Ghana Ballot Count Starts as Voting Seen Conducted Smoothly

  • President Mahama faces opposition candidate he beat in 2012
  • Winner faces task of reigniting sluggish economic growth

An official of the Electoral Commission checks electoral materials in ballot boxes in Ghana on Dec. 6.

Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP via Getty Images

Election officials in Ghana started counting ballot papers after voting stations closed in presidential and parliamentary polls that observers say have been conducted mostly without delays or irregularities.

Voting ended at 5 p.m. local time on Wednesday except at those stations where people were still standing in lines, Eric Dzakpasu, a spokesman for the Ghana Electoral Commission, said by phone. Results are expected to be finalized on Friday.

“The elections have generally been peaceful, far more peaceful than anticipated,” Seidu Alidu, an analyst at the department of political sciences at the University of Ghana in the capital, Accra, said by phone. “If things are going to continue the way it started, I don’t think there would be a basis for people to dispute the results.”

The election outcome will determine if President John Mahama gets a second term in office or whether his main adversary, Nana Akufo-Addo, takes power. The winner will face the task of reigniting growth in West Africa’s second-biggest economy while reining in inflation and consolidating public debt. Both candidates have pledged to build new infrastructure and use oil-industry revenue to boost manufacturing and create jobs.

Election Materials

In 90 percent of the more than 28,900 stations all election materials were available when polls opened, while 93 percent were operational by 8:00 a.m., an hour after the scheduled start, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, a network of civil society groups observing the elections, told reporters in Accra.

Voter registers and biometric verification devices were available at 95 percent of polling stations and ballot boxes were shown to be empty everywhere prior to the start, the group said.

“I’m voting for development like roads, schools and hospitals,” Antoinette Futse, a 40-year-old mother of one said on Wednesday as she waited for a polling station to open in Nungua, a suburb of Accra. “If I don’t vote for the things that I want, I won’t get them.”

In 2012, Mahama, 58, claimed victory with 50.7 percent of the vote against the 72-year-old Akufo-Addo’s 47.8 percent. With seven candidates on the ballot, the winner needs an outright majority of the vote to avoid a runoff.

At one constituency in the central Brong Ahafo region, voting has been postponed until Thursday after a dispute between the major parties over the voter register, Dzakpasu said.

Staff Absenteeism

Some polling stations opened after the scheduled start due to a lack of election materials or staff absenteeism, Samuel Tettey, director of electoral services at the election agency, told reporters Wednesday in Accra.

Mahama voted in Bole, his hometown in the Northern region, about 550 kilometers (342 miles) from Accra, while Akufo-Addo cast his ballot in Kyebi in the Eastern region.

The recorded turnout could be as high as 85 percent of the potential 15.7 million voters, the University of Ghana’s Alidu said.

“This makes the election very close,” he said. “The wining margin will be very slim.”

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