atta Mills of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), gained the 50 percent plus one votes required to win outright in the first round.

"This means that there is going to be a re-run and it will be between the two leading candidates," Gyan told a news conference in Accra, saying the run-off would be on Dec. 28.

He said that with votes counted from all but one of the country's 230 constituencies, Nana had obtained 49.13 percent and Mills 47.92 percent. He put voter turnout at 69.52 percent.

Gyan said a number of issues still needed to be clarified before the results of the parallel parliamentary elections could be announced. "There are some disputes and claims," he said but he did not specify when the results would be released.

The presidential run-off was announced after provisional results so far showed Mills' opposition NDC making gains that could overturn the NPP's previous majority in the national assembly, where it held 128 of 230 seats.

Some analysts said this indicated a punishment vote against the ruling party of President John Kufuor, who steps down in January after the maximum two terms.

"The results reflect a referendum on the performance of the incumbent. It is the people's verdict and I think it's a good challenge in our democracy. It is an indication of the people's maturity," University of Ghana lecturer Kwame Karikari said.

An NDC victory in parliament would, if combined with a presidential win for the NPP's Akufo-Addo in the second round, set up the prospect of a divided government for Ghana at a time when it is moving towards becoming an oil producer in late 2010.

The Gulf of Guinea country, a former British colony regarded by investors as one of Africa's most promising emerging markets, has seen its cocoa- and gold-exporting economy buffeted this year by fuel and food price rises that have hit family budgets.

Economic Challenges

"A win by the NPP in the second round will automatically produce a divided government, which will naturally create regular tensions around yearly budgets, ministerial appointments and privatizations," said Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, an analyst with Eurasia Group.

In a briefing note, Spio-Garbrah added that a second round win for the NDC presidential candidate could call into question some recent economic decisions taken by the ruling NPP, such as the sale this year of a 70 percent stake in phone operator Ghana Telecom to Britain's Vodafone.

In its latest look at the Ghana elections, Renaissance Capital said the future president and parliament would have to cooperate closely to address Ghana's large fiscal deficit, estimated at 10 percent of GDP.

This posed a serious challenge to the government to emerge from the polls as it would find it difficult to borrow externally in the tough conditions of a global credit crunch, Renaissance added in its analysis briefing.

While noting some procedural and organisational problems, foreign observers were full of praise for Ghana's elections to choose a new parliament and a successor to President John Kufuor, who steps down in January after the maximum two terms.

Besides Akufo-Addo and Mills, six other candidates stood.

Ghana's fifth set of elections since embracing multiparty democracy in 1992 has drawn attention as a chance to prove an African state can hold credible ballots, after election-related violence this year in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

Some isolated incidents of violence were reported but foreign observer teams from the United States, Europe and Africa hailed the Ghana polls as orderly, fair and transparent.

"Ghana is becoming a model of democracy in the region and abroad," former Botswana President Ketumile Masire said in a statement from the Carter Center observer mission.

The Epoch Times (Estados Unidos)

 


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